Thursday, August 23, 2012


Ideally, candidates themselves should be the the determining factor as to who is elected to office.

And such is generally the case.

However, in the Dordea (the Republican candidate), McDonald (the Democratic candidate) for sheriff race, the contest might be so tight that outside factors could play a key role in which of the two get elected.

The SCPR has been hearing quite a bit of buzz about the involvement of Jackson Township trustee James N. Walters' (a Republican) involvement in Dordea's campaign from both the Democratic side and the Republican side.

The Democratic input was to be expected.  But from the Republican side too?

The Report has been told by a Democratic source that it is believed that Walters took on a major role in the Dordea campaign with an eye towards landing a job with Dordea should he be elected Stark County sheriff.

As said above, no news here.  Speculation rides rampant in opposing political camps as to what the other side and its supporters might be up to.

But when the Democratic buzz was repeated by a Republican source who is in touch with talk within the Party, then the SCPR sat up and took notice.

James N. Walters, but for an independent candidate being in the 2010 race for county commissioner which included the independent, Walters and former Canton law director Tom Bernabei, would be a sitting Stark County commissioners instead of Bernabei.

And that is not where the Bernabei/Walters saga ends.  One would have thought (given the close call in 2010) that Walters would have been a prime candidate to oppose Bernabei in this year's election.  But lo and behold he did not file.  Rather local attorney and civic activist Craig T. Conley filed as the Republican candidate.

Then only days (August 10th) before the Stark organized Republican Party could have replaced him with an alternative candidate (August 13th), Conley withdrew.  The Stark GOP ended up not fielding a candidate.  However, the SCPR is told that Walters was contacted by a Republican Party official with an entreaty to replace Conley.  But he declined.

Kind of an interesting twist, no?

Reason why Walters declined?  The Report's source believes it was because Walters is trying to carve out a place for himself in a Larry Dordea administration of the sheriff's department; should Dordea win in November.

The SCPR did contact Dordea and here is what he had to say about reports that The Report is receiving about Walters and his role in the campaign and whether or not there is a quid pro quo between Walters and Dordea should he be elected sheriff.

  • "Jamie has never asked me for a job,"
  • SCPR:  "What if he did?"  DORDEA:   "I'd have to be elected sheriff first.  And I have to see what he would bring to the table and determine whether there was anything I needed at the sheriff's office that would match his skills."
  • That he had never thought of hiring Walters,
  • But that Walters is:
    • a key player in his campaign with experience (i.e. having run his own campaigns)
    • he's a hard worker
    • has good ideas
  • That he has number of "heavy hitters" involved in his campaign but that Walters and Zumbar (Stark County treasurer) being pre-eminent which Dordea was quick to say was not to diminish the significance and role of others (e.g. Plain trustee Scott Haws, Julie Jakmides [Alliance councilwoman, Steven Tharp, Jr (Brewster councilman) and Scott Svab [Canal Fulton councilman-at-large]),
  • That he has had a lot of people inquire about getting jobs if he is elected sheriff and that he always responds that like he did on the SCPR's question regarding Walters,
  • That he is not going to have a chief deputy but structure the leadership of the sheriff's office around captains as administrators.
Another concern of the SCPR's Republican source and by extension a number of Republicans that lived through the administration of the sheriff's office by the last Republican elected Stark County sheriff; namely, Robert C. Berens (1981 - 1984) is that Dordea is a politically polarizing figure like Berens was and that the county would get bogged down in that sort of thing again with a Dordea election.

To this Dordea rejoined to the SCPR (paraphrase):  "Martin, in my work as Alliance police chief, Hartville police chief and as Alliance councilman:  when have you ever known me to be a controversial political figure?"

As far as The Report is concerned,  it appears that Dordea's retort is "a perfect squelch" to the notion that he is likely to be a controversial political factor if elected sheriff.  But the question remains, why are some Republicans concerned about such a possiblity? 

For his part, the Democratic candidate told yours truly that he has heard the same reports about Walters' role in the Dordea campaign.  But, of course, he is not in a position to know the truth of the matter.

However, he did have these observations about Dordea and his political operations:
  • He knows Larry Dordea to be very political and that he knows a lot more about the political aspects of being sheriff that he (McDonald) is hip to,
  • While not making a direct comparison between Berens (reference:  Republican source's concern that electing Dordea would be tantamount to having another Berens), that he is concerned about getting a politician in office (i.e. Dordea) rather than a sheriff (e.g. Dordea takes the political way out on the matter of whether or not the sheriff's office should be considered to man Lake's township wide policing).
  • That Dordea should have been bullish in advocating for the office and increased jobs for a department of Stark County government that he wants to lead.
Another issue that the SCPR covered with McDonald is persisting reports that a number of Stark County voters will not vote for him because of his career long association with Sheriff Tim Swanson.

Here's what McDonald had to say:
  • Swanson is helping him with his campaign including fundraising which he says is about $35,000 (compared to Dordea's last reported at $21,344 [July 31st semi-annual campaign finance filing with the Stark County Board of Elections]),
  • "I have been friends with Sheriff Swanson since I was 17 years old.  He's guided me.  Even when he was a just a deputy he tried to guide me and be a good leader for me.  He's more important than the sheriff's race.  I would take a loss just to keep him as a friend."
  • While he and Swanson are friends, he will be his own man in terms of running the sheriff's office and that he is going to do a lot different things than Swanson.
Moreover, McDonald said to The Report that he was taken aback by the SCPR's last blog on his race against Dordea in which the SCPR published a video in which Dordea says that as chief deputy of the Stark County Jail that McDonald has been living in a cocoon and that by virtue of having been police chief of the Alliance Police Department (which McDonald estimates has 35 to 40 members) and the Hartville Police Department (which McDonald estimates has 5 or so members) he, Dordea, is better prepared, in an overall policing leadership preparedness, to lead the Stark County sheriff's office which has about 200 employees.

McDonald rebutted the Dordea assertion, to wit:
  • That he is involved in every aspect of the sheriff's department going back to the Babe Stern administration when McDonald was a sergeant, to wit:
    • His development of a "hiring" background system (polygraph, psychological exam, background check, et cetera) for the entire department pursuant to a court order that the sheriff's hire 40 deputies,
    • His involvement in hiring former military,
  • All the moves in the sheriff's department, the hirings, the firings, bid specifications for sheriff department contracts.
All-in-all, it appears to the SCPR that there are issues out there for both Dordea and McDonald that have very much to do with how each will perform if elected as sheriff come November.

The Report's take is that Stark Countians will be getting a quality sheriff no matter which of the two are elected.

And, ironically, the race might be decided on factors (e.g. Swanson, Walters, Berens et cetera) that are irrelevant to the question of providing quality policing leadership.

But, go figure.

That's politics for you.

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