DOES IT EXIST?
In The Stark County Political Report's opinion, probably not.
Even though in the latest "partisan-seeking-office-filing" (political independents have more time), the deadline for which was yesterday, on the surface - at least - suggest that The Report is wrong.
Not counting federal office, there are 16 offices up for election in 2016.
Of the 16, five or 20% of all Stark County-based offices up for election are in the "unopposed" category.
(SCPR Note: source is Stark BOE website)
One Republican (Baldwin) and four Democrats (Bennett, Hartnett, Ferrero and Maier) get a pass in election year 2016.
One caveat, however.
Independent candidates have until August to file a candidacy.
Wouldn't it be a shot in the arm for accountability in the currently uncontested offices that Baldwin, Bennett, Harnett, Ferrero and Maier hold if politically unbeholdened citizens stepped forward to ensure that all Stark County elections are contested in November?
It is a blemish on the leadership qualities of the GOP/Dems' chairmen that any office goes uncontested.
With four Democrats set to go unchallenged; such is a political indictment in outlining a case of ineffectiveness on the part of Stark GOP chairman (and, get this Board of Elections director) Jeff Matthews, no?
Last election year (2015) was even worse for Matthews.
He came up with absolutely nobody to run for any of the 12 Canton Council seats plus the council presidency post or for mayor.
Many think Stark's organized Republicans piggybacked on successful "independent" mayoralty candidate Thomas M. Bernabei.
One has to wonder why the likes of the highly motivated, skilled and politically aware Republican and Stark County auditor Alan Harold puts up with the Matthews disgraceful performance.
Matthews had no problem at all getting motivated to get Jim Renacci in as the Republican candidate for Congress against incumbent Democrat John Boccieri in 2010.
Just call the SCPR cynical but to The Report it was telling that Matthews' wife Heidi ended up on the Renacci's staff on his defeating Boccieri.
In all fairness, The Report does point out that Heidi Matthews had prior experience in having a similar role with the Ralph Regula office when he was 16th District congressman.
Nonetheless, it does seem that there is nothing like a personal factor to get the Stark Republican chairman fired up, no?
Somebody (Harold?) needs to light this guy up again.
No for the sake of the Republican Party, but in hopes that political competition makes for better Stark County government.
The word is "accountability."
His C+ rating in the current election cycle candidate filing is way short of what the Stark County public expects of a political party chairman.
While Phil Giavasis gets an A- rating from the SCPR, he should not be resting on that as being vastly superior to Matthews on the matter of getting viable candidates to run for office.
For starters he has the most incumbents among the 16 contests.
And take a look at the disaster of the North Canton City Council with all Republicans except for Foltz who is about as politically/accountability energetic as a proverbial turtle.
The Report's take is that because Stark's organized Democrats have apparently bought into a mythology that a strong Democratic Party in North Canton that can compete in elections is a non-starter (a corollary to Matthews' take on heavily Democratic Canton); look what is happening to citizens of North Canton as they try to get accessibility and accountability of North Canton officials.
But the SCPR thinks that politicos like Giavasis (who, interestingly enough is a member of the Stark Co. Dems' Central Committee representing a North Canton precinct) and Matthews are only interested in picking low hanging political fruit.
If it takes hard work, ingenuity and imagination to create competitive political balance in Canton (for Matthews) and North Canton (for Giavasis). "Work!" as the sitcom character J. Maynard Krebs of yesteryear used to shout out in obvious protest is something one can count Giavasis and Matthews out on.
Both are snug as a bug in a rug and could apparently care less about the quality of government across Stark County's political subdivisions.
Now the SCPR turns to those races in which there is at least nominal competition.
Stark Countians should thank Giavasis and Matthews small favors, no?
HOW GOOD IS THE COMPETITION?
WISE V. GORMLEY
You talk about being the proverbial sacrificial lamb.
That's how the SCPR sees of the son of a former Stark County Democratic Party honcho in Earle E. Wise, Jr.
Republican Gormley is a extremely well connected Columbus (Ohio Supreme Court) connected judge with tons of money to spend on a political campaign.
The Report thinks Gormley's clout and potential campaign finance money scared Stark County Probate Court judge Dixie Park out of the race.
Among Stark County Republicans, Park is known for overwhelming any would be opponents to her continuing on as a probate court judge by virtue of her having huge sums of campaign finance dollars at her beck and call.
Had she persisted in her private overtures to local Stark County elected official Republicans for support in her desire to run for a seat on the 5th District Court of Appeals, there was going to be a knock down, drag out political batter between her and Gormley to succeed longtime Stark County Republican judge Sheila Farmer on the bench.
Park, who the SCPR is a thinks (LINK) is an exceedingly poor quality judge, at least was smart enough to know that she was going to get waxed by Gormley in a Republican primary.
Wise is not a skilled political tea leaf reader and therefore likely has no clue that he is about to get the political drubbing of his life.
But nevertheless it is good that he is competing for this judgeship.
BALDWIN (REPUBLICAN, UNOPPOSED)
This office is Dems' chairman Phil Giavasis only failure to have lined up a competitive Democratic candidate for.
Bingham v. Schuring
Good luck, Jennifer!
The SCPR would like nothing more that see a political upset in the 48th Ohio House District.
Nothing personal, of course, with Kirk Schuring for he is a personable guy but for all the years that he and Scott Oelslager have been in the Ohio General Assembly, they have produced relatively little for Stark County.
And, of course, if one dares to criticize them in their official capacity, neither will answer telephone/e-mail inquires of the SCPR.
That's how arrogant seemingly untouchable political figures get.
There will come a day when Schuring will not be such a sure bet for re-election.
But that day is NOT this election.
DISTRICT 49: Two Democrats, One Republican
Other than the Bernabei-soon-to-be-vacated seat on the Board of Stark County Commissioners contest, this race promises to be on one the most hotly contested in all of Stark County this election cycle.
On the Democratic side, this primary election will be a test of what residual power the name Healy has within Stark County Democratic Party officialdom.
Unlike other primary contests, it is likely that the official Stark County Democratic Party leaders will keep hands off this election.
Canton Ward 2 councilman Thomas West has coveted a spot in the Ohio General Assembly for years.
In 2006 he ran against Schuring when Schuring was in the Ohio Senate (as part of his musical chairs dance with Scott Oleslager in order for both to avoid being term-limited out of the Ohio General Assembly) and put Schuring through his only real test on continuing on in Columbus (LINK).
The Report thinks that he is a better fit for the 49th than is Healy-Abrams.
For the most part, the 49th is a blue-collar district and Healy-Abrams hardly fits such a characterization.
But Republican Dan F. McMasters does.
McMasters might be the SCPR's favorite Republican in all of Stark County's Republican circles.
He is a straight-talking, no-nonsense guy in about the same vein as the SCPR is.
McMasters has a steep hill to climb to win in this highly-indexed-favorable Democratic district.
But if anybody can do it, McMasters is the guy.
As it would be terrific to see Bingham upset Schuring in the highly-Republican-indexed 48th, it would be terrific for the same to happen in the 49th.
It is as if the 49th has not had a state representative in the person of Democrat Stephen Slesnick. The Report thinks he has sleep-walked through eight years in the Ohio House all the way to being term-limited out.
Slesnick is another one of those politicos who thinks he is unaccountable to his constituents and certain parts of the Stark County media (i.e. the SCPR).
A great testament to term limits, no?
And Slesnick wants to be Stark County commissioner?
JUERGENSEN V. HAGAN
This contest is another: "Good Luck, John!" factor.
Word is that Christina's father John (who represented a someone different composition of the 50th, but still a "safe" Republican seat) was considering a run for Stark County commissioner for the Bernabei vacated seat.
Well, he could and did forget that.
He could not possibly win Stark County wide as he demonstrated in 2008 when Pete Ferguson handed him a resounding loss at the zenith of John Hagan's political name i.d. in Stark County.
Nor could Christina.
She is incubating in the gerrymandered Republican 50th and on being term-limited-out will never be heard again in Stark County political circles. So he SCPR thinks.
The Report thinks that all Christina really cares about is the abortion issue.
That is all well and good but there is much more to being a state representative for thousands of Stark Countians to be pretty much a single issue candidate.
It will be interesting to see whether or not Juergensan can get that message across and bought into by a majority of 50th District voters.
On the surface, the SCPR thinks that Hagan has nothing to worry about.
But wouldn't it be nice if Juergensen could put that in question with a well financed, high quality campaign?
HARNETT FOR JUDGE (UNCONTESTED)
While SCPR pushed hard for Harnett in her uphill successful run against Republican gubernatorial appointee Curtis Werren as being the obviously better qualified candidate, yours truly does not like for anybody to go unchallenged for election.
This is one of a number of races that Stark County GOP chairman Jeff Matthews has failed Stark County voters in providing them with a choice.
REESE V. NIST
The Report has talked briefly with Jason Reese (an attorney with the Canton Law Department; a Democrat) but does not know enough about the candidates at this time to comment on the race.
SHRIVER, II V. GIAVASIS (LOUIS)
Kudos to Matthews for coming up with an opponent for Louis Giavasis.
It took a while but it became apparent to yours truly about a year ago or so that there has been a plan in place to make Louis Giavasis the ultimate successor to Phil Giavasis as Stark County clerk of courts (Phil took an appointment to replace Tom Harmon when Harmon retired in 2007) with Nancy Reinbold being the designated place holder for Louis while he put a period of time in as the clerk's office car title czar.
Naturally, Louis denies all of SCPR's take with a straight face.
Shriver's candidacy presents an opportunity for Stark Countians to send a message to the Giavasises and other Stark County politicos that these plans are not acceptable for who staffs taxpayer supported government offices.
The Report thinks Chairman Phil was also part of plan to bring Kody Gonzalez into place in the Canton clerk of courts office just in time to succeed retiring his father Randy Gonzalez (chairman of the Stark Dems immediately before Phil Giavasis) as chief deputy clerk of courts.
It is as if Stark County political subdivision government is the private employment agency of these folks, no?
BRIGGS V. MURTHY
Another plus for the Stark GOP leadership in providing competition for each and every countywide office no matter what.
BERNABEI VACATED COMMISSIONER SEAT
FOUR DEMOCRATS; TWO REPUBLICANS
Neither chairman likely had much of if any role in the proliferation of candidates for the commissioner seat being vacated later this month my Canton mayor-elect Thomas M. Bernabei.
The SCPR can say even on December 17, 2015 that former commissioner Peter Ferguson (2009 through 2012) is the odds on favorite to once again become a Stark County commissioner.
However, should either Baylock, Ward 5 Canton councilman Kevin Fisher or term limited out Stephen Slesnick get the appointment (in the event the Stark County get to appoint the successor to political independent Thomas M. Bernabei), winning in March might not be so easy in March.
As this race moves along, the SCPR will have much more to say about the qualities of the respective candidates.
On the Republican side, Canton Township trustee Bill Smith is likely to be the GOP nominee.
And it could be that Smith will get the appointment to succeed Bernabei if the Stark Commissioners (Republicans Creighton and Regula) plus Stark County prosecutor John Ferrero get to make the appoint on the basis of Bernabei being a political independent on his resigning as a commissioner.
The Report is told that Creighton is in Smith corner.
Either way. Having Janet Creighton for you is a huge plus in the Stark County Republican Party.
Had she gotten full bore behind Larry Dordea, the SCPR thinks he would be Stark County sheriff today.
MARIOL V. REGULA
This one was a real surprise to the SCPR.
Mariol isn't that far into being a Canton councilman (Democrat, Ward 7) and seemed committed to being part of a group of relatively recent elected councilpersons focused on rescuing Canton government from years of decline.
At this point, The Report does not take Mariol's challenge of Regula seriously.
As a Canton Democrat in and of itself he has a tough row to hoe getting elected countywide.
Only Pete Ferguson (running to succeed Bernabei) has what it takes for a Canton-based Democrat to elected.
Bernabei (the Democratic Party Canton political base he had at the time) himself would not have been elected as commissioner in 2010 had it not been for a independent third candidate running.
Jackson trustee and Republican James N. Walters would have been.
And the very able Canton councilman Bill Smuckler could not win countywide against Regula in 2012. Why? The SCPR thinks that voters in outlying Stark County political subdivision entities have an aversion to Canton Democratic politicians merely because they are "big city Democrats."
Nevertheless, the SCPR welcomes the Mariol candidacy.
Nobody should get a free pass to election/re-election.
BENNETT (UNOPPOSED, A DEMOCRAT)
One saving grace for Stark County Republican Party chairman Jeff Matthews on this race is that it takes a person with statutorily mandated credential to run for the office.
There are not many if any such persons in Stark County
ARNOLD V. CAMPBELL
The SCPR thinks Rick Campbell has done a decent job as Stark County recorder.
However, he has been far too political as far as yours truly is concerned.
See the account of Kody Gonzalez above in this blog's discussion of the fast track that Gonzalez has enjoyed in getting to be in a position to take over for his father as chief deputy of the Canton Municipal Court.
Guess who was Kody's conduit to be in such a position?
You've got it.
Rather than own up to the obvious, Campbell tried to bully the SCPR into accept his account of how Gonzalez came to be chief deputy recorder in the mid-2000's.
According to Campbell, Kody reeked of such superior qualities to the degree that it was a no-brainer to Campbell to bring Gonzalez into government before he was snapped up by a private concern.
What a laugh and moreover insult to anybody who knows how the likes of Campbell work to ingratiate themselves to the likes of Gonzalez's father.
Randy Gonzalez says that had nothing whatsoever to do with son Kody being taken in by Campbell.
And Randy's disclaimer could be true.
One, who is going to believe it.
Two, even if Randy's account is accurate; folks like Campbell do things like hiring son Kody unasked for he understands better than most that such unsolicited acts can be highly beneficial.
So Campbell can save the denials for folks who are totally naive about Stark County politics.
Having assessed Campbell, the SCPR is not about to declare that Republican John Arnold would be much of an improvement over Campbell in terms of his politicization.
The SCPR thinks he played a game of politics involving an official township government event (the dedication of the new Uniontown Police Department facilities) with Curtis Werren in Lake Township designed to help Werren get elected Canton Municipal Court judge.
This office as all Stark County political subdivision offices need to have competitive elections to enhance the likelihood that the winner is less likely to play politics with office jobs.
For this reason alone, the SCPR appreciates that Republican Lake Township trustee John Arnold has agreed to compete with Rick Campbell.
HORNER V. ZUMBAR
Republican Alex Zumbar is one of Stark County's very best elected public officials.
But he needs to tone the politics down in terms of political connections seeming to be a significant factor in who gets hired and who gets pay raises.
And he needs to understand that no matter how well he is thought of, he as a public official will be critiqued from time to time.
It pretty clear to the SCPR that he relatively recently made a couple of hires in his office that had something to with Stark County Republican political connections with the net result being that members of the Stark County taxpaying public were denied an opportunity to land these jobs.
Hopefully, Democrat Cody Horner will put together a campaign that puts the heat of Zumbar to do better in the future.
FERRERO (STARK CO PROSECUTOR, UNOPPOSED)
MAIER (STARK COUNTY SHERIFF, UNOPPOSED)
A major failure to field candidates on the part of Chairman Matthews.
Ferrero can be responsive if somebody keeps the heat on him.
In the 2009 prosecution fiasco on the Marlboro Township police chief and his son computer equipment issue, it was the Stark County Political Report who shined the spotlight on Ferrero for his inexcusably and unwarrantly using the power of the prosecutor office power in a situation that should have been resolved way short of prosecutor.
Thankfully, now retired Judge V. Lee Sinclair saw through Ferrero's inadequacies as a prosecutor and acquitted the chief and his son of all charges.
In the 2009 through 2011 Stark County treasury crisis, it was local attorney and civic activist Craig T. Conley who held Ferrero's feet to the fire to ensure that he dealt effectively on behalf of Stark County taxpayers to recover the maximum amount recoverable to offset the upwards of $3M stolen from the county treasury by then chief deputy Vince Frustaci.
So the lesson is that John Ferrero needs someone looking over his shoulder.
If memory serves The Report correctly, in 2008 Ferrer ran unopposed.
After that election Ferrero seems to show the arrogance that comes with thinking one is unvulnerable.
"Katy Bar the Door" on George T. Maier!
Being unopposed will surely induce this guy as Stark County chief law enforcement officer to think he is God Almighty.
And if you think you are going to get anywhere within the hierarchy of the Stark County sheriff's department, you better get a degree in political sciences.
Of all the Stark County officeholders The Report writes about, this sheriff is by far the most blatantly political.
Kind of disturbing for a law enforcement arm of government, no?
He has learned his political lessons well from brother Johnnie A. Maier, Jr. a former head of the Stark County Democratic Party whom many think still controls the party from behind the curtain.
Chairman Jeff Matthews of the Stark County Republican Party in giving Ferrero and Maier a pass has dealt a blow to accountability with respect to these two.
Many of the problems of Stark County political subdivision government in recent can be traced to inadequate on non existent political competition owing to the poor performance of Democratic and Republican party chairmen.
The focus of this blog is on Giavasis and Matthews.
But this phenomenon runs much deeper than the two of them.