Tuesday, July 10, 2012


When yours truly picked up the mail yesterday, the content included one huge surprise.


This campaign flyer was in the mail.

Whew!  It's only July 9th with the November election still 118 days (nearly 4 months) away and former Democratic Canton city councilman Bill Smuckler is off and running with the campaign mailers.

Traditionally, mailing of flyers is heavily tilted to the last 4 to 6 weeks of the campaign and, as an indicator of how well the fundraising went, a burst at the very end much like a fireworks finale many of us witnessed the past July 4th.

The early mailer ought to catch the attention of Republican and former Stark County commissioner Richard Regula.

Regula, despite his impressive political pedigree (his father, Ralph, was 16th District U.S Congressman for 36 years), has not been able to become an enduring Stark County political figure - at least in the elected - in his own right.

He has had modest success with one term as Stark County commissioner and time as a Bethlehem Township trustee before that.

But beyond that, he has not been able to parlay the Regula name into electoral success.  In fact, he has sustained a number of embarrassing setbacks.

His most recent humiliation was losing out to woman-child Christina Hagan, at least in the political sense of the expression, as the replacement for 50th district representative in March of 2011.   As he tells it, the queen-makers (since they ended up selecting Hagan) in the Republican House Caucus, rejected him as to choice to replace Todd Snitchler (who bolted from the 50th to be Governor Kasich's man as chair of the Ohio PUCO) because he Regula was much more of a person of his own mind than any other candidate.

And there are two other demoralizing loses in his political biography.

First, there was the loss to Gary Zeigler in the county treasurer's race in 2000.  Hmm?  Stark County voters probably would like to have that one back, no?

Zeigler had seemingly run against everybody else in Stark County to win some office, any office, (having run for office quite a few times and lost) many think, as the candidate of the "good ole boys" (Stark County Prosecutor John Ferrero was chairman then) who ran the Stark County Democratic Party back in those days (the late 90s, early 2000s).

When Stark County Treasurer Mark Roach (whose father had been treasurer for many years) couldn't keep up with his Ohio mandated continuing education requirements and needed to be replace, the Dems chose Zeigler.

Mind you, one of the candidates for the party nod at that time was the highly qualified (but a political rube) Massillon Budget Director Ken Koher who went on to become Stark County Treasurer for a time in the in (appointed 1999), out (unconstitutionally by the Stark County commissioners), in again (the Ohio Supreme Court and finally out (by resignation).  For more background on Zeigler's tenure as Stark County treasurer go to this LINK.

Hmm?  Think Ferrero et al wouldn't like to have Zeigler's 1999 appointment back?

Had the richly blessed golden political boy Richard Regula lived up to his political heritage, Stark County likely would have been spared all the turmoil of recent years.  But he didn't and "the rest is history."

Second on Regula's failures as an office seeker was against the-then Nimishillen trustee Todd Bosley in 2006.

Nobody in Stark County political circles thought Bosely (except, perhaps, former Stark County Commissioner Tom Harmon) could defeat the then-sitting Stark County commissioner Richard Regula.

But he did!

So, why is the SCPR recounting Richard Regula's document political weakness notwithstanding his purebred pedigree?

Because the man he is running against (Smuckler) is thought by a number of Stark County political observers (some of them Democrats) to one of the weakest Democrats that the Stark Dems could run countywide because of his hidden-away-ness in the safe Democratic stronghold of Canton.

He does fine in the 9 to 1 Dems to GOP registered voters ratio in the Democratic enclave of Canton as long as he doesn't have to run against a well known, established politician.

He did defeat now-Canton Mayor William J. Healy, II in the 2003 Democratic primary, but Healy was barely back in town from having gone to New York City to get his training and education as a business cognoscente who, once he developed political acumen, was destined wrestle the mayoralty from Republican Janet Creighton in 2007.

Creighton defeated Smuckler by about 300 votes in the 2003 general election.

After losing to Healy in a rematch in the 2011 Democratic primary, Smuckler decided not to run for reelection to Canton City Council where he could have stayed for the rest of his life if he so chose.

When incumbent Commissioner Pete Ferguson decided not to run for reelection, Smuckler jumped at the opportunity to run. 

Regula kind of played a little political game.  He feigned as if he might possibly run against incumbent Commissioner Tom Bernabei (like Smuckler a Canton political figure as a councilman and law director) in the other commissioner seat up for election this time around as he took out petitions for both seats.

It was a game of silliness as far as The Report is concerned.  Regula against Bernabei.  Although he had a narrow escape in 2010 when he ran against Republican Jackson trustee James Walters (who, the SCPR believes, would have won had an independent (of the political right) not been on the ballot), Bernabei has had the better part of two years to establish himself in his new political venue.

There was no way Regula was ever going to run against Bernabei.  The likelihood is that he was waiting to see if Bernabei was not going to run and who the Democratic candidate would then be.

Get it?  The SCPR thinks that Regula was looking for the most vulnerable seat to go after.

Smuckler versus Regula for Stark County commissioner (incumbent Commissioner Ferguson electing not to run for reelection) would seem to be a "Stark County political match of the century for the politically weak."   Only kidding, how about the last 20 years?

Actually, Smuckler seems to be fired up and out doing the right things to put himself in a position to win countywide.

He has gone out and hired some political pros to run his campaign.

The main players in the Smuckler campaign are the same cast of characters as who let Healy to victory over Smuckler last spring.  Hmm?  Does this mean that Mayor Healy is supporting Smuckler for commissioner?  When asked, Smuckler said "you'll have to ask the mayor?"

As described by The Repository's Ed Balint and republished on Mayor Healy's campaign website, they are:  (extract, not a complete rendition of the Balint piece; also with SCPR parenthetical insertions).
... Melissa Barnhart, [who runs a political consulting firm and who has be linked in area media reports with Canton area 52nd District state Rep. Stephen Slesnick] ... has been involved with multiple campaigns for Richard Cordray, the former Democratic Ohio attorney general.  Barnhart lives in the Columbus area.

Also ... Andy Padrutt, a "seasoned campaign operative," with experience in campaign management and strategic consulting, ... .

Padrutt, of Summit County, is a former at-large Green City councilman and the former executive director of the Summit County Democratic Party.  He also is the former Barberton clerk of court.

Padrutt also worked on Cordray's campaign in 2010.  ...

Amanda Trump, [Democratic candidate against Republican Kirk Schuring in the "new" 48th Ohio House district], a former intern at the Ohio House of Representatives, is another volunteer.  The Canton native has worked on campaigns in the Columbus area as well as on Cordray's re-election bid.
Could it be that Smuckler is developing political muscle countywide?

Whereas Regula has run countywide three times (winning once), this is Smuckler's first try.

Seemingly, Regula would have the advantage.  Especially with the political heritage thing.

The Report has seen Smuckler out and about in several venues campaigning.  He tells yours truly that each and every day he is out campaigning either or his own, or with Amanda Trump or with Sue Ryan (running against Republican Christina Hagan - the 50th House District) and other local Democrats.

Regula only one.  About a month ago in North Canton when Congressman Renacci showed up to hear North Canton citizens at a community meeting put on the Stark County commissioners complain about flooding problems in the nearby Zimber Ditch.

Smuckler was there, too.  And he appeared to yours truly to be more overtly politically active than Regula even in Republican North Canton.

And sending flyers out on July 9th? 

An additional impressive thing about Smuckler to the SCPR is that he seems to actually have a plan he wants to work with his fellow commissioners on if he is elected.

Most of it is grounded in collaboration with all of Stark County's political subdivisions.

He has not given up on completing the rehab of countywide 9-1-1 call receiving and dispatch.

He believes he can replicate the Canton/Jackson Township economic development partnership across Stark County.

Smuckler has been, as a matter of advocacy, Stark County's most ardent proponent of collaboration/consolidation and merger of local government operations for the better part of two decades.

In the past, his efforts have largely fallen on deaf ears.

But could it be that now with the severe cutbacks in federal and State of Ohio funding of local government funding that the time is ripe for the likes of a Bill Smuckler?

Is a "perfect political storm" brewing for this "lost in Canton" politician?

We shall see.

And we will also see whether or not the son of the renowned Ralph  Regula and finally, finally take advantage of his political pedigree.

Has he learned that it takes more than being the son of a venerable congressman to be a successful candidate?

It takes a dawn to dusk campaign commitment.  It takes having a substantive plan for voters to consider.  To the credit of Stark Countians it takes being the son, plus.

It could be he is active as Smuckler and the SCPR just doesn't know about.  Kind of doubtful.  If something is happening in Stark County politics, it is rare indeed for The Report to not be in the know.

And perhaps he has a plan. If he has one, what kind of dissemination is he giving it? 

Regula versus Smuckler could be a very interesting race over the next four months.

For one of the two, a loss in race will likely mean the end of the line for electioneering.

Whom among the two will have adapted the most?

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