Blogs > Northern Ohio Local Politics

Politics is big in these parts, and we’ve got it covered. John Arthur Hutchison and other staff writers will offer their inside information on the events, big news and little moments of the local political scene in Lake, Geauga and eastern Cuyahoga counties.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Job growth a mixed bag in Ohio

Recent news that Ohio’s unemployment rate has increased for the past three months and now exceeds the national unemployment rate wasn’t great to hear.

It’s also worth noting that the number of workers considered unemployed in Ohio in October was 427,000, up 2,000 from 425,000 in September, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. The number of unemployed has increased by 31,000 in the past 12 months, up from 396,000.

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services reported the state’s unemployment rate in October rose to 7.5 percent, up from 7.4 in September and 7.3 percent in August.

The October unemployment rate for Ohio was up from 6.9 percent in October 2012.

The U.S. unemployment rate for October was 7.3 percent, up from 7.2 percent in September, but down from 7.9 percent in October 2012.

The unemployment rates generally counts only those actively looking for work. For instance, it doesn’t include those who exhaust unemployment benefits and haven’t looked for work in a long time.

Of course, many people assume when the unemployment rate is released it is a reflection of layoffs or businesses failing.

I think an interesting way to see how the economy is faring is to look at industries and job sectors in terms of recent job losses and gains.

Ohio’s seasonally adjusted nonagricultural wage and salary employment increased 2,400 in October, according to the ODJFS.

The total showed goods-producing industries gained 2,300 jobs during October and were added in construction (1,300), manufacturing (900), and mining and logging (100).

The private service-providing sector gained 6,400 jobs, as employment increased in trade, transportation, and utilities (3,500), leisure and hospitality (3,000), financial activities (1,000), and other services (1,000); with job losses in professional and business services (1,200), educational and health services (600), and information (300).

Government employment lost 6,300 jobs and the declines were posted in local (4,300), state (1,400), and federal (600) government.

One vote does make a difference

Don’t tell Middlefield Village Council candidates Ronald W. Wiech and Brandon M. Reed that one vote isn’t important.

Wiech officially finished in fourth place with 279 votes during the Nov. 5 election, and Reed received 278 votes to officially finish fifth. The top four vote-getters earn a spot on council.

Because the race is so close — just one vote — an automatic recount is needed by the Geauga County Elections Board.

That will take place Monday. If there is a change and a tie ensues, a coin flip or another way to cast lots would be chosen to declare a winner.

Pulling petitions

State Rep. Ron Young, R-Leroy Township, has taken out petitions from the Lake County Elections Board to seek re-election. Lake County Juvenile Court Judge Karen Lawson has also done the same.

Campaign mode

Euclid Democrat and former state Rep. Ed Jerse, who is Cuyahoga County director of regional collaboration, plans to resign from the post effective Nov. 30 to focus on his campaign for Ohio Senate District 25.

The district includes Eastlake, Fairport Harbor, Grand River, Lakeline, Mentor Ward 4, Mentor-on-the-Lake, Painesville, parts of Painesville Township, Timberlake, Wickliffe, Willoughby and Willowick in Lake County, plus Euclid, Richmond Height, South Euclid and other eastern Cuyahoga County communities.

Swearing in

Richmond Heights mayor-elect Miesha Headen begins her new term Sunday and takes the oath of office at 4:30 p.m. at Faith United Church of Christ in Richmond Heights.


  • Fundraiser for Young, 6 p.m. Dec. 5 at Quail Hollow Resort in Concord Township. See Young.
  • Geauga County Republican Party Christmas Party, Dec. 6 at Chagrin Valley Athletic Club in Bainbridge. See Ed Ryder or Frank Gliha.
  • Campaign kickoff for  Lawson, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Jan. 16 at LaMalfa Party Center in Mentor. See Lu Dunlap.

John Arthur Hutchison
Twitter: @newsheraldjah

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Friday, November 22, 2013

Will Kearney selection help or hurt FitzGerald for governor's race?

The race for governor in 2014 came into a sharper focus this week when Democratic candidate Ed FitzGerald announced state Sen. Eric Kearney would serve as his running mate.

FitzGerald, who next year will finish up his term as the first elected Cuyahoga County executive, picked the lifelong Cincinnati resident as his choice for lieutenant governor.

Kearney has served as an Ohio state senator since 2005 and is currently the Ohio Senate’s minority leader. He is subject to term limits and is not eligible to run next year for another term in the Ohio Senate.

In a campaign email, FitzGerald said Kearney is known as someone who can get things done and is able to reach across party lines.

After the announcement, the FitzGerald campaign made stops across the state as part of a two-day tour visiting Cincinnati, Dayton and Toledo on day one. The next day stops were in Youngstown, Cleveland and Columbus.

The Ohio Republican Party issued a statement from Party Chairman Matt Borges stating the next election will offer a clear contrast between Gov. John Kasich and his running mate Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor.

Borges criticized Kearney for opposing the state budget and the tax cuts contained within it and that he supports the Affordable Care Act.

In a campaign email, state Sen. Nina Turner, a Cleveland Democrat who represents Ohio Senate District 25 that includes half of Lake County, applauded the choice of Kearney.

Turner also will be part of the Ohio Democratic Party’s statewide ticket next year as she has announced plans to run for Ohio Secretary of State most likely against incumbent Jon Husted.

One of the biggest challenges FitzGerald will have next year is to broaden his name recognition across the state, especially south of the Cleveland media market.

Kearney may help FitzGerald. Kearney, who is black, also provides the ticket with racial diversity.

So perhaps the selection of Kearney will help awaken additional support for FitzGerald in a race that a recent poll sponsored by the Ohio Democratic Party suggests is a dead head.

It also remains to be seen how or if online reports Friday in publications such as the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Cincinnati Enquirer that discussed Kearney owing thousands of dollars on a tax lien will hurt the campaign.

It’s important to note that when people vote for governor they typically are voting for the candidate at the top of the ticket, not for the lieutenant governor.

However, it is the job of the running mate to help the gubernatorial candidate win.

Happy trails

Congratulations to Painesville Township Trustees Jeanette Crislip and Jim Falvey as each rounds up a lengthy career as a trustee.

Neither trustee sought re-election earlier this month and will retire from their respective office.

Falvey attended his last trustee meeting this past week, and Crislip is slated to attend her last meeting next month.

Taken out petitions

Lake County Auditor Edward H. Zupancic has taken out candidacy petitions from the county Elections Board to seek re-election in 2014.

Recently signing in with the Elections Board on behalf U.S. Rep. Dave Joyce to take out petitions for U.S. House of Representatives District 14 was Dino DiSanto, chief of staff for Joyce.

The filing deadline to run for partisan primaries next year is Feb. 5.


The Geauga County Democratic Party will host a Thanksgiving potluck dinner at 6 p.m. Saturday at party headquarters in Newbury Township.


  • Fundraiser for state Rep. Ron Young, 6 p.m. Dec. 5 at Quail Hollow Resort in Concord Township. See Young.
  • Geauga County Republican Party Christmas Party, Dec. 6 at Chagrin Valley Athletic Club in Bainbridge. See Ed Ryder or Frank Gliha.

John Arthur Hutchison
Twitter: @newsheraldjah

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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Will Obamacare affect Ohio governor's race?

President Barack Obama once again made an appearance in Cleveland, stopping Thursday at steelmaker ArcelorMittal for what was intended to be a speech about the economy.

However, the president earlier in the day had made a statement from Washington about his plan to allow health care insurers to extend current plans that would otherwise be canceled next year and to allow people whose plans have been canceled to re-enroll in the same kind of plan.

So when he came to the friendly confines of Cleveland, where he has traditionally enjoyed tremendous support in the past, Obama spent a significant part of his speech focusing on the new health care law.

No surprise, but it was interesting to see the president gave praise to Gov. John Kasich, a Republican who pushed for Ohio to accept federal funding to expand Medicaid coverage to provide an estimated 275,000 people health care coverage.

Obama said that it was the right thing for the governor to do and that sometimes leaders need to put politics aside and do what is best for the people.

Conservative Republicans have criticized the effort to expand Medicaid in Ohio and a lawsuit is pending that challenges the authority of the Ohio Controlling Board, which voted earlier to accept the federal funding.

Plus, the Ohio Republican Party has begun to ramp up efforts to make health care a central focus during the 2014 election in Ohio.

State GOP leaders will look to hold Ohio Democrats responsible for the new health care law and urge people who believe they have been harmed by the changes to share their story by visiting

What I think will be interesting is how Republicans plan to push out that message while at the same time work to get Kasich elected.

It may be a delicate situation, but how the economy goes next year in Ohio will likely be an important issue and critical to Kasich as he seeks a second term.

The governor has said that he opposes Obamacare in principal, but he also felt expanding Medicaid in Ohio was the best decision for the state.

The Ohio Democratic Party this week touted a recent poll they sponsored that suggests the race for governor next year is in a dead heat between Kasich and Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, a Democrat.

It suggests that if the election were held now, Kasich and FitzGerald would each receive about 41 percent, and Libertarian Charlie Earl would receive 6 percent.

About 13 percent of those who responded said they weren’t sure for whom they’d vote.

The margin of error in the poll was plus or minus 4 percent, but again keep in mind it was sponsored by the state Democratic Party.

A lot will happen before next year’s election that will affect the governor’s race, but something I will find interesting is just exactly how the national focus on health care reform will play a role.

Would a successful implementation of Obamacare hurt or help Kasich?

Acting Geauga commissioner

A week ago, Geauga County Republicans appointed Blake Rear to serve as a new county commissioner to replace Tracy Jemison, who retired effective Oct. 31.

Rear, who is the county GOP vice president and former Chardon School Board member, learned Thursday morning that his fellow commissioners wanted to swear him in as acting county commissioner at their meeting.

At that time, the paperwork hadn’t been completely processed by the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office to official make Rear a commissioner.

So by swearing him in as an acting commissioner, the Board of Commissioners would have each of the three seats filled.

The idea was that if something should happen to either Commissioners Mary Samide or Ralph Spidalieri, the county would be able to continue have a quorum at meetings with at least two commissioners in office.

It wasn’t an unprecedented move, as Geauga County commissioners also did the same last year when Spidalieri was sworn-in as an acting commissioner prior to beginning his term in January.

John Arthur Hutchison
Twitter: @newsheraldjah

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

State Rep. John Rogers appointed to Local Government Innovation Council

State Rep. John Rogers was recently appointed to the Local Government Innovation Council, which awards grants and loans to local government economic development projects that prioritize collaboration and shared services.

“Having been a mayor for so many years, as well as a city council member, I understand the many challenges our local governments face,” Rogers, D-Mentor-on-the-Lake, said in a news release. “Significant state budget cuts have been a setback to our local communities. Yet, I’m hopeful that we can explore ways to strengthen our neighborhoods through programs like the Local Government Innovation Fund.”

The 15-member council determines quarterly grant and loan awards from the Local Government Innovation Fund, established in the 129th Ohio General Assembly. The LGIF offers communities financial assistance to create more efficient and effective service delivery. Projects are expected to facilitate improved business environments and promote community attraction with their plan for efficiency, collaboration or shared services.

Applications for Round 7 of the LGIF are now under review and will be awarded during the Local Government Innovation Council meeting on Dec. 5.

John Arthur Hutchison
Twitter: @newsheraldjah

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Monday, November 11, 2013

U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge endorses Armond Budish for Cuyahoga Executive

U.S. Rep. Marcia L. Fudge, D-Warrensville Heights, announced Monday that she has endorsed Armond Budish who is running for Cuyahoga County Executive in 2014.

“With so many pressing problems facing our area, we need strong and dynamic leaders here in Cuyahoga County who are willing to put the needs of our communities first.  Armond Budish is that kind of leader,” Fudge said in a news release issued after a press conference held in Warrensville Heights. “Today, I am enthusiastically endorsing Armond Budish, and I will be working side by side with him on this campaign, and then on the challenges facing our region.”

Budish, a Beachwood Democrat who has served as a state representative since 2006 and served two years as Ohio House of Representatives speakers, thanked the congresswoman for her endorsement.

“Over the last few months, I’ve outlined a bold vision to bring jobs and prosperity to northeast Ohio, making sure that all persons are included and no one is left behind," Budish said. "But our challenges are significant. To be successful, our leaders at the federal, state, county and local levels must all work together. I’m confident that Congresswoman Fudge and I will work together very well.”

John Arthur Hutchison
Twitter: @newsheraldjah

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Friday, November 8, 2013

Voter apathy is troublesome

I’ve decided to vent a little frustration that began to build after one of my colleagues shared a quick note about the voter turnout in Lake County.

Matt Skrajner tweeted Tuesday night showed the election turnout was amazingly low when compared to the past six November elections.

The voter turnout of registered voters for Tuesday’s election was a meager 30.56 percent, according to final unofficial results from the Lake County Elections Board. The official count will be completed later this month when a few hundred outstanding valid ballots are later added to the count.

But even with a slight bump in percentage, the final official turnout will lag in comparison to the five previous November elections in the county.

There was a turnout of 77.6 percent for the 2012 presidential election, 55.91 percent in November 2011, 51.23 percent in 2010, 46.06 percent in 2009 — which is a similar election to this past Tuesday regarding what candidate races were on the ballot — and 76.44 percent for the 2008 presidential election.

Granted, the recent election didn't feature an abundance of high-profile candidates races as perhaps in the past and it wasn't a presidential election when turnout is much higher. But just a tad more than 3 out of 10 registered voters bothering to cast a ballot in Lake County in November is not good.

These are the races and issues that affect people’s lives and pocketbooks closest to home, so why not take a few minutes to have a say? If not, don’t complain about your community officials’ job performance or about the rate of local taxes paid.

The city of Eastlake saw voter turnout a little higher with a race for mayor among those piquing interest.

The turnout in the 12 precincts saw the percentage of registered voters casting ballots range from as low as 29.71 percent in Precinct 1A to as high as 55.69 percent in Precinct 1C, according to final unofficial results. For the entire city, the voter turnout was 42.31 percent.

To save a little space, final official results from county elections board will be used to attribute voter turnout for the remainder of this column.

The winner in Lake County for the precinct with the highest voter turnout was North Perry Village Precinct AA with 57.39 percent. Voters there selected candidates for Village Council, Perry Township trustee, Perry School Board and Lake County Educational Service Center Board.

Painesville Precinct 4A had the lowest voter turnout with only 13.35 percent casting ballots despite three contested city council at large races, plus races for school board and Educational Service Center.

According to other county elections boards in Northeast Ohio, turnout wasn’t much better.
In Geauga County, it was 35.56 percent —  among the region’s highest. In Cuyahoga County, it was 28.99 percent and Lorain County had 28.65 percent.

A look some other counties shows turnout of 34.27 percent in Ashtabula County; 29.70 percent in Medina County; 28.85 in Portage County; 26.85 percent in Summit County; and 24.50 in Trumbull County.

Statewide voter turnout was not yet available by the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office, which will post election results when county election boards certify their results. My hunch is we’ll see similar figures across the state.

Prediction recap

In last Saturday’s column I made predictions for four candidates races and three issues.

Of those picks, I managed to get three of four candidates races correct by predicting winners Dennis Morley for Eastlake mayor winner, David Eva for Mentor-on-the-Lake mayor, and Chuck Hillier and Josh Pennock out of nine candidates to win two Painesville Township trustee seats.

My upset pick of Joe Zawatski for Willoughby Hills Council at large 2-year term was incorrect as John Plecnik emerged victorious.

I went two for three with the issues selected by correctly picking passage for Laketran’s continuous 0.25 percent sales tax renewal and the Lake County Children Services 5-year, 0.7-mill renewal.

However, I failed miserably with my pick that the Willoughby-Eastlake Schools 5-year, renewal levy would not pass.

Who can it be now?

Geauga County Republicans meet today to select a new county commissioner to replace Tracy Jemison who retired effective Oct. 31. Early favorites I've heard mentioned are Geauga County GOP Vice Chairman Blake Rear, former appointed Commissioner Walter “Skip” Claypool and Chardon Councilwoman Nancy McArthur. It should be an interesting process.

How many ballots will it take to come to a decision?

John Arthur Hutchison
Twitter: @newsheraldjah

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Friday, November 1, 2013

A few Nov. 5 election predictions

With Tuesday’s election drawing near there are lots of races and issues in Lake County for voters to decide.

It can be tough to truly gauge who or what might win or lose beforehand, but here’s what I think right now about a few races.

These opinions are by no means endorsements.

Eastlake mayor
Candidates: Ted Andrzejewski, Dennis Morley
Prediction/Comment: Morley. Among the most difficult races to predict and I could also see Andrzejewski winning. Morley is the favorite after he was the top vote-getter in September for the three-candidate primary, which had a very low primary turnout. But Andrzejewski wins if his supporters get to the polls.

Mentor-on-the-Lake mayor
Candidates: Troy Elam, David Eva
Prediction/Comment: Eva. Also a difficult race to gauge as both have been involved in city politics for a long time, but I think the incumbent wins.

Painesville Township trustee (vote for two)
Candidates: Amy Cossick, T.R. Hach, Chuck Hillier, Beth A. Knezevich, Edmund G. Leoson, Susan McGuinness, Josh Pennock, Joshua J. Strickland and Frank J. Zalek Jr.
Prediction/Comment: Hillier, Pennock. I’ll be surprised if I’m correct on both picks for the two open seats because I think Cossick, McGuinness and Strickland each have good chances to be in the mix.

Willoughby Hills Council at large 2-year term
Candidates: John Plecnik, Joe Zawatski
Prediction/Comment: Zawatski. My upset pick because I think Plecnik is the favorite and he has a good chance to win especially because he’s spent a lot of money to raise his name recognition and get his message across. Zawatski appears to have more support from the current city administration.

Laketran continuous 0.25 percent sales tax renewal
Prediction/Comment: Pass. But probably by a closer margin than for past requests. I’m thinking around 55 percent support.

Lake County Children Services 5-year, 0.7-mill renewal
Prediction/Comment: Pass. Levy renewal is approved by a comfortable margin.

Willoughby-Eastlake Schools 5-year, renewal levy to generate $7,585,000 (est. 4.71 mills)
Prediction/Comment: Fail. Should be pretty close, but a 10-year levy request for the same amount of dollars didn’t pass in May.

Hear ye, hear ye

The race in 2014 for Lake County Probate Court judge has started to take shape as two potential candidates took out petitions to run next year. Republican Judge Mark J. Bartolotta took out petitions to retain the seat after his appointment in September to fill the vacancy after former Judge Ted Klammer died.

Mentor Prosecutor Lisa Klammer, daughter of the late judge, also has taken out petitions to run. No one has filed yet to run and they have until Feb. 5 to do so.

But if they both file and eventually meet up in the November 2014 election, it should be quite the race to watch next year.

Ohio Senate District 25

Former state Rep. Ed Jerse, a Euclid Democrat, has pulled candidacy petitions to run for Ohio Senate District 25.

The district consists of Eastlake, Fairport Harbor, Grand River, Lakeline, Mentor Ward 4, Mentor-on-the-Lake, Painesville, parts of Painesville Township, Timberlake, Wickliffe, Willoughby and Willowick in Lake County, plus Euclid, Richmond Heights and other eastern Cuyahoga County communities.

Former state Rep. Kenny Yuko, a Richmond Heights Democrat, also has announced he’s running for the position in 2014.

If both men do file to run for the petitions, it will make an very interesting primary involving two former state representatives.

State Sen. Nina Turner, D-Cleveland, who currently represents the district, has announced plans to run in 2014 for Ohio Secretary of State.


For candidates who wish to submit items for this column, my weekly deadline is 5 p.m. Wednesday. Email and faxes are preferred.

John Arthur Hutchison
Twitter: @newsheraldjah

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