Applicants file for Portage County committee positions

Nicole Stempak

Democratic elections are in May.

Nearly 100 people filed to apply for the 131 Democratic precincts of Portage County central committee members.

Dem. elections in May

Nearly 100 people filed to apply for the 131 Democratic precincts of Portage County central committee members.

Commiteewomen and committeemen serve four-year terms. The county staggers the elections every two years, so Democrat committee members are elected in May and Republican committee members are elected in 2012. Committee members must be registered voters in Portage County and live in the precinct they are running to represent, according to Ohio election requirements.

Linda Marcial, director of the Portage County Board of Elections, said the state Democratic constitution requires the committee members to have a minimum of four meetings a year. Committee members are encouraged to attend. Members’ responsibilities also include recommending democrats for poll workers and possibly serving on special committees.

Marcial, who is also first vice chair Democratic central committeewoman, said committee members do not support any candidate in the primary process.

“Whoever wins, that is the candidate we support in the general election,” Marcial said. “We don’t control who is in office in Portage County.”

The Portage County TEA Party made automated phone calls to several residents to encourage them to run for committee member positions.

“A disgruntled democrat certainly could go on the ballot because the TEA Party isn’t a recognized party,” Marcial said.

Sandy Halem, Democratic committeewoman and second vice chair for the Portage County Democratic Party, said the party encourages people to get involved in local government. However, she is concerned about the TEA Party’s motivations.

“I’m concerned that they don’t really believe in helping the Democratic Party,” Halem said.

Tom Zawistowski, executive director of the Portage County TEA Party, said until recently, he was unaware these committee member positions existed.

“Why isn’t it taught in civics class?” he asked.

The phone calls were made to encourage all “normal citizens” to run, he said. The TEA Party isn’t just a conservative movement. Rather, it’s for people who are frustrated or don’t feel represented by current leadership.

“We’re not trying to take over,” Zawistowski said. “We’re just trying to get people involved.

“What we want is for the central committee members to be reflective of the community. Today, it’s not.”

Contact public affairs reporter Nicole Stempak at [email protected].