Like a "Jack-In-The-Box," out pops Canton councilman John Mariol (Democrat, Ward 7) at virtually the last minute on December 16th to file with the Stark County Board of Elections as a candidate for Stark County commissioner.
The SCPR was convinced that Regula (commissioner from 2003 through 2006) and then again 2013 through 2016 and perhaps beyond was going to get to the beyond with no opposition.,
Not directed Regula, but for The Report it is a political anathema in our democratic-republican system of government for candidates to run unopposed.
That's something that happens only in dictatorial systems of government, no?
For right here in Stark County there are many, many, many offices for which there is no political competition.
Lack of competition, of course, can lead to elected official non-accountability and to arrogance and, too often, to scandal and corruption.
It is highly unlikely that Commissioner Richard Regula would turn out to be such as an elected official should he have had the good fortune (from his perspective) to run.
Nevertheless, it was healthy for the Stark County electorate that Mariol stepped forward.
One of the exciting thing to happen in recent years in Canton politics and government is the emergence of what the SCPR tabs as being a group of relatively young councilmen which The Report has tabbed as being "the four young turks." (LINK to blog coining the "young turks" expression)
In Canton, the Stark County Republican Party has completely abrogated its responsibility to the Canton voting public to field candidates for mayor and city council.
Before the surfacing of "the four young turks," there was only scattered and diffuse opposition to the some of the hair brained legislative schemes of now lame duck mayor William J. Healy, II. Accordingly, Healy more or less had his way with council detrimental to the health of Canton city government.
For a while, "the four young turks" were among the few councilpersons of thoroughly vetted Healy administration proposals.
But these four are "died-in-the-wool-Democrats" and therefore they were vulnerable to the master manipulative Stark County politician Healy diverting them from focusing as a loosely knit group on Canton's massive problems and forming a key political support group which enabled Healy to survive a challenge in the May, 2015 Democratic primary from Canton treasurer Kim Perez and nearly survive the challenge of Democrat turned political independent (May, 2015, validated by the Ohio Supreme Court in July, 2015) Thomas M. Bernabei
Bernabei is currently a Stark county commissioner who will be resigning any day now to assume the office of mayor of Canton.
But at the end of the day, the four have changed the political landscape in Canton for the better.
The group is now breaking up.
Kevin Fisher (Democrat, Ward 5) is running for the Bernabei commissioner seat. If he is not elected commissioner, The Report does not think he will seek reelection in Ward 5 in 2017.
Edmond Mack (Democrat, Ward 8) has announced that he is likely serving his last term on council due increased responsibilities at the law firm that he was recently named as a partner in.
Only Frank Morris remains and is likely to continue his trek as a iconic curmudgingly Canton political figure for years to come.
Of the for original turks, John Mariol probably has the brightest and most lasting political future on the Stark County political skyline.
It is a tall order for him (only involved in competitive Stark County politics since the Democratic primary of 2011) to defeat Commissioner Regula. He did get appointed in May, 2012 by Ward 7 Democratic precinct committee persons to succeed Patrick Barton who took a job with the Healy administration.
But Regula has proved that he can be beaten.
As he son of a long term and highly popular congressman (Ralph Regula; retired at the end of 2008) for Ohio's 16th Congressional District which at the time included all of Stark County, it should be next to impossible to defeat Richard Regula.
Believe it or not, he lost rather convincingly to Gary Zeigler for Stark County treasurer in 2000.
So given the vim, vigor and vitality of John Mariol, one should not count him out.
Mariol could be the harbinger of a new generation of Stark County political subdivison candidates replacing a vanishing old guard.
Mariol's high water mark as a Canton councilman has been his work to revitalize downtown Canton on what is called the Market Square Project.
He may be Canton's foremost zealot for "real" economic development in the city.
And he tells the SCPR that he wants to bring that zeal to Stark County government.
When asked whether or not he thought Thomas Bernabei was a role model for a fledgling commissioner, he said he thought not.
While he admires the work of Bernabei in working with the likes of fellow commissioner Janet Creighton and former commissioners Pete Ferguson to bring Stark County out of its fiscal crisis of 2009 through 2012, he says that getting/maintaining the county's budget in order should not be a matter of concern in terms of being a top priority.
To Mariol, the commissioners need to institute a new top priority that being economic development in the context of building partnerships with other Stark County political subdivisions (i.e. cities, villages and townships) and the private sector.
Undoubtedly, Richard Regula will say that economic development is what he has been about.
He can cite his work on getting U.S. 30 through to Pittsburgh as a key for Stark County to market its products and services to the eastern corridor of the United States.
Moreover, he has embarked on a 1 gigabyte in every Stark County home (more or less) Internet service as an another infrastructure building priority of his that will bring economic prosperity to Stark County.
Another hallmark of Regula's commissionership has been his devotion to dealing with Stark County's pockets of flooding problems.
In the campaign, Mariol will have to advance specific projects as voter eye catching lurements to them to consider replacing Regula with himself.
He expects to have the ardent support of the Stark County Democratic Party.
But there is a catch there.
The election to replace Thomas Bernabei as commissioner.
The Dems leadership will have the allocate party person power and finances between to what may turn out to be highly competitive commissioner face offs.
How the party allocates resources come September will be a tip off of whether or not the party thinks one contest will more competitive than the other.
In terms of partisan political identity, 2016 will be a pivotal year in the commissioner races.
Republican Janet Creighton is there no matter what happens in the contests for the two remaining seats.
In November, 2016 Stark County may have commissioners that:
- are all Republican,
- 2 to 1 Republican, or
- 2 to 1 Democratic
If he does once again surprise as he did in deciding to take on Regula, then look for the composition of the commissioners' office to be 2 to 1 Democratic.
Here is a SCPR/Mariol interview done on Monday evening: