UPDATED: 09:00 AM
There is no doubt about it, the 2015 Massillon City Council races are going to be the most contested and therefore the most exciting elections in all of Stark County.
Accordingly, in today's blog, the focus will be on Massillon and the city's mayoralty and council races. Also, in his blog, the SCPR touches lightly on the Alliance, Canton and North Canton mayor races because The Report doesn't think there is much to talk about.
Moreover, in days to follow (i.e. Part 2) the SCPR will concentrate on Alliance and Canton
Surprisingly enough, next in line in terms of competitiveness and therefore interest are a number of Alliance City Council races.
A real shocker in Alliance is the blooming of a "knock down, drag out fight" for the city's law director position.
In Canton, there are two council races that might cause a stir or two but no matter how those two turn out the results will make little if any difference in "balance of 'political' power" in the Hall of Fame City.
And, of course, there is the Democratic primary race between Kristen Guardado and Angela Alexander for the right to run against "appointed-judge-by-Kasich-for-the-second-time" Republican Curtis Werren in November's general election.
The SCPR received a piece of campaign literature from Alexander on February 2nd.
The SCPR figures she has a uphill climb in this one because most of her distinguished career is Summit County based.
Sounds like she is intent on making a fight of it for the Democratic nomination, no?
There is some potential for excitement in the North Canton council races if Concerned Citizens of North Canton (CCNC) can turn their ongoing community activism into "real" political action.
"Real" political action? What does that mean?
The SCPR thinks it means persuading known and politically respected North Cantonians to run (three of them) in the council-at-large races and in Wards 1, 2, 3 and 4.
For all the terrific work that the CCNC does in bird-dogging the current council members and thereby having some impact on council; it is going to take several of the incumbents being defeated in November to get "real" change in the tone (i.e. core democratic-republican core values of accessibility, openness, communication, transparency, and the like) of North Canton government.
So North Canton could turn out to be a council race battleground.
It is simply too early to tell. The filing deadline is May 4th for those offices in which a primary was held, August 5th where there is no primary.
On the mayoralty races, only Massillon has the promise of anything near being a competitive race is in the offing.
And that may not be in the primary.
But it could be.
It all depends on two factors:
- Can political novice J. David Ress get politically sophisticated enough to organize and tap into the anti Catazaro-Perry sentiment that clearly exists in Tigerland?
- Can he make the role of being the clear underdog a rallying point as a basis on which to pull off THE political upset of many of a moon in Stark County.
Should Ress fail, look for former mayor Frank Cicchinelli to position himself to be eligible to run as an independent in November.
Brunckhart's presence (as contrasted to Ed Lewis, IV) probably turns into an asset for a Cicchinelli candidacy.
Lewis most definitely would hold nearly all the Republican vote, were he the Republican standard bearer.
But not Brunckhart.
Most of the Republican vote, the SCPR believes, would with Brunckhart being the candidate in a three-way race goes to Cicchinelli because Republicans would see utter futility in casting a vote for Brunckhart.
Canton's mayor William J. Healy, II is likely to coast to victory on May 5th. Currently, he has some $115,000 in campaign funds to Canton Treasurer Kim Perez's less than $10,000.
One might say that "money isn't everything." And the SCPR agrees. But Perez is viewed by many as yesterday's political generation and does not inspire the kind of excitement and energy to successfully take on the politically well-oiled Team Healy.
The mayoralty races in Alliance (unless an independent files by May 4th) and North Canton (which is totally non-partisan and therefore the filing of petitions doesn't even take place until August 5th) are likely to be non-existent due to non-competition.
TODAY'S SCPR FOCUS
THE MASSILLON COUNCIL RACES
Massillon's Ward 5 council seat is held by Democrat Megan Starrett and is uncontested as is the council presidency held by Catazaro-Perry ally Tony Townsend - so far.
Remember, political independents have until sometime in May 4th to file.
Starrett is likely home free.
But Tony Townsend, maybe not.
A major effort was made to get opposition to him in the Democratic primary, but it did not materialize.
The SCPR will not be surprised to learn of renewed efforts to find an independent to take Townsend on in November's general election.
The interesting thing about the council-at-large filings is that two of the three Democratic candidates (Bloom and Pond) are said to have been recruited by Mayor Kathy Catazaro Perry.
The SCPR will go one step further.
The Report thinks her target in recruiting candidates on the Democratic side was current Democratic Councilwoman-at-Large Michelle Del Rio-Keller.
Had Del Rio-Keller stayed in the race, there was going to be a loser in a four person race. And it appears that the mayor wanted the loser to be Del Rio-Keller.
It was a tough decision for Del Rio-Keller. The SCPR thinks the person out would have been either Bloom or Pond had Del Rio-Keller stayed the course.
The Report believes that her decision to move to the Ward 6 race (currently held by Republican Ed Lewis, IV) was to prevent Linda Litman (believed to be the candidate of Catazaro-Perry and the Maier Massillon Political Machine [MMPM]) from becoming a councilperson.
The SCPR thinks there was a high probability that Lewis was going to lose in Ward 6 because of another "all-out" effort of the MMPM. Litman nearly unseated Lewis in 2013.
One day Lewis is likely to run for mayor of Massillon. He left the impression with The Report that 2015 simply wasn't the time for it.
Del Rio-Keller has much deeper roots in Ward 6 and likely will win handily over Litman. Ironically, both work for First Merit Bank.
The SCPR is ready to say that for the first time in many, many, many years the Massillon Republican Party will likely win two at-large seats.
Neither Bloom nor Pond appear to have what it takes in terms of political moxie to defeat incumbent Republican Councilman-at-Large Milan Chovan and Ed Lewis.
The Crabtree candidacy as a Democrat will likely be a challenge for Republican incumbent Sarita Cunningham-Hedderly.
So far all The Report has heard about her is that she is the mother of a well known Massillon football player.
And it is interesting to note that although she ended up filing as a Democrat, she did pull petitions to run as an independent.
But all Sarita, a well-respected Massillon business person, does is win.
It may be very close. Look for Massillon Republicans to close ranks behind Cuningham-Hedderly as she could turn out to be the only surviving member of the Republican surprise of 2011.
While the MMPM was preoccupied with electing Catazaro-Perry mayor, it lost track of the council races and the Republicans stunningly won in Wards 1, 2, 5 and 6 and elected Milan Chovan at-large to gain control of Massillon City Council in many, many, many of year.
The MMPM still has not recovered from that political debacle at the hand of Messers Johnnie A. Maier, Jr (a former Stark County Democratic Party chairman) and R. Shane Jackson (political director for the Stark Dems).
And it likely will not even in 2015.
Though Republicans will not gain control of council in 2015, three or four of candidates might well win.
And should Manson and Del Rio-Keller win, which the SCPR thinks is likely; a stand off is probably in the cards between Mayor Kathy and a solid council coalition of Manson, Del Rio-Keller, Chovan, Lewis and Cunningham-Hedderly with Starrett and Scassa joining in probably more often than not.
Massillon's organized Republicans have been hurt badly by the decision of Councilwoman Nancy Halter not to run do to health issues.
Halter deserves credit for putting together a slate of council candidates in 2011 that turned out in coordination with like-minded Democratic councilpersons to be the bane of Mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry's administration.
There was some talk that she would take on council president Tony Townsend. But in the end, she appropriately decided that having the space to recuperate her health took precedence.
Democratic candidate Dave Irwin is clearly a MMPM candidate. He currently sits on the Massillon Parks and Recreation Board and the SCPR is told he functions on the board like "a bump on the log."
If true, then the SCPR thinks he is exactly made to order for Mayor Catazaro-Perry.
The SCPR has leaned that Republican Scott Johnson was recruited to run for Halter's seat by Ed Lewis.
The Report has spoken with Johnson and is unimpressed.
While it might turnout to be highly competitive, neither is a Nancy Halter and Massillon council will be the worse off for her departure, no matter who wins between Irwin and Johnson.
With the MMPM solidly behind Irwin and Johnson being a neophyte, Irwin should win in November.
Yvonne Daniels says she is running against fellow Democrat Andrea Scassa because she is upset about Massillon's government's failure to repair the streets in her neighborhood and tend to the weeds.
She says she has spent $400 in recent times repairing tires and wheels damaged by rutted streets in her neighborhood.
Of course, it is well known that Massillon does not have the money (two recent failed levies) to satisfy the anger of Ms. Daniels and many others like her that dot Massillon's neighborhoods.
Will tapping into the ire of disgruntled Ward 3 residents be enough to unseat Scassa?
The SCPR thinks not.
But Scassa would be well advised not to take citizen frustration lightly.
The SCPR thinks the May election may well be the end of the political line for Shaddrick Stinson.
Stinson's major mistake has been to be too closely aligned with the Catazaro-Perry administration and the MMPM.
When he ran and was elected in 2013, he convinced the likes of Frank Cicchinelli (who lives in vicinity of The Legends golf course) that he would not be an automatic for the administration.
Stinson has convinced himself that he has not become a MMPM/Catazaro-Perry loyalist. But it appears that not many of those residents of Ward 4 near The Legends are buying his line.
The Report is told that both Stinson's Democratic opponent and the Republican candidate were recruited to run by the activist group who are focusing on insisting that The Legends remain as it is.
It appears that they do not trust Stinson and the administration to support their position.
Folks who live in the general area of The Legends are people who vote in greater volume/percentages than any other part of Ward 4.
For Stinson to have lost the confidence of this group of activists makes it difficult indeed for him to win a second term.
Even in 2013, Stinson had a tough time getting by a pretty colorless Republican by the name of Jim Triner.
This time around he has to survive a Democratic primary against a Democrat who lives in the area of The Legends.
Should he survive that test, then he has a Republican (John Graven) who will present the same issue(s) as Democrat Creamer.
In November (assuming he survives the Creamer challenge), he has not only dissident Democrats on The Legends issue to face but the addition of discontented Republican voters.
Of course in politics, anything can happen.
But it will be truly amazing to the SCPR should Shaddrick Stinson be sworn in on January 1, 2016 for a new term as Ward 4 councilperson.
In this blog the SCPR has already dealt with Michelle Del Rio Keller's decision not to file at-large.
In the jockeying that goes on as candidates mull over whether to run in a Ward or at-large, it is to be noted that Linda Litman also pulled petitions to run at-large.
For what its worth, the SCPR thinks that Litman made a major miscalculation in not filing at-large.
As already noted, The Report believes that had Ed Lewis decided to run in Ward 6 and Litman was his opponent, he was likely to lose.
The Report does not see how things change all that much, if at all, if Litman lines up against Republicans Chovan and Lewis at-large.
She surely would have come out of the Democratic primary (given her heavy Catazaro-Perry/MMPM support) as one of three Democrats running in November.
The SCPR sees Paul Manson as winning for sure in November which leaves two positions to be filled. Chovan likely wins the second seat. And, if Litman is a Democratic candidate, it is probably going to in essence be Litman versus Lewis citywide.
A citywide race would be a more favorable match up for her (Massillon is a predominately Democratic city) than her opting to run in the Ward 6 against Del Rio-Keller. And, to repeat, Massillon hasn't had two Republican at-large in many, many, many years.
The Ward 6 race could turnout to be one donnybrook of a race.
But probably not.
From all reports that the SCPR is getting about the family history/status/longevity of Michelle Del Rio-Keller in Ward 6, it is difficult to see how Litman wins in this ward notwithstanding the very large organized labor, MMPM and Catazaro-Perry support she will be getting.
Has Litman forgotten that Ward 6 is currently repesented by a Republican?
Hardly a place that organized labor and the MMPM are going to resonate with voters, no?
At the end of day on election day November, 2015 the mayor, if reelected, will face a city council that will continue to challenge her governance style and substance.
Rather than the votes on controversial key issues being 8 - 1, 7 - 2; she may get some 6 - 3 and 5 - 4 votes.