Monday, March 16, 2015


(Maps from Google Maps)


Trials to Triumph
A Tribute to Judge Ira G. Turpin

includes Ralph Regula interview
when he was still a congressman

Everyone that The Stark County Political Report has talked to say that "There is no doubt about it," both Angela Alexander and Kristen Guardado are highly qualified to be Canton's newest municipal court judge.

The opening came about when Stephen Belden stepped down (resigned/retired as of December 1, 2014) in a swirl of controversy about how he handled certain cases during his time as a Canton Municipal Court judge.

On or about January 9, 2015, Governor Kasich appointed Republican Curtis Werren to replace Belden.

This is Werren's "second bite at the apple" inasmuch as he was appointed Kasich to replace a retired judge on the Stark County Court of Common Pleas in June, 2013.  However, he failed to hold the office as he was defeated by Democrat Chryssa Hartnett in a very close November, 2014 election.

Though a SCPR analysis of the vote in the Hartnett/Werren race showed that Werren bested her by about 1,000 votes in the Canton Municipal Court district, The Report thinks that Werren is vulnerable notwithstanding his impressive showing as cited above.

Werren has a very large stake in who wins the Democratic primary as between Guardado and Alexander.

His chance to retain his appointed seat is for Alexander to come out on top in the Democratic primary.

However, the SCPR doubts that an Alexander win is in the offing.

A Guardado win likely makes Werren "a two-time-loser" in being unable to retain for Republicans an appointed judgeship.

Alexander will make Guardado work hard to win the Democratic primary.  And that will benefit her in what will be a "political life or death" struggle in this fall's general election inasmuch this election has to be "the end of the 'political' road" for Werren, if he loses.

With the bulk of Alexander's stellar (LINK to prior blog detailing her Summit County work) professional legal work having been done in Summit County; whereas Guardado's has been done with the Canton Law Department, such is likely prove to be an Alexander fatal political flaw that provides Guardado a comfortable margin of victory come May 5, 2015.

Both Guardado and Alexander live in Plain Township.

But other than the Summit/Stark thing, there is another significant political difference.

Guadado has been on the Plain Local Board of Education for more than a decade, and, in the course of things, has been on the ballot for three elections achieving "top vote getter" status in two of the three elections.  Such only adds to the SCPR's belief that at the end of the day Guardado will prevail against both Alexander and Werren.

Alexander is making a valiant effort as evidenced by her impressive website.

The most interesting and significant thing about Alexander's website is the listing of some high profile Canton City Council members endorsing her for judge, to wit:

Surprising, no?

The SCPR surmises from a conversation with one of Alexander's endorsers is that her being African-American is a key component difference maker for some of them in choosing between the two well qualified candidates.

Of course, Chris Smith (Ward 4) and Thomas West (Ward 2) are themselves African-Americans.

The Report's source thinks Alexander is a "win-win" for Democrats if she were to get the nod to go up against Republican Werren in November.

The SCPR's source thinks that Alexander can win such a match up because of her far superior to Werren's legal profession credentials as compared to Werren's being president of the Stark County Red Cross for several years before Kasich first-appointed by to the Stark County Court of Common Pleas bench.

Moreover, it is thought by the source-person that being a minority will be a positive in that voters will see the need for an African-American to be on the bench inasmuch as Canton has a Black population of 24%.

The source said he believes that the Canton Municipal Court has never had an African-American judge and Stark County only one.  That being Stark County Court of Common Pleas Judge Ira G. Turpin.

However, a Stark County Political Report research reveals that in 1962 Ohio's 60th governor and Democrat Michael V. DiSalle appointed African-American Clay Hunter (1895 - 1976) as a Canton Municipal Court judge.  Hunter is referred to in a reverential vein in the video below of Stark County' only ever Stark County Court of Common Pleas and 5th District Court of Appeals (the only Black at the Court of Appeals in all of Ohio, at the time); namely, Judge Ira G. Turpin.

It appears that Hunter was unsuccessful in his effort to get elected in his own right in that The Report's next research shows that Hunter is listed as a magistrate in Stark County's family court in a 1975 The Evening Independent article.

There is no doubt about it.  Canton and Stark County seems to always been a tough venue for Blacks.

Here is a snippet from a publication of yore (2005) which provides anecdotal evidence that such has been the case.

The SCPR always endeavors for each and every blog to thoroughly search on the Internet for material germane to a given blog.

In yesterday's search for this blog, yours truly found "a gold nugget:"  A video entitled "Trials to Triumph - A Tribute to Judge Ira G. Turpin."

Turpin's interviewer is former Timken executive Stephen Perry.  Perry's daughter, Andrea, is Canton's safety director.

The SCPR implores The Report's readers to take about 22 minutes and view this YouTube video.  It is awesomely inspiring!

While Angela Alexander suffers the same fate as Turpin when he in 1969 failed to win election as a Canton Municipal Court judge, there is no doubt that she is a high quality lawyer and, in time, if she persists become a member of the Stark County bench at some level.

Were Alexander to be the Dems' nominee, it seems to the SCPR that Werren has a huge advantage in Plain Township (22% of the vote in the November, 2014 election) inasmuch he bested Hartnett by 668 votes which was nearly 67% of the 913 votes that he won by this past November election; only calculating the votes in the Canton Municipal Court district.

The Report thinks that if the Dems are to capture this judgeship, their political strength lies with Guardado as pointed out above.

But there is more.

On March 3rd of this year, Kristen Guardado held a fundraiser at Skyland Pines.

This event perhaps more than other advantages that she holds in the mind of the SCPR is indicative of the political strength of Kristen Guardado.

The Report talked with Guardado last week about the event.  She was humbled as about 300 people showed up at her fundraising event.

Included in the assembly were former Canton law directors:

  • Harry E. Klide, (1970s; went on to become a judge a various levels),
  • W. Scott Gwin (1985 - 1988; now a 5th District Court of Appeals judge) and
  • Thomas Bernabei (1988 through 2000; now a Stark County commissioner), serves as Guardado's campaign treasurer,
  • Joseph Martuccio,  current law director (appointed by Stark Dems Central Committee members to replace Bernabei who retired mid-term; elected in his own right in November, 2001) 
    • Note:  Kristen Guardado works for Martuccio
Republican Canton Municipal Court Judge Richard Kubilus was also in attendance.

The SCPR did attempt to contact Alexander to learn more about her level of support (beyond the four councilpersons identified above), but she as not returned The Report's call as of the writing of this blog.

But The Report has on yours truly's initiative been in touch with three of the five listed Canton City Councilpersons listed on Alexander's website as being endorsers/supporters.

First, Councilman John Mariol.

Second, Councilman Frank Morris, III (council vice president and majority leader).   Morris had this to say:

Frank Morris
Mar 10 at 3:10 PM


I feel that Angela Alexander is an outstanding individual with an impressive background as an attorney. 

After meeting with her just once I knew she was the candidate I would be endorsing in the primary election. 

Her go against the grain, aggressive attitude and strong work ethic is exactly what we need in our court system.

Thirdly, Canton City Council president Allen Schulman.

Schulman made the point that both Alexander and Guardado are clearly and highly qualified to be Belden's replacement.

Without making it sound like he was in favor of some sort of quota for Black aspiring officeholders, Schulman said that it is high time for a richly qualified African-America to attain a judgeship in Stark County.

Since Ira Turpin retired from the bench on January 31, 1982; no Stark County Black aspirant above the Ward level has gotten very close to achieving elective office.

And who can quarrel with Schulman that electing an eminently qualified African-American such as Alexander is long overdue.

Having said that, the SCPR thinks that the political dynamics (i.e. her having a Summit County legal work base and Guardado firmly entrenched in Stark County politics and legal community) are such that were Alexander to defeat Guardado in some 50 days; her success would be billed by most political analysts as being a stunning upset.

To repeat, if the SCPR is correct and election on May 5th is not in the cards for Alexander; she needs to try and try again.  She is clearly first-rate.

Like it or not, Alexander needs to square up with the political realities of her being an "outsider" at least as perceived by many leading Stark County-based elected Democrats and work after the election to establish herself with the core leadership of the Stark County "organized" Democratic Party.

In 2015, one likes to think that Alexander being an African-American is not a barrier in Stark County. For in 2008 and 2012 Barrack Obama carried Stark County.

Nevertheless, there are those who think that it is virtually impossible for a Black to get elected above the Ward level in Stark.

The SCPR disagrees.  However, it will take hard work and persistence like that demonstrated by Ira G. Turpin.  Angela Alexander appears to have Turpin-esque qualities in her make up.

This time around, it is apparent to the SCPR that Stark County "political insider" Kristen Guardado is the odds on favorite to become the Democratic nominee to challenge Republican appointee Curtis Werren.

While she may lose on May 5th, the SCPR encourages her to cement her professional ties to Stark County and thereby overcome the "outsider" label in future tries for public office.

Who knows what the future brings.

A vacancy can develop in a heartbeat (e.g. Belden's sudden resignation) in the Canton Municipal Court or the Stark County Court of Common Pleas.

Should Alexander lose in the Democratic primary to Guardado, hopefully Alexander will have by the time another judicial vacancy occurs be in a position to become Stark County's "only ever" Black female judge.

List of elected officials who attended Guardado March 3, 2015 fundraiser:

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