Wednesday, November 7, 2012


The Stark County Political Report's take-away from last night's election from a local politics standpoint is twofold:

  1. Confirmation that Canton-based politicians cannot win countywide, no matter how good of a campaign they run (e.g. the Smuckler/Regula commissioner match up), and
  2. One should be very careful as to whom they take campaign advice from (e.g. the Dordea/McDonald sheriff race)

First, Smuckler versus Regula for Stark County commissioner.

Earlier this year, Stark County Commissioner Pete Ferguson decided not to run for re-election.

Long time Canton politician Bill Smuckler (as a Canton councilman) ultimately became the standard bearer for Stark's organized Democrats to succeed Ferguson.

Former Commissioner Richard Regula (who served from 2003 through 2006 and son of former long time congressman Ralph Regula [the 16th when it included all of Stark County), became the Republican candidate.

What Smuckler knew and failed to overcome is that there appears to be an antagonism between non-Cantonian voters and Canton-based politicians.

Witness the strong likelihood that former Canton Democratic councilman, law director and Healy administration chief of staff Thomas Bernabei would not have been elected in his candidacy for commissioner in November, 2010 had an independent and conservative candidate not been in the race. The Report believes that the independent drained off votes from Republican candidate and Jackson trustee James N. Walters and thereby was critical to Bernabei's election.

Ironically, Walters who figures into the Dordea/McDonald sheriff contest as Dordea's campaign manager which the SCPR analyzes below.

The Report followed Smuckler's campaign closely and is convinced that he ran very hard.

However, he did not have a divine-esque intervention type factor going for him that Bernabei had going for himself and therefore The Report was skeptical that he could win.

The only hope for Smuckler was that perhaps this being a presidential year and Democrats having a tendency to come out in greater numbers in presidential years, he could win especially if the Democratic presidential candidate (i.e. Obama) runs strong.

Obama not only did not run strong in Stark, the final numbers (when the provisional ballots are counted in two weeks) will probably show that he loses the county.

So there were no Obama coattails for Smuckler to latch on to.

Moral of the story?  A Canton-based politician cannot win countywide given the current Stark County political climate without a stoke of good luck.

Second, Dordea versus McDonald for Stark County sheriff.

Another case of an incumbent deciding not to run for reelection; namely, Sheriff Tim Swanson.

Dordea had run against Swanson in 2008 and made a respectable showing.

As it turns out, it appeared that Dordea would be the odds on favorite to defeat Swanson's hand picked candidate Chief Deputy MIke McDonald which according to sources what actually Swanson's third choice.

And the campaign started out well enough for Dordea.

There was a general consensus among a number of Stark County political observers that both candidates were well qualified and that it would be a highly competitive race but conducted at a high level.

The turning point in the campaign terms of becoming vitriolic may well have come a number of weeks ago when the Dordea  campaign, apparently acting on the advice of his campaign manager Walters, went off on a negative track in alleging:
  • that McDonald was receiving longevity/vacation pay in contravention of Ohio law,
  • that he was insensitive to the death of a young lady who had just been released from the Stark County Jail (McDonald is chief of the jail division of the sheriff's department) due to being hit by a motor vehicle as she walked along the busy four lane highway in front of the jail,
  • that Swanson in endorsing McDonald, and further that Swanson has a history of supporting former Stark County Treasurer Gary Zeigler, somehow connects McDonald to Zeigler,
    • the point?
      • a not too subtle effort to bring out the political memories of the Stark County electorate, large numbers of whom undoubtedly remain upset with the way Zeigler managed the Stark treasury insofar as sufficient infrastructure, policy, and practices are seen by the public as having not been in place so as to have prevented his former chief deputy Vince Frustaci from having stolen upwards of $3 million of Stark County taxpayer money.
The SCPR believes that what appears to be Walters inspired advice to not have been a wise course for Dordea to follow.

While McDonald did his own bit of negative campaigning (e.g. "Dordea is not qualified to be sheriff," and "he (Dordea) is a politician, but I am not,"  it seems to The Report that it was mostly reactive to allegations of the Walters-led Dordea campaign and does not appear to have the same stridency about it.

A supporter of McDonald's (who says he had no official role in the campaign and confirmed by McDonald) did go after Dordea in a "letter to the editor" making certain allegations of four facts (LINK).

There may be a remote chance in the counting of provisional ballots that Dordea could end up being the winner.  It will depend on how many of those ballots there are.

But if not, could it be that the well-respected Larry Dordea ends up having lost because he took some ill-advised campaign strategy advice?

Did he get counterproductive advice that cost him the election?

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