Keiper retains county commissioner position

William Schertz

For a man who tried to avoid slinging mud during this campaign season, Portage County Commissioner Chuck Keiper spent much of election night trudging through it.

Instead of this incumbent watching nervously as the election results came in, Keiper and his wife Bonnie were out battling foot-tall grass and miniature marshes to start taking down campaign signs around the city.

“It’s something I decided was a better way to pass the time instead of sitting around and biting my fingernails,” he said.

The Democratic candidate won 52 percent of the vote yesterday against Republican challenger Meg Hudson, who took 32 percent of the vote, and independent challenger John Thomas, at 16 percent.

But for most of the night, the election was an afterthought for Keiper. He did celebrate briefly when he received a phone call from Craig Stephens, chairman of the Portage County Democrats, who announced the first set of results.

Keiper said he had an edge in experience against his opponents and never gave much thought to losing.

Thomas, who is a registered Democrat, ran as an independent this time to step away from political polarization.

“If it’s not me tonight, I think sooner than later, it’s going to be someone else like me that will start a trend toward candidates starting to run,” Thomas said. “Not on the basis of what party they want to run under, but on the basis of their ideas.”

Hudson said regardless of the outcome of the race, her campaign has been a learning ground for a possible run for local office in the future.

Keiper, who has served as the county’s commissioner since 1993, said he has spent every election night since his first term in office getting a head start on removing the signs in the area.

Keiper said he always gets permission from property owners before he puts signs in their yard, because he feels that it is “the right way” to do things.

Later in the night, Keiper went to a campaign party at the Italian American Club in Ravenna, still wearing the sweater, jeans and brown shoe-boots he had on all evening.

Keiper said his work ethic and list of accomplishments are what have gained him so much support from voters in the area.

Stephens said the victory is an important one for the Democratic Party.

Public affairs reporter Theresa Montgomery contributed to this story.

Contact public affairs reporter William Schertz at [email protected].