League of Women Voters moderator Richard Kuhn (a long time participant the League) was very clear at the outset
that last night's Massillon mayoralty
- The Canton area ~ Ohio League of Women Voters ®,
- The (Canton) Repository,
- The (Massillon) Independent,
And under Kuhn's direction the proceedings while vigorous, pointed and direct were civil throughout the evening.
This particular SCPR blog is an overview of and summary of the evening's exchanges between the candidates incumbent mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry (a Democrat), Republican challenger Lee Brunckhart and "independent" former 24 year mayor Francis H. Cicchinelli, Jr.
Between today and election day, the SCPR will publish additional blogs which presents each and every question asked by the Amy Shriver-Dreussi (LWV), Matt Rink (Editor of the editorial page, The Rep) and Veronica VanDress (Editor at The Indie) and the full response of each candidate, and, of course, a Stark County Political Report analysis as to the responses significance to Massillonians as the candidates' answers signal:
- what having Catazaro-Perry back for a second term portends,
- what having a working class guy (as Brunckhart describes himself) as mayor might entail, or
- what having former mayor for 24 years Frank Cicchinelli return in terms of re-instituting the model he thinks was a successful one,
No matter what the question was, Brunckhart seemed to have the most sensible answer be it:
- the safety of Massillonians,
- the hiring practices of the mayor's office,
- the quality of Massillon's streets and highways,
- the fate of The Legends golfcourse,
- the viability of the Parks and Recreation Board,
- the the fault for the financial/fiscal emergency status of the city,
- the keys to future economic development, and
- last but certainly not least in the hearts of Massillonians what the next mayor can do to help the Massillon Lions Club keep the treasured Lincoln Theater viable,
He is Stark County's version of the anti-establishment-candidate that seems to be the appeal of Republicans Donald Trump and Ben Carson and Democrat Bernie Sanders at the presidential level of politics.
Moreover, Brunckhart seems to relish being thought of as being the non-politician.
A favorite question posed for the SCPR was whether the candidate viewed him/herself as a leader or a politician.
One could almost hear a collective gulp from the audience as Catazaro-Perry and Cicchinelli took on the question.
For who in this part of God's Little Acre of Stark County seriously believed that either Catazaro-Perry or Cicchinelli could make a credible case for being primarily a leader given all the politiking going between the two going back probably twelve years or so.
But Lee Brunckhart, other than his lack of leadership in government, no problem.
Only Lee Brunckhart could make a credible case that he is not much of a politician.
Even the campaign literature handed out in the theater foyer before last night event spoke volumes as who were the political pros, more or less, and who was the non-politico.
Cicchinelli and Catazaro handed out slick looking, glossy flyers whereas Brunckhart the unsophisticated one hand out an 8-1/2" by 11" colored orange piece of paper containing black printed campaign text (obviously an amateurish political play to the Massillon Tigers sports teams) that bespeaks a campaign on the cheap.
Nonetheless, the SCPR thinks Brunckhart stood out over and beyond the mayor and the former mayor in making no nonsense prescriptions devoid of politics for what ails Massillon.
However, notwithstanding the appeal of this working man's "from an 'unpoliticzed heart' approaches and, in the SCPR's view, his being the winner of the forum discussion last; night,yours truly still thinks it is unlikely that Lee Brunckhart will be elected mayor of Massillon in less than three weeks.
Political upsets do happen from time to time, but The Report does not think the Massillon mayoralty election of 2015 will be one of them.
But if Brunckhart "pulls a rabbit out of the hat," the SCPR will have an absolute ball covering Mayor Lee Brunckhart and his day-in, day out work with Massillon's seasoned politicos.
The Report has been hearing that at least one leading Massillon Republican and even some from the Stark County GOP headquarters were left shaking their heads in disbelief as to the amateurish nature of Brunckhart's campaign, to wit:
- at how low key Brunckhart was running, and
- though being a relative political novice (he was Catazaro-Perry's opponent in the 2011 general election), being unwilling to take the advice of the Republican political pros who administer the "organized" Stark County Republican Party,
One of the evidences presented to the SCPR of Brunckhart's low key campaign is a campaign ad he has been publishing in the Massillon Tigers football program, to wit:
Both full pages.
The Report understands that one key Massillon Republican has told Brunckhart not to expect any help in his mayoral run because of a perceived lack of effort and his unwillingness to check with the political pros before putting out something like his football program ad and getting and taking their advice before making campaign moves.
With all that yours truly was hearing about the frustration that Massillon/Stark County Republican operatives were experiencing with Brunckhart, the SCPR more or less expected last night to see a Lee Brunckhart showing up and going through the motions of being a viable mayoralty candidate but projecting a resignation to the inevitable: "a third place finish way behind Cicchinelli and Catazaro-Perry.
And it may be that is where Brunckhart ultimately finishes.
For even if one was impressed with him last night as the SCPR was, how is he going to parlay the performance into a plurality of votes to win the three person race?
There are only 20 days left until election day and, of course, since October 6th early voting has been in full swing.
It will be interesting to see on October 22nd when the campaign finance pre-general election reports come out, but the SCPR doubts he has the financial resources to get what the SCPR sees as a successful October 14th event out to the remaining voters in hopes he can attract enough of them to get a plurality of the votes.
He will have to hope and pray that the likes of The Rep and The Independent agree with the SCPR assessment of his having the best quality answers to the questions posed and therefore may be the answer to what ails Massillon and accordingly open the floodgates of free media for him.
In the SCPR's video interview of Brunckhart at the conclusion of the forum (5:00 minutes), he expresses his frustration of being unable to attract media attention to this point in the campaign.
Massillon's mayoralty race is not the equivalent of running for president of the United States of America which of course is a venue that free media attention and make or break a campaign.
So, to say it again, the SCPR does think that Lee Brunckhart did markedly better than Cicchinelli and Catazaro-Perry, but it likely will turn out to be no more than "his day in the sun."
Undoubtedly, readers of the SCPR want to know specifically why The Report was so impressed with Brunckhart last night.
As indicated earlier in this blog, The Report will be doing a series of blogs which will deal with each and every question posed by Shriver-Druessi (the medium for questions from those in the audience), Rink and VanDress and in the course of analyzing the candidate answers score a winner on each and every exchange.
Without counting, it is abundantly clear to The Report that Brunckhart will be shown to have outscored both Cicchinelli and Catazaro-Perry.
However, Cicchinelli did reasonably well.
Though she had the largest cheering section at the forum, Catazaro-Perry last night was where she has always been since becoming mayor on January 1, 2012 which is blaming Frank Cicchinelli and in a few instances others for her failures as mayor.
Somehow the SCPR does not think that is going to play well with Massillon voters four years down the road.
Finally, a word about the questioners.
Rink and VanDress were outstanding interlocutors.
And the audience posed high grade questions through Shriver-Dreussi, too.
As moderated by Kuhn (keeping candidates on their "p's" and "q's" and civil with one another) coupled with the realpolitik Massillon issue/candidate conduct (past and projected) questions, the SCPR thinks that the LWV, The Repository and The Independent put on a first rate forum.
And Massillon responded in good numbers.
Most of the ground floor was filled.
Wednesday evening at the historic Lincoln Theater in downtown Massillon democracy in action was the real winner!
The full video of last night's event (1:18)