Barack Obama may have energized young voters in his campaigns, but the field of Democratic candidates in local elections, one dominated by old, familiar faces, will have its work cut out for it this year.
The veterans do bring name recognition and governing experience, valuable commodities. Still, who is being groomed to take over when the veterans retire?
In the 16th U.S. House District, incumbent Republican Jim Renacci will likely face former Summit County Council member Pete Crossland in November.
Crossland, a former state representative who lost a re-election bid for the County Council in 2010 and tried a comeback two years later, is in his 70s. He must first beat a political unknown, Democrat James Donenwirth of Cleveland, in the primary, but then things are going to get a lot more difficult.
Renacci survived a re-election battle in 2012, when redistricting put him in the same territory as another incumbent, Democrat Betty Sutton. The former Wadsworth mayor has money, is an accomplished campaigner and is running in a district that leans Republican.
Also on the campaign trail are former Summit County Fiscal Officer John Donofrio and former Summit County Councilman Dan Congrove, who are in the race for three at-large seats on the County Council. Donofrio, a popular vote-getter, retired, but Congrove’s exit was more problematic. He failed to get enough signatures to qualify for the ballot in 2008, then tried again in District 6 four years later.
Other Democratic veterans include Summit County Council members Paula Prentice and Tim Crawford, who are running for the state legislature. Prentice will face incumbent Republican Anthony DeVitis in the 36th Ohio House District, and Crawford will try to oust incumbent Republican Marilyn Slaby in the 38th District.
These will be tough races, too. In 2012, DeVitis, then an appointed incumbent, fended off a challenge from Democrat Paul Colavecchio for the seat once held by Democrat Stephen Dyer. Both DeVitis and Slaby have well-recognized names in Summit County, DeVitis from the family grocery business and Slaby from her husband, Lynn, a former Summit County prosecutor, judge and state representative.
There is talk that Wayne Jones, long chairman of the Summit County Democratic Party, may step down this year, making way for Akron City Councilman Jeff Fusco. If so, Fusco might consider candidate recruitment a priority.
A priority for Alex Arshinkoff, the veteran Summit County Republican Party chairman, will be holding on to the local judicial positions the GOP now holds, and perhaps ousting a Democrat or two.
There are 11 local judicial races this year, and all will be contested. Republicans are defending six seats. Although the races are technically nonpartisan, neither party ever treats them that way.
In judicial races, Arshinkoff is partial to women candidates with Irish names, such as common pleas judges Tammy O’Brien, Lynn Callahan and Alison McCarty.
Among the GOP challengers, there are well-known judicial names, among them Akron Municipal Court Judge Katarina Vujic Cook, private attorney Jill Flagg Lanzinger and common pleas court judicial attorney Kandi O’Connor.
Running for an unexpired term on the common pleas court is Republican Jane Davis, an appointed incumbent who ran for an at-large seat on the County Council in 2012, getting 87,784 votes, more than any of the GOP candidates for a county executive office, with no campaign.
That’s remarkable name appeal, especially for someone virtually unknown in local legal circles. Now, Davis will have to defend her record and explain her background, including work as a former corporate counsel for Suarez Corporation Industries. Direct marketer Ben Suarez, his employees and their spouses, it turns out, have been big donors to GOP candidates.
Hoffman is a Beacon Journal editorial writer. He can be reached at 330-996-3740 or emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.