Clermont County Prosecutor Don White held several advantages heading into last month’s primary election, including name recognition, a string of six election victories, and 23 years of experience in the post.
What the Republican didn’t have this time around was the endorsement of the 200-member Clermont County GOP central committee. That went to his challenger, first-time candidate Vince Faris, who claimed victory in the primary with 53 percent of the vote.
White’s defeat puts a spotlight on what some observers say is a fractured Clermont GOP still suffering a hangover from a nasty 2010 race for county commissioner. It also raises questions about the power of the central committee’s endorsements and the influence elected officials have over the committee – important considerations in what’s essentially a one-party county dominated by Republicans.
“We’re continuing to see the aftereffects of what appears to me to be personal vendettas against the people who didn’t go along with what the party and (GOP chairman Tim) Rudd wanted the party to do,” said Tom Hanrahan, a 64-year-old registered Republican from Union Township.
Hanrahan’s view – shared by a number of other political observers – is that officeholders who supported R. Scott Croswell III over Archie Wilson in the 2010 county commission race have been targeted for removal by party leadership. White was a Croswell supporter.
“Politics is messy enough,” said Hanrahan, a retired finance vice president for a non-profit. “Getting personal vendettas involved in it…it’s no wonder voter turnout is so low.”
Rudd, who in addition to being GOP chairman is also clerk of the county’s municipal court, an elected position, denies any personal vendettas. And he downplays talk of a major Republican rift in Clermont, where no Democrat has been elected to a non-judicial countywide office since the 1980s.
“In any organization, there’s always going to be a diversity of opinion. We’re not monolithic,” Rudd said.
That became especially apparent in 2009 as the county came to grips with the recession. Commissioners told office holders to expect budget cuts. Some balked. At an October meeting, Rudd and Auditor Linda Fraley presented alternatives that involved reallocating money designated for economic development, but they were rejected by commissioners Croswell, Ed Humphrey and Bob Proud.
Two months later, Wilson announced that he would challenge the outspoken Croswell in 2010. Croswell at the time claimed that because he’d voted to cut the budgets of elected officials, Fraley and Rudd got Wilson to run against him; Fraley and Rudd said it was Wilson’s idea to run.
If anyone appeared in good position to fend off a challenger, it was Croswell, who had solid footing in the community. The prominent defense lawyer had been elected to the seat twice. His father had been a county commissioner. His last name adorned vehicles in the family-owned bus company.
But in Clermont County, whatever advantages an incumbent might have are almost always trumped by the GOP central committee endorsement. Every election, those endorsements are printed on sample ballots that party volunteers hand out at polling places.
Sorry, Mr. Rudd. You can talk about diversity all you want. You are a virtual dictator over there, sir. I know it....fellow party members know it...you know it.
Then, in the story, we go from the strange to the absurd...I give you...Archie Wilson:
Meanwhile, in September 2010, reports began to surface about comments Wilson allegedly made at a Union Township GOP meeting about the August 2007 death of 2-year-old Cecilia Slaby. Police had concluded she died after her mother accidentally left her in a hot car.
Wilson’s alleged comments are detailed in a lawsuit, still pending, that the girl’s parents filed against him. It claims he told people that the child was killed by her parents and left in the hot car to cover up sexual abuse by her father. Also, according to the suit, Wilson said that Croswell, who represented the girl’s mother during the investigation, and Prosecutor White conspired to cover up the girl’s murder.
White’s support of Croswell grew even more vocal after Wilson’s alleged comments became public. “I was not going to sell my soul for the Republican Party when I felt that their candidate was not good for the county,” White said.
Wilson denied making the Slaby statements. In the November 2010 election, he handily defeated Croswell.
Wilson was in office only a year. He resigned in February, shortly before being charged with misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution and trafficking a controlled substance in Kenton County. The charges stemmed from a sting set up by Kentucky State Police in which hidden cameras allegedly recorded Wilson trading drugs for sex from a woman he met at an adult dance club.
Croswell, in a column he wrote recently for a community newspaper, charged that Rudd, in a central committee meeting, “demanded retribution against anyone who had failed to support Wilson in the election…”
Look, I don't know if Croswell is lying. I don't know if Tim Rudd is lying. However, given what I know about both and the state of Clermont County Politics, both of these guys have bloody hands.
The two factions need to grow up and get over it....or one day the Dems just might take over in Clermont. Continued idiocy like Wilson v. Croswell and the Slate Card Shenanigans may turn enough people off of a party organization that is full of its own bluster and hot air.
However, when you have a County Democrat Chair who says this:
Dave Lane, chairman of the Clermont County Democratic Party, said he believes it’s “unhealthy” when fewer than 200 people make an endorsement that, in essence, decides who will be elected. Last November’s GOP endorsement meeting was attended by 179 central committee members, which means a candidate needed 107 votes to receive the necessary 60 percent backing to be endorsed.
“I blame the system,” said Lane. “But I also blame the voters, the citizens. For anyone to just vote blindly simply because (candidates) are endorsed by a party…You get what you vote for.”
then maybe there is not a reckoning any time soon for the gop in Clermont. Ugh...seriously, people. Grow up!