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Published: 10/19/2012

For Lucas County offices

Lucas County voters face less than dazzling choices this year for county commissioner and several row offices. In the races that are competitive, at least on paper, entrenched Democratic incumbents are challenged by Republican and independent candidates who have little to offer.

Voters deserve better choices than between the inevitable and the invisible. But that prospect awaits the kind of thorough government reform for which Lucas County — or, more precisely, its corps of elected officials and special-interest allies — is not ready.

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Nor does it help that the slate of challengers mounted by the county GOP is so weak as to encourage the incumbents to feel they own their offices. Under the circumstances, The Blade offers these unenthusiastic recommendations:

County Board of Commissioners: Two-term Democrat PETE GERKEN, the board's president, faces scant competition from his Republican challenger, John Marshall, a retired contractor.

Mr. Gerken asserts that the county has maintained its credit rating and essential services, even as the recession has deprived county government of revenue and forced it to make major spending cuts. He points to county government's participation in the construction of Huntington Center in downtown Toledo as an example of the county's role in local economic development.

Less positively, Mr. Gerken tolerated far too long the inhumane conditions at the county dog warden's office. Even after the delayed departure of the kill-happy former warden Tom Skeldon, improvement of dog-pound operation has come slowly and reform remains incomplete.

Mr. Marshall, who ran unsuccessfully last year for Sylvania Township trustee, expresses skepticism toward public unions and offers intriguing but undeveloped ideas for making Lucas County the logistics center of the United States. He does not make an adequate case for unseating the incumbent.

The other board seat up for election is held by two-term Democrat Tina Skeldon Wozniak. In 2009, she voted not to fire her first cousin Mr. Skeldon as dog warden, when she should have recused herself instead. That exercise of nepotism — and her tolerance of poor performance of an important job — continues to raise doubts about her judgment.

But her challengers do not provide better options. Sylvania Township Trustee Kevin Haddad, who is running as an independent, claims to advocate regional initiatives and cooperation. Yet his repeated efforts to dismantle the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority display the wide gap between his stump rhetoric and his actions.

Republican candidate Brent McCormack replaced the party's previous nominee in August and has displayed little visibility since. The Blade makes no recommendation in this contest.

Recorder: Incumbent Democrat Jeanine Perry's pending retirement creates a vacancy in this row office, which records property transactions. Two Toledo City Council members, Republican George Sarantou and Democrat Phillip Copeland, seek to succeed her.

Two years ago, Mr. Sarantou appeared to win an open seat on the board of commissioners, but was defeated after a disputed count of provisional ballots by the county elections board. Instead of challenging one of the incumbent commissioners this year, Mr. Sarantou — a financial adviser and chairman of City Council's finance committee — opted instead to run for this obscure post.

That choice suggests a desire for a sinecure rather than a position of genuine leadership. Such timidity does not deserve to be rewarded by voters.

Again, though, Mr. Copeland does not offer a better alternative. He has one of the worst attendance records on City Council. His work as a union official has little to do with the duties of the recorder. The Blade makes no recommendation.

Treasurer: Incumbent Democrat WADE KAPSZUKIEWICZ calls himself the county's chief investment officer as well as its tax collector. The county's investments continued to make money even during the recession, he says.

Mr. Kapszukiewicz oversees the county's land bank, which is working to demolish hundreds of vacant and abandoned homes in the county and prepare other parcels for redevelopment. That offers the prospect of enhancing public safety and improving property values.

Republican challenger Norm Witzler is a former Waterville councilman. He has a solid record of public service, in and out of office, but his skills do not seem the right match for the office he seeks.

Clerk of Courts: Incumbent Democrat BERNIE QUILTER has held this post since 1999. He notes that his office's performance in collecting delinquent court costs has helped keep county programs funded during a time of austerity.

His Republican challenger, Constantine Stamos, originally filed to run for county commissioner but was disqualified because of petition problems. The GOP then substituted him on the ballot for its initial candidate for clerk of courts, who withdrew to work for the board of elections. This placeholder status doesn't make a case for unseating Mr. Quilter.



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