Election Guide: Local Races

DKS Editors


Conservative challenger aims to defeat incumbent who is seeking a third term

WATCH a video about W. Roak Zeller and Kathleen Chandler.


W. Roak Zeller is the Republican candidate for the Ohio House in the 68th district. He ran unsuccessfully for Kent City Council in 2001. Since running for council, Zeller said he learned not to focus his campaign on just one issue. He got into the race because of the 1,000 employees who recently lost their jobs with the closing of Amweld Eaton, RB&W and Ravenna Aluminum. Zeller also said he would support legislation to cut taxes. He said Ohio is on an economically destructive path that will lead the state into recession, and Ohio currently has the fifth -highest tax burden.

“History teaches us that when you cut taxes, you have economic growth and when you raise taxes, you have economic recession,” he said.

Another issue Zeller said is important to the people in the district is guns. On June 10, the Ohio Legislature passed the Ohio Castle Doctrine, a piece of legislation that established that people could protect themselves by any means possible when someone entered their homes. His opponent, Kathleen Chandler, voted against the legislation, and Zeller said his constituents support the legislation.

Zeller would also encourage public universities in Ohio to restructure the way master’s programs are run. He would encourage putting more money in nursing programs so nurses are encouraged to go to graduate school. With that, he said Ohio could help curtail a nursing shortage and also keep college graduates in Ohio.

“Many health care institutions are being forced to pay high salaries in order to compete for a limited labor pool of nurses,” Zeller said. “Instead of treating all master’s programs the same, Ohio needs to increase funding of nursing master’s students.”

Zeller also wants to make universities more responsive to students’ needs by having state money follow the student to the college he or she wants to attend. He would work to eliminate the current system, within which all Ohio public universities get a fixed amount of government funds. With that, he said, the colleges with the most students would have the most money. Colleges would then compete more for students.

He would do away with E-Check, and he would cut governor Ted Strickland’s administrative pay, which Zeller said rose by $116 million in 2007.

– Jeff Russ


Kathleen Chandler, a self-described “middle-of-the-road” Democrat, says her “very conservative” opponent W. Roak Zeller has the wrong idea when it comes to taxes.

“He wants to get rid of the income tax, and I think that’s probably the fairest tax we have,” she said.

Because of the economy, she said taxes shouldn’t be raised. But Chandler wants to know where to get money to pay for services if the income tax is cut.

“If you do away with the income tax, how are you going to afford, for example, higher ed?” Chandler said. “Government has to have money to support the services we all decide are important to us, and most of us are willing to chip in our fair share.”

Chandler, 76, is seeking re-election for a third term representing Ohio’s 68th district, which represents northern and northeastern Portage County, including Aurora, Brady Lake, Hiram, Kent, Mantua, Ravenna, Streetsboro, Sugar Bush Knolls and Windham.

Before being elected to the Ohio Statehouse, Chandler served as a Portage County commissioner from for six years, Kent mayor for seven years and Kent councilwoman from 1980-1989. She has a master’s degree from Kent State.

Chandler said the most important piece of legislation she supported during her last term was the tuition freeze for Ohio universities, which she hopes to help extend another two years. She also cites her work with the Third Frontier Project, a 10-year initiative that support high-tech jobs and research capabilities.

Her long-term goal is to see everyone who qualified for college receive free tuition.

On the topic of regulation, she said she disagrees with the “Republican mantra” of “get government off my back” but thinks it should only be used when absolutely necessary.

“I think you don’t need any regulation except for those things that require it for the health and safety of the public. I don’t like a lot of regulation either,” Chandler said. “And I think that we could go through the Ohio Revised Code and probably find many sections where we could remove some restrictions.”

Chandler said both parties want the same things, but they go about them differently.

“I think it’s time for a change,” Chandler said. “One change you can make is to have a majority of Democrats. My recommendation is to give Democrats a chance to make a difference when it comes to these things we value.”

– Theresa Bruskin


Republican challenger hopes to unseat county’s 20-year Democratic incumbent


WATCH a video about Chris Smeiles.

Chris Smeiles believes incumbents automatically lose 40 percent of the vote. Smeiles should know, considering he will be seeking his sixth term as Portage County Commissioner tomorrow as he faces Larry Solak.

The past two weeks have seen the campaign go from experience as the main issue to ethics, after an Ohio state audit showed Smeiles’ daughter used federal funds reserved for Portage, Geauga and Ashtabula county residents in need of job training for her education.

The 53-year-old real estate broker claims the audit – which led to reports in the Record Courier and Cleveland Plain Dealer and which also included county officials Charlene Badger, Becky Porcase and Anita Herington – is a case of “Election Day politics,” and said he did nothing wrong.

As far as experience is concerned, Smeiles has been a county commissioner since 1988 and now serves as the president of the board of commissions. Smeiles received several endorsements, including fellow county commissioner Chuck Keiper, who said he supported Smeiles 100 percent, on the basis of his knowledge of the county.

Smeiles, a Democrat, has been called a conservative commissioner. Keiper said Smeiles is as “tight with the dollar as anyone I’ve ever been around and believes in team almost to a fault.”

When Smeiles was first elected to the board of commissioners, he said fighting between Portage County offices was common, and he has worked to end the rift.

“We have 18 elected officials – the judges, the prosecutor, the sheriff, the recorder, the treasurer, the auditor – and the voters expect us to communicate and to cooperate,” Smeiles said.

Solak said he wants to bring more efficiency to the board of commissioners, but Smeiles said Solak lacks the experience to be commissioner. This will be the third time Solak has run for Portage County Commissioner.

With experience being Smeiles’ biggest campaign talking point, the irony is that he faced 19-year-old Brett McClafferty of Streetsboro in the March primaries. Smeiles defeated McClafferty with 60 percent of the vote.

It’s unclear how the audit will impact Smeiles’ chances of winning another four-year term, but Smeiles has continued to campaign strong using commercials and an army of “Smeiles” signs throughout the county.

– Brock Harrington


Republican Larry Solak has been a Shalersvile Trustee since 2001 and said he feels his experience in that position and others in the county have prepared him for office if elected as Portage County commissioner.

Opposing Solak is incumbent Democrat Chris Smeiles, who has 20 years of experience as a Portage County commissioner and said those years in office make him the better candidate for the job.

Solak has served on the Portage County Emergency Planning Committee from 1988 to 2006, the Portage County Emergency Management Agency since 1988 and the Portage County Airport board from 2004 to 2008.

This is the third time Solak is running for the commissioner position because he said he feels a responsibility toward government and enjoys playing an active role.

When Solak first ran in 2004, he was defeated by Democrat Commissioner Maureen Frederick, and in 2006 he lost in the Republican primary election to Meg Hudson, who later was defeated by Commissioner Chuck Keiper.

There are several things Solak said he would like to change if elected, such as holding the local government more accountable for the decisions they make and the reasoning behind those decisions.

He said, if elected, he would be more cautious with the county’s spending and wants to lower the county debt. He also suggested downsizing the government at the county level.

As a trustee, Solak has reviewed the township budget and allocated money, but he said he recognizes the differences in county and township revenue and spending procedures.

Solak started his own business, Solak’s Automotive Machine Shop, in 1970 and said he believes in applying sound business practices to government.

Taxpayers are the government in the United States, Solak said, adding that as a township trustee he works for the residents of Shalersville, just as he would work for the people of Portage County if elected.

He has lived in Portage County all his life and said he believes he can take the commissioner’s seat knowing that he will have tried his best to leave the county in a better position than when he entered.

– Alyssa Sparacino


Democrat runs against Independent incumbent to oversee entire police force


WATCH a video about Duane Kaley.

Sheriff Duane Kaley is running for re-election with what he believes is an advantage: experience.

Seeking his fifth term and working on his sixteenth year as sheriff of Portage County, Kaley has seen the best and the worst.

“It’s the only job that I know that you can play cops and robbers,” he said about his position. “If re-elected I will continue the war on crime, which I have dedicated my career to.”

The biggest obstacle in the coming years will be the country’s failing economy, Kaley said, especially with jobs leaving Ohio.

“If jobs leave, people go to other means to try and make ends meet,” he said. “And that’s when you may get an individual who may not normally commit a crime, but all of a sudden out of desperation (he or she might).”

In preparation of this, Kaley said improving public safety and searching for extra funding are two of the most important things to do right now.

“We’re always looking to improve on public safety,” he said. “As far as sheriff, it’s your job to protect the citizens of Portage County, and I take that very seriously. I always strive for improvement.”

Finding funding to improve this area is a big task for the sheriff.

“I think one of the biggest challenges is always finances with the growing population in Portage County and a decrease in jobs and income,” he said. “We’re always looking for alternative funding (and) trying to work the grant system.”

Kaley said throughout his years with the department, $1.8 million of federal and state grants have come into the county.

If re-elected, Kaley said he will search out funding as well as keep up with his normal 60- to 70-hour work-week demands. He is the director of the Portage County Drug Task Force, he works with Family Services with investigations into abuse, and he maintains both the Web site for registered sex offenders as well as the Web site for the 10 most wanted fugitives in Portage County.

Overall, Kaley said the proof is right on the table.

“I have 33 years of service,” he said. “I’ve come up from the ranks. I’ve been elected sheriff four different times. And that’s a hard thing to do.”

– Kelly Pickerel


WATCH a video about David Doak.

David Doak wants to expand the staff of the Sheriff’s Office and improve communication between police agencies.

As the Democratic candidate running against Independent and incumbent Duane Kaley for Portage County Sheriff, Doak brings 38 years of law enforcement experience to the position, including 12 years as chief deputy at the Portage County Sheriff’s office. He has lived in Ravenna all his life.

Doak said he thought Kaley should have responded to population growth in Portage County by adding additional staff on the road. He cited a “difference in philosophy” in law enforcement administration as his reason for running.

One of his first priorities for the Sheriff’s Office is to increase its staff, and he thinks he can stay within the office’s budget to do so. He also wants to have better investigation and follow-ups of home invasions and improve collaboration between police agencies. He wants to hold meetings with detectives in each agency so they can compare notes on suspects who may be traveling around the county and committing crimes in different areas.

“I’ve worked for five different agencies,” Doak said. “I’ve been a patrol officer, a detective, a sergeant, a lieutenant and chief deputy. I have a little bit different vision than the current administration. I have a willingness to work with all other law enforcement.”

Each agency has the same goal: to prevent crime in the community, Doak said.

He wants to provide the office with better equipment such as mobile data terminals that allow officers to file reports while on the road. He would also like to focus more on school safety and form a better working relationship with the Portage County Emergency Management agency. In the event of a major disaster, the agency will need the Sheriff’s Office for manpower, Doak said.

The role of the Sheriff’s Office is to oversee all the police agencies in the county, provide police protection to unincorporated areas as well as security for the courts and manage the Portage County Jail.

When Doak announced his intentions to run for sheriff about a year ago, Kaley dismissed him from his deputy position. Doak said he expected something like that to happen.

“It’s politics,” he said.

Kiera Manion-Fischer


County Commissioner

Maureen T. Frederick

Maureen Frederick is running for her second term. Frederick was appointed as a county commissioner in 2003 following Kathleen Chandler’s election as a state representative. She was the county treasurer before taking the post. She ran and was elected in 2004 for a full term.

Commissioners serve four-year terms, beginning the January following his or her election.


Victor V. Vigluicci

Victor Vigluicci has been the county prosecuting attorney since 1994. He also ran a private law practice in Ravenna and was a judge in the county municipal court before becoming prosecutor.

County prosecutors serve four-year terms, beginning the first Monday of the January following his or her election.

Clerk of Courts

Linda K. Fankhauser

Linda Fankhauser is running for her second term. She was the county recorder prior to her election as the clerk of courts.

The clerk of courts serves a four-year term, beginning the first Monday of the January following his or her election.


Bonnie M. Howe

Bonnie Howe is running for her second term. She has also been a Rootstown Township trustee for 18 years.

County recorders serve four-year terms, beginning the first Monday of the January following his or her election.


Steve Shanafelt

Steve Shanafelt is running for his second term. Shanafelt was appointed to the post following Maureen Frederick’s appointment to county commissioner in 2003. He ran and was elected in 2004 for a full term.

Treasurers serve four-year terms, beginning the first Monday of the September following his or her election.


Michael A. Marozzi

Michael Marozzi is running for his sixth term. He worked for two-and-a-half years for his predecessor before successfully running for election, himself.

County engineers serve four-year terms, beginning the first Monday of the January following his or her election.


Roger Marcial

Roger Marcial is running for his fifth term. He first ran for the post in 1992, and he has been unopposed in every election since.

Coroners serve four-year terms, beginning the first Monday of the January following his or her election.

Court of Common Pleas – Judge

John A. Enlow

John Enlow is running for his third term. He also served as a judge in the municipal courts from 1979 to 1996.

Judges serve six-year terms, beginning the January following his or her election.

Court of Common Pleas, Probate Division – Judge

Thomas J. Carnes

Thomas Carnes has served as judge in the court of common pleas, probate division, since 1989. He also served as a judge in the municipal courts.

Judges serve six-year terms, beginning the January following their election.

– Brittany Moffatt