Wednesday, December 17, 2014


In an election year that featured Republican gubernatorial and incumbent candidate John Kasich set to win by a landslide (he won by plus 37, 000 votes in Stark County), it was hard for the SCPR to fathom Democrat Chryssa Hartnett defeating Kasich Stark County Court of Common Pleas appointee (V. Lee Sinclair's replacement) Curt Werren.

But she did.

It was surprising not only in light of the Kasich shellacking of Democrat governor candidate Ed FitzGerald of Cleveland but also in the face of having a hard time raising money.

The number one priority for the Stark County "organized" Democratic Party was getting George T. Maier elected sheriff.

Even though Hartnett is a political ally of Stark County prosecutor John Ferrero (a man who tried to keep George from becoming sheriff), there is no indication that the Maier Massillon Political Machine held her association with Ferrero against her.

However, there is no doubt that the Maier political cabal had their priorities straight and Chryssa was not it.

It was former, of course, Stark County Party chairman Johnnie A. Maier, Jr's brother George.

But Chryssa, her mother (Nicholas) and presumably husband Thomas (he is a leading lawyer at Day, Ketterer Law Firm) were able to cobble together the necessary finances to not only give Werren "a run for his money" but, in fact, to defeat him by the scantest of margins (131 votes [after counting provisional ballots and recount; she led by only 29 votes at the end of county on election night).

Though the SCPR was skeptical that she could pull it off, she did and The Report thinks that Stark Countians are better off with a Judge Hartnett than a Judge Werren as a statement by voters that credentials of merit should trump political connections.

Apparently, it was devastating to Werren that he lost.  A highly reliable SCPR source says that after a North Canton City Council meeting Werren spouse Stephanie (Ward 3 councilwoman) was heard to say in a plaintiff manner that "Hartnett has a job (i.e. had she lost inasmuch as she is a lead Stark County prosecutor) but now her husband doesn't."

Isn't that interesting?

So now it appears that hubby Curt is out to rectify his loss to Hartnett in applying for a second appointment from the governor.

Several weeks ago, Canton Municipal Court Judge Stephen Belden abruptly announced he was resigning (which he did on or about November 30th).

It has been revealed that he is under investigation by Ohio Disciplinary Counsel for allegations that he has misused his power as a judge to create a de facto imprisonment for debt which is as a matter of law (i.e. de jure) is outlawed in the nation and, of course, in Ohio.

So the question is whether or not Werren will get "a second bite at the 'appointment' apple."

The SCPR thinks he will.

And here are the reasons why.

First, the SCPR has learned that state Senator Scott Oelslager has told the head of one of Stark County's premier law firms (not Day, Ketterer) that he will not be seeking the appointment.

Oelslager has been in either the Ohio House/Senate for a combined 30 years and is now at the pinnacle of his political power.

So The Report is not surprised that he wouldn't want now to switch careers at about age 63 which means he could only run for reelection one time because of Ohio's limit that once one reaches age 70, one cannot run for judge.

And there is a question that maybe he is not qualified because it does not appear that he has been practicing law for the - by Ohio law - minimum six years.

Yes, he has been a lawyer since 2001, but has he practiced law over the last 13 years?

Second, the only other Republican name mentioned is North Canton law director Tim Fox.

When the SCPR queries local lawyers about him being a possibility in that he is rumored to be interested; all The Report gets are "disbelieving" looks.

Fox's only political success has been as North Canton Ward 3 councilman (which Werren's wife got as an appointee) when Fox stepped aside in less than a year as councilman to take the law director position.

Come to think about it, there must be something in the blood of the Werrens conducive to them getting political appointments, no?

Sounds like to the SCPR that the Werrens despite their high level of financial/economic status might be thought to be of "the entitlement mentality."  That's reserved for welfare recipients, no?

The Report is told that when Stephanie Werren was told that it was rumored that Fox was interested in succeeding Belden, she reportedly was aghast and "not buying."

And she may be right.

In his race against Hartnett, Werren won the Canton Municipal Court District portion of the Stark Countywide vote by a margin of some 1,000 votes.

With Oelslager and Fox out and his proven vote prowess in the Canton Municipal Court District, that leaves Werren as the only viable Republican candidate.  

Accordingly, the SCPR fully expects him to get "a second bite at the apple."

But The Report thinks he may be in for "a second" loss.

And it will not likely come from Earle E. Wise, Jr who the SCPR thinks makes for a very poor candidate by force of his aloof personality.

Here is some SCPR history on Wise:
  • E. J. Wise is a highly respected Stark County Democratic political figure (who has pedigreed entree into Stark County Democratic circles through his father, former 5th District Court of Appeals judge Earle E. Wise, Sr.): among the most respected in the entire county. 
  • It is well known that he (E.E, Jr.) aspires to be a judge. He, a former prosecutor associated with the Bob Horowitz prosecutorial team, ran against incumbent judge Dixie Park (of the Stark County Probate Court) in 2004 and ran a relatively close race.
  • E.J. did try to get Governor Ted Strickland to appoint him to a general jurisdiction Stark County Common Pleas judgship when Sara Lioi was appointed by President Bush to the federal bench (March, 2007). But he was up against the equally "highly respected" Democrat Canton Law Director Joe Martuccio and the properly "politically credentialed" Taryn Heath. Heath ended up with the appointment.
And here is some other third party source material:

All-in-all, the SCPR does not see Wise as a viable political candidate and should he win the Democratic nomination, Werren, the SCPR thinks, will "win in a walk over" over him.

In short, the SCPR sees Wise as a minimal factor in determining which Democrat (assuming Werren is the Kasich appointee) will face Werren in November.

Wise's candidacy might hurt Kristen Guadado with those Stark County voters who are turned off by Walls-Alexander having most of her legal experience in Summit County.  Perhaps some of the votes that might go to Walls-Alexander, but for her extensive Summit County ties, will, instead go to Wise.  However, the SCPR thinks Guardado will get most of the "I prefer a Stark County centered candidate" vote.

There is, of course, the possiblity that the two women will split the vote and Wise will slip in by a few votes.

Turning now more specifically to the two candidates that the SCPR thinks have the best chance to win the May Democratic primary:
  • Angela Walls-Alexander, a native of Canton (graduated from McKinley in 1992) and now lives in Plain Township with her husband and criminal defense attorney (Summit County) John Alexander,
  • Kristen Guardado, a 1989 graduate of McKinley High School,  also of Plain, who, in addition to being Canton's chief criminal case trial attorney, is a member of the Plain Local Board of Education,
Most of Walls-Alexander's legal experience since graduating from The University of Akron School of Law in 2001 and passing the Ohio Bar examination in the same year has been in Summit County.

But she did work in Masillon for Stark County Prosecutor John Ferrero when he was law director in Massillon in 1999.  However, her running for the Belden seat has not involved Ferrero's input. Walls-Alexander says that the decision to run for the Canton Municipal Court opening was entirely  one made by herself in consultation with her husband.

Her work in Summit County has been impressive.

For starters here is an award given to her for her current boss Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh, to wit:

Angela Walls-Alexander joined the Prosecutor’s Office seven and one-half years ago.  She is an integral part of our Domestic Violence Unit and helped to create the first felony Domestic Violence Court in Ohio.

Her dedication to helping victims of domestic violence was never more apparent than during the capital murder trial against Dawud Spaulding.  Angela worked with Erica Singleton, the mother of Spaulding’s children, for many years.  When Erica finally left Spaulding, he murdered her and another man and paralyzed another.  It was devastating for everyone who had tried to help Erica, especially Angela.  As difficult as the case was, however, she was able to secure a guilty verdict against Dawud Spaulding.  He is scheduled to be executed next year.    

While most employees in the Prosecutor’s Office are fairly vocal and gregarious, Angela is known for her calm, quiet demeanor.  She works equally hard on every case assigned to her, from low-level felony Domestic Violence charges to cases involving Rape and Murder.

Many people may not know that Angela and I have something in common beyond our passion for ensuring justice for victims.  We are both parents to a child with autism.  Being a working mom is tough.  Being a working mom to a child with special needs is even tougher.  You never know what challenges will present themselves with your child.  Yet, no matter what those challenges are, you must set them aside every day while you’re at work.  Only those with a child with special needs can fully grasp what you’re going through, and even then it is merely a guess as to your particular situation.  So I find it impressive and inspirational that, despite the trials and tribulations in her personal life, Angela is still able to successfully manage a heavy caseload without complaint and treat every victim with dignity, respect and compassion.

It is my pleasure to give this High Point Award to Angela Walls-Alexander.
As impressive as the award is, the details of Walls-Alexander's career and her aspirations for abating if not eliminating "domestic violence" from the American family landscape are compelling as well.

Other credentials include:
  • she has worked for the Summit County prosecutor's office for almost 10 years,
  • she has about six years experience working in the Summit County Public Defender's office doing criminal defense work and because she was permitted to have a private practice in that position, other experience includes working,
    • civil cases,
    • juvenile cases,
    • domestic relations cases,
      • across multiple jurisdiction in northeast Ohio
As far as the political side of running for judge are concerned, Walls-Alexander's plan is to run "a grassroots campaign" staffed by family and many Stark County-based friends she says she has.

She has an undergraduate degree in political science and says consequently she understands the political realities of getting elected.

The SCPR notes that she had an entry on Chryssa Hartnett's campaign Facebook page and asked Walls-Alexander whether or not she had a connection with Hartnett's campaign.

She did not.   However, her husband who has a practice in Summit County and who bills himself as "the peoples' lawyer" represented a person connected to the Bobby Cutts murder case (one of Hartnett's prize achievements as a Stark County prosecutor) and that consequently she met Hartnett on several occasions.  But Walls-Alexander has no personal political connection to Hartnett.

The most impressive thing about Walls-Alexander to the SCPR is her plan for bring a Family Violence Court to Canton should she be elected.

It would be modeled after the one that she has been a key figure in instituting in Summit County.

She (as a public defender) worked in the Akron Municipal Court (which has a 13 year old domestic violence specialized docket) representing clients with domestic violence and mental health issues.  For Walls-Alexander, the specialized docket court has a structure that facilitates resolving these very difficult cases.

She says Canton has about 1,200 domestic violence cases a year.  Her idea is to have a specialized docket handling only domestic violence cases.   Her objectives are to have consistency in outcome and treatment options.  In Akron she says, if an offender completes the treatment program, there is a  possibility that the original charges could be amended or dropped.

Walls-Alexander believes that courts need innovative thinking such as hers and that she has seen how an effective family violence court intervention program can change lives.

Right off the bat, one has to say that Guardado has an advantage in a Democratic primary over Alexander due to the fact that all of her legal practice has been in Stark County since graduating from The University of Akron School of Law.

Guardado (licensed to practice law in Ohio since 1995) tells the SCPR that yesterday - consonant with her pulling petitions from the Stark County Board of Elections - she did sit down and discuss her plan to run for the Belden seat with Stark County Dems' chairman Phil Giavasis and Kody Gonzalez.
  • SCPR Note:  Kody is the son of the immediate former chairman Randy Gonzalez who succeeded Randy has Giavasis' "second in command" chief deputy clerk of courts who the SCPR thinks is "the chairman in training."
Guardado says that Giavasis and Gonzalez did not commit to support her candidacy in the May, 2015 Democratic primary election but were encouraging of her running.

An interesting thing about Guardado is that one wonders where she finds the time to do everything that she "has on her plate."

She is:
  • Canton chief prosecuting attorney (going back about 20 years as an intern and then a prosecutor),
    • she also serves as head of the domestic violence unit,
      • working 20 hours a week at that job for the past 16 years,
  • has a private practice doing:
    • devoting 40 hours a week and having done so for the past 16 years, doing:
      • civil work,
      • guardian ad litem for children,
      • civil litigation,
      • personnel injury,
      • probate,
      • adoption,
      • corporate work
  • is a Plain Local Board of Education member going back 13 years, and 
  • is actively engaged in several civic activities
Add on top of the foregoing, the numerous hours it takes to operate a "state-of-the-art" political campaign; one has to wonder how she could possibly do justice to the effort needed to be competitive when it seems that she faces an uphill challenge, no?

Make no mistake about it.  Again, assuming Curt Werren is going to get a second Kasich appointment, his running well against a very strong candidate in Chryssa Hartnett winning by some 1,000 votes in the Canton Municipal Court District seems very daunting to the SCPR.

And it should not be forgotten that a second chance for Werren is "a do or die effort" in terms of his even having a job.

Think he and his supporters will not "pull out all the stops" on this opportunity to redeem himself?

Nevertheless, the SCPR thinks that whomever among Guardado and Walls-Alexander survives the Democratic primary (note:  the SCPR does not take Wise to be much of a candidate in terms of viability) does present Werren with a highly competitive scenario.

As with Walls-Alexander, Kristen Guardado has strong credentials in dealing wth day-in, day-out problems faced by central Stark County families.

One of her prime interests pretty much parallels Walls-Alexander in what Guardado calls "a diversion program."
  • that is to say, Canton Municipal Court's "Discretionary Rehabilitation Program,"
  • which can result in an offender having his/her arrest/conviction record expunged
Guardado also is interested in and has talked with court officials about creating a drivers license diversion program to aid participants to maintain driving privileges.

Her focus if elected judge will be to make a person's contact with the Canton Municipal Court be an experience in which lessons were learned with a minimum of consequences.

Guardado says she might apply with the Stark County GOP/Governor John Kasich for the appointment to replace Stephen Belden.

While the SCPR thinks that whomever comes out of the Democratic primary will have a uphill climb to defeat the presumptive Republican nominee Curt Werren, as did Chryssa Hartnett.

As things now stand, one should expect Werren to become Canton's next "new" municipal court judge.

The rallying call for the primary-surviving Democrat ought to be:  "Remember Chryssa Hartnett!"

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