Wednesday, November 13, 2013




On the surface, Sheriff Tim Swanson and "pretender" sheriff George T. Maier are the main players.

But in the background, Stark County prosecutor (and former Stark County Democratic Party chairman [1996 - 2003) John Ferrero and executive vice chairman of the Stark Dems (former chairman 2003 - 2009) Johnnie A. Maier, Jr are the political forces fueling the huge and "take no prisoners" fight going on within the party.

And the Stark County Political Report is beginning to believe that the Dems internal bloodbath may result in two-time Republican sheriff candidate (2008 and 2012) Larry Dordea slipping in the "political" back door and becoming the first Republican sheriff in Stark County since the politically disastrous and turbulent reign (to the Stark GOP) of Robert Berens (the sheriff who is said to wear a bandolier [see picture below]) 1981 through 1984.

On election day this year, the Ohio Supreme Court did what The Report predicted it would do and validated Swanson's quo warranto lawsuit against Maier (filed February 12, 2013) in ousting Maier from the sheriff's office, saying that he was never the legal sheriff of Stark County because he did not meet the legal qualifications spelled by Ohio statutes in order for him to be entitled to remain in office as appointed by the Stark Dems by a 92 to 84 vote (over Lou Darrow, a current Stark County - rank "lieutenant" - deputy sheriff) on February 5th).

The high court's decision settled - "for the time being" - the Swanson/Maier fight began "in earnest" on the 5th.

But only for "the time being."

Swanson rushed back from his retirement home in Florida to re-assume command of the sheriff's office.

Immediately, he began "to clean house of all vestiges 'Maier'" and restore the longtime Swanson rule at 4500 Atlantic Boulevard.

But the SCPR did find one Maier reference that Swanson has not erased.


What is that?

On the page on the sheriff's website which lists Stark County sheriffs who have served since 1800, Maier's name remains.


The question is:  Will the Maier name still be there after Sheriff Swanson reads this blog?

After all Sheriff Tim, the Ohio Supreme Court has said that Maier was never the legal sheriff of Stark County!

The SCPR is willing to bet that because the page is buried deep in the bowels of the website, Maier's name remaining is a Swanson oversight.

Because Maier and his political allies (Chairman Randy "Gonz" Gonazlez and Maier, Jr) in command at Stark Democratic headquarters out on 12th Street in Canton have "laid down the gauntlet" in Gonzalez publicly saying that he is in full support of George T. Maier's declaration that he would seek a "second" Stark Dems appointment to the sheriff's office, there has been - what the SCPR believes to be a "political saber rattling" - in the form of Swanson suggesting to Canton's local daily newspaper that he is having Ferrero (his "political ally of the moment") look into whether or not George Maier committed a crime for (reportedly in Swanson's words) "deceiving residents and for falsely representing himself [to Stark Countians] as [being] a qualified candidate for the office."

It appears that George Maier's "guarantee" of being qualified is being taken to heart by Swanson.

Moreover, he will be using the foolhardy statement to fan the fires among Stark's organized Democrats to ensure that any new appointment goes to his sidekick Darrow.  

The SCPR is skeptical that Maier will - in the end - be in play for re-appointment.

But he likely will run in the May, 2014 Democratic primary.

Who doubts the likelihood that the primary will be a continuing "knock down, drag out" battle between the Fererro/Swanson versus Maier/Maier/Gonzalez forces?

As far as the SCPR is concerned, the Swanson allegation/suggestion/inquiry? has about as much chance of finding a lasting home in "the land of prosecutorial discretion" as does the proverbial chances of "a snowball in Hell."

For starters there is no way that Ferrero can (though he may have motivation) make a finding to prosecute George T. Maier because of his obvious "conflict-in-interest" status in that he back on February 5th issued an affidavit saying that Maier was in his opinion unqualified.

And the SCPR refuses to believe that a stand-in, "no-dog in this fight" prosecutor is going to give Swanson's allegation "the time of day."

The import of the Swanson "war of words" is that they amount to "a [political] battle cry" to the anit-Maier-forces among Stark Dems that seemingly threatens the Stark Dems with disintegration in the short run.

But not short enough to - perhaps - prevent the Republicans from taking electoral control next November of 4500 Atlantic Boulevard.

The SCPR believes that the main reason Stark County has a Republican county treasurer (Zumbar - actually appointed to office under the chairmanship of "Gonz" under stifling civic and political pressure) and auditor (Harold) is that Gary D. Zeigler's (Zumbar's predecessor) went to war with the Stark Dems when they put extreme pressure on him to resign from office early on when the Vince Frustaci "theft-in-office" scandal broke on April 1, 2009.

Zeigler (who has never been implicated in the theft) has always maintained that he did nothing wrong and therefore there was no reason for him to resign as Stark County treasurer.

It is likely that many countywide, officeholding Democrats agreed with Zeigler including, perhaps, Chairman Gonzalez.

Gonazlez was later to say that presiding over (even advocating for [ironically, {in light of the current Swanson/Maier fight} aided by Mike McDonald] Republican Zumbar's appointment was the hardest political thing he has ever done.

Rank and file Democrats were not taking to the prospect of Republican Zumbar's appointment.  McDonald (whose resignation - as sheriff-elect from the election in November, 2013 precipitated the current Dems fight) stepped up on October 31, 2011 and made an emotional plea to assembled Stark County Democratic Party Central Committee members to support Chairman Gonzalez.

It could be that the McDonald's rush to the rescue saved Gonzalez's "political bacon," at least for that day.

However painful it was for Chairman Gonzalez, looking back he had to be lamenting the political reality was that the  Zeigler perspective was not the public perception and also square up with the knowledge that Zeigler's doggedness has cost the Dems dearly and for the foreseeable future.

When the state of Ohio auditor came out with a report after the Frustaci revelation that Zeigler's "protect the taxpayer's money" administrative policies, procedures, practices and facility infrastructure were not what prudence would dictate, it should have been clear to Zeigler that his position - even if true - was not politically sustainable.

If the Democrats were going to have any chance going forward to maintain the longtime Democratic control of the Stark treasury, Zeigler was going to have to step aside and do it yesterday.

But Zeigler had worked tirelessly in the Stark Democratic Party vineyards having run in countless "unsuccessful" campaigns (by the SCPR's calculation about nine times) and consequently he was not about to lose the prize having been appointed himself by the Stark Dems in year 1999 as treasurer without a mammoth fight.

In 1999,  Mark Roach - son of former longtime Democratic Stark County treasurer Harold Roach) fell onto hard times and was forced to resigned.

Zeigler won election in 2000 surprisingly easily over current Republican Stark County commissioner Richard Regula (son of longtime 16th District congressman Ralph Regula).

He won again "in a walk" in 2004.

By 2008, he was running unopposed.

But a mere 15 months later, April 1, 2009, the political sky fell in.

And he was in the fight of his political life.

And fight he did!

Until October 19, 2011.

After many twists and turns it "finally" dawned on Zeigler that there was no way had he stayed on after the Ohio Supreme Court had ruled that he had been unconstitutionally removed fm office by the-then Stark County commissioners Todd Bosley, Steve Meeks and Pete Ferguson (all Democrats) that he was going to be re-elected in the general election of 2012 if he could get through a Democratic primary unchallenged.

Being the relatively young man he is, it appears to the SCPR that Republican Alex Zumbar, given a general perception that he may be Stark County's most non-political politician who is doing an excellent job as treasurer, will be Stark County treasurer for many, many years to come.

And the same thing may be the order of the day for Republican and Stark County auditor Alan Harold.

His predecessor, Democrat Kim Perez, was unfairly, in Perez's view, politically tainted and tarnished in having been a close political ally of Zeigler's (a main point of the Harold's 2010 general election campaign) over many years and a consequence, lost to Harold.

The lesson?

Those internal political party fights can have lasting and enduring consequences in electoral politics.

The question?

Are the Democrats on a "political suicide 'on the plank' march to political oblivion" in the Swanson/Ferrero versus Maier (George)/Maier (Johnnie)/Gonzalez apparent "fight to the finish?"

Consequently, could Stark Countians wake up to "Good morning, Stark County, it is January 1, 2014 and Republican Larry Dordea today takes the oath of office as Stark County's newly elected sheriff?"

Stay tuned!

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