UPDATED: 08:30 a.m.
On May 29th one of Stark County's most accomplished trial attorneys; namely, Lee Plakas, filed for:
- the Stark County Democratic Party
- the Ohio Democratic Party
- along with seven of Canton City Council's eleven Democratic councilpersons, to wit:
- Thomas West, Ward 2,
- Chris Smith, Ward 4,
- Kevin Fisher, Ward 5,
- David Dougherty, Ward 6,
- John Mariol, II, Ward 7,
- Edmond Mack, Ward 8, (a Plakas associate),
- Frank Morris, III, Ward 9
Bernabei, who Plakas likes to refer to as being "a dyed in the wool Democrat" for 99.9% (the SCPR's number; not Plakas') of his political life - in the week leading up to May 4th - made abrupt and hurried moves to change his political party affiliation from Democrat to "independent" in order to run against eight year incumbent Democratic mayor William J. Healy, II in November's general election.
(from Plakas' legal brief)
Bernabei's sudden switch caught most political observers by complete surprise.
The SCPR speculates that Bernabei, who could have run in the May 5th Democratic primary election and won handily over Healy (Kim Perez, Canton treasurer, most likely would have dropped out of the race), had no intention of running as of the filing deadline for the primary but made a dramatic turnaround at the behest of powerful "behind he scenes" Stark County private sector financial and commercial brokers who feel uncomfortable with the highly political and volatile William J. Healy, II.
Bernabei is thought by most who know him well to be a methodical, deliberate, thorough and perfectionist public official who successfully leads in whatever capacity he happens to serve in.
Hence the astonishment when he made herky-jerky moves to jettison a since 1976 "in the public service arena" allegiance with the organized Stark County Democratic Party.
Some might think that Lee Plakas is a devoted to the cause of Mayor Healy to gain a third term given his 2014 donation to the Healy campaign finance apparatus.
To buttress such a take, there is the campaign finance activities of his associate and heavily involved in the Bernabei protest litigation associate Edmond Mack, to wit:
Moreover, Mack worked from the perch of his Ward 8 Canton City Council seat to gain votes for Healy in the face of the Perez challenge to the mayor in the May 5, 2015 primary.
The SCPR does not think that personal political connections played much if any role in Plakas' decision to heed the Stark/Ohio Dems' entreaty that he represent their interests in keeping Bernabei off the ballot in November.
The unmistakable theme of The Stark County Political Report's exclusive interview with Plakas last Thursday was that "the rule of law" was THE motivating factor in his taking on representing the Democratic Party interests.
A particularly poignant moment in the interview was in this segment in which he describes the potential political chaos were Bernabei to be allowed ballot access:
As readers of the SCPR know, yours truly thinks Thomas Bernabei is far and away the most capable political/government leader in all of Stark County.
The SCPR has never been impressed with William J. Healy, II as mayor.
He has self-inflicted one political/governmental debacle, after another debacle after another so as to make him the envy of a cat of nine lives.
Healy has been a survivor in the individual sense.
But Canton continues to decline notwithstanding the grandstanding that Healy persists in including the latest on the unfolding of the Canton Comprehensive Plan yesterday.
To The Report, Bernabei would make a much more effective mayor than Healy.
However, Plakas' point of "the rule of law" is a compelling one.
The Report was solidly behind local attorney and civic activist Craig T. Conley when he through client Thomas Marcelli held Judge Frank Forchione (Stark County Court of Common Pleas) accountable to "the rule of law" (LINK) on the Sandy Hook fine redirection matter.
Likewise, The Report lauds Plakas for his pursuit of "the rule of law."
It is interesting that the most likely scenario for Bernabei to make it to the November ballot is what the SCPR thinks is the political route, to wit:
- The two Republicans (Braden and Cline) vote for certifying Bernabei,
- The two Democrats (Ferruccio, Jr. and Sherer, II) vote to deny certification,
- Republican Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted breaks The tie in favor of certification with legally plausible reasoning undergirding his vote which
- The Ohio Supreme Court affirms as not having been "an abuse of discretion."
As Plakas says, such an outcome is dangerous to the political stability of Ohio's political system.
What is going on in this matter should underscore the critical need for the Ohio legislature to depoliticize the Board of Elections process.
Ohio's organized Republicans and Democrats have a stranglehold on access to the ballot.
Such is completely unacceptable in our democratic-republican political values system.
In the meantime, the only recourse available is the BOE protest procedures and a supervening oversight by the supposedly non-political court system.
For their work in quest of "the rule of law," Lee Plakas and Edmond Mack are to be commended.
Here is the full interview with Lee Plakas with Edmond Mack sitting in: