Sunday, March 23, 2008

Medina County Stalemate?

Since 2000 no incumbent Democrat running for re-election to a county office has been defeated, nor has any Medina County Democratic judge. Indeed, the last time that an incumbent Democratic county official was defeated was in 1996 when Commissioner Ferris Brown was narrowly defeated by Steve Hambley. Since then, all Democratic county elected officials and judges have either won re-election or haven't been opposed.

The flip side of this coin is that since 2000, no Republican elected county official or judge has been defeated either. The last time a Republican incumbent was defeated was in 2000 when Domestic Relations Judge Mary Kovack defeated DR Judge James Leaver. Judge Leaver had been appointed by the then-Republican Governor to fill out the term of DR Judge Ralph Berry who had left the bench to go back into private practice.

That means that in the election years of 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, and since Municipal Court Judges are elected in odd-numbered years, 1999 and 2005, no elected incumbent has been defeated. This is somewhat unusual for Medina County, based on recent past history.

Starting with 1976, almost every election year saw an incumbent official defeated, usually a Republican, since they held more offices. In 1976 the GOP lost the Sheriff's office. In 1980, the GOP lost a seat on the County Commission and the Prosecutor's office. In 1982, the GOP lost the Auditor's office. In 1984, the Republicans gained back the Prosecutor's seat they lost, but then lost it again in 1988 with the election of Dear Holman, who is still Medina County Prosecutor. In 1990, every incumbent retained their office, but in 1992, while the GOP gained back one commissioner seat, they lost another. Finally, in both 1994 and 1996, Republicans both successfully defended their county elected offices and gained one back when, as mentioned above, the GOP defeated Ferris Brown.

There may be several reasons why incumbents have been harder to defeat in the last several election cycles. One is that Medina County experienced rapid growth during the 1990s, growth which has continued up until last year. It may be harder to defeat incumbents when there is high growth because it is more difficult for challengers to get known. It has also become much more expensive to run a county-wide race in Medina County. This cuts against incumbents being defeated because it is harder for challengers to raise the money to mount effective campaigns. Finally, the Democrats who are presently in office, and the Republicans also, have been there for several years. This means that their names are very well known, especially compared to challengers.

Given the fact, however, that the Democratic primary vote was much higher than the Republican primary vote, it may be that 2008 represents the best shot Democrats have had in several years of defeating Republican incumbents. In order to win, however, local Democrats must support their candidates both financially and with volunteer help. No candidate can win a race on his or her own.

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