Election dissectionWritten by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | firstname.lastname@example.org
An affinity for politics is an occupational hazard when working at a newspaper. When information and insight are part of your job description, it is incumbent upon you to know the incumbents.
I have spent nearly 20 years in newsrooms, and I can say the election cycle that ended Nov. 2 was one of the oddest and most compelling voters are likely to experience. And I say that having been in South Florida during the days of hanging chads.
While most of the state and a great deal of the nation was painting itself with a big ol’ brush dipped in GOP red, Northwest Ohio brushed off the change and stayed predictably Democrat blue.
The Grand Old Party captured the Ohio governor, attorney general, state auditor, secretary of state and treasurer offices, but none of those candidates carried Lucas County.
The only local Republicans who claimed victory in Lucas County were George Sarantou as county commissioner (in a squeaker against Carol Contrada), Steve Yarbrough for 6th District Court of Appeals and Barbara Sears, who overcame some nasty campaign commercials to best Harry Barlos for 46th House District. Two of those candidates were endorsed by Toledo Free Press and all three of them chose to advertise in these pages; political aspirants, take note.
In addition to the expected “GOP wave” storyline, there were a number of interesting races that merit discussion.
In the 11th District Ohio Senate race, Blade-endorsed Edna Brown handily defeated Toledo Free Press-endorsed Tom Waniewski. It may not be fair to praise voters when they agree with you and bash them when they get it cataclysmically wrong, but with all due respect to Brown’s near-decade in Columbus, Waniewski represented an opportunity for a truly moderate and intellectual voice. I know I am not alone in hoping that Waniewski absorbs the loss with his characteristic grace and then sets his sights on another run at state-level office.
The most intriguing race on a county level was the quest for Lucas County Auditor. Four years ago, Anita Lopez unseated then-auditor Larry Kaczala. On June 8, Kaczala died in an apparent suicide. Lopez found herself defending her position against Kaczala’s widow, Gina Marie Kaczala, who on Aug. 9 replaced Norm Witzler as the Republican candidate.
It is not polite to speculate on how a person can parlay two months worth of shock and grief from losing a spouse to suicide into a run for that spouse’s former public office. Credit to Lopez for never going anywhere near that land mine of insensitivity, but it must have seemed surreal for the incumbent auditor to find herself running against another Kaczala under circumstances no one would have predicted.
Voters agreed that the Toledo Free Press-endorsed Lopez was by far the better choice than the Blade-endorsed Kaczala. It is unlikely we will again see such a contentious and emotionally charged race for a long time.
A race across the state line that caught my attention was between Democrat Harvey Schmidt and Republican Nancy Jenkins for the 57th District seat in the Michigan House of Representatives, which includes part of Lenawee County. When I worked as news editor for the Adrian Daily Telegram, I interviewed Schmidt a number of times and witnessed the impact he had on the Tecumseh community during his dozen years on city council and decade as mayor. As a continuing resident of Tecumseh, I have witnessed the careful and wise growth of our town under his leadership.
So when the Jenkins campaign began a series of nasty, dishonest commercials disparaging Schmidt, I found her false accusations about water and sewer rates and her aggressively errant characterizations of Schmidt offensive. My interactions with Jenkins when she worked as an aide for State Sen. Cameron Brown were professional, pleasant and did not indicate she had such a vile, beguiling streak.
Of course, she won; the Daily Telegram reported that people in Adrian and Tecumseh who are familiar with Schmidt voted for him, but those in outer rim territories like Morenci and Hudson swallowed the lies.
The other race that will mark this campaign season in our memories was the 9th U.S. District House of Representatives seat between now 15-term incumbent Democrat Marcy Kaptur and Republican challenger Rich Iott.
Kaptur won, although Iott earned the support of more than 81,000 voters.
I maintain Iott did his party no favors by stubbornly remaining in the race after his campaign’s epic mishandling of the re-enactment controversy (not just the re-enactment itself, although that point is lost on Toledo Bar Association employees who have free time during the workday to bray online without a shred of moderate thought or logic). Iott did not surround himself with professional advisers able to distinguish themselves when he most needed them. To the contrary, as the heat began to rise, the judgment of his team melted as they proved themselves incapable of handling the exploding series of distractions.
Political aspirants, take note.
Michael S. Miller is editor in chief of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. Call him at (419) 241-1700 or e-mail him at email@example.com.