Let ‘em all run; they will, anyway

February 5, 2014

Former Ohio Gov. Jim Rhodes was one of only five governors in U.S. history to serve four terms. He knew something about politics. When once asked about potential candidates who might oppose him in an election, he replied, “Let ‘em all run.”

Good answer, because it’s a fact of life. Assuming they get signatures on their petitions, anyone who has a notion to run for public office is going to do it. Many receive a thorough scalding at the ballot box. All evidence suggests that potential fate deters few. Many are elected. All evidence suggests that possibility motivates many.

It is likely some observers might have doubted Delaware County Commissioner Ken O’Brien would really file for a seat on the county board of commissioners now held by Dennis Stapleton. Maybe it was all talk. It was not; O’Brien has filed for the seat.

O’Brien is completing a term that will not be up for re-election until 2016. Whoever is elected to the seat Stapleton now fills will be sworn in early January 2015. If O’Brien runs for that seat and is defeated in November, he can remain a commissioner and complete the term he now holds.

In his most specific explanation yet, O’Brien cited the county economic development department on the day he filed with the county board of elections.

“The current director was appointed by (former commissioners) Todd Hanks and Tommy Thompson,” he said. “As I said then and firmly believe today, Delaware County desires a superstar of an economic development director.”

It is a germane point that Stapleton had not yet announced his retirement when reports began to circulate that O’Brien planned to file for Stapleton’s seat. Unless Stapleton confidentially shared his plans with O’Brien (which is quite unlikely, considering some of the exchanges they have had during commissioner meetings) one is left to assume O’Brien intended to take on Stapleton at the ballot box.

In accordance with the sage tenet set forth by former Gov. Rhodes, this is all well and good. Let ‘em all run. But there is another dimension to the story.

One does not have to look far to see evidence of two camps in the Ohio Republican Party. On one side are people such as Gov. John Kasich and U.S. Rep. Pat Tiberi. These men have ideology, but they do not follow an extreme ideology and they have shown a willingness to compromise.

Other Republicans, of course, take a more rigid right-wing approach and are not willing to compromise.

Is the spirit of compromise displayed by someone who seemed ready to challenge a fellow Republican incumbent, when both already served on the same public body? Is the spirit of compromise displayed by an elected office-holder who finds reason to dissent on dozens upon dozens of votes taken by that body?

O’Brien faces two other candidates in the Republican primary. Money plays a big role in elections. In his most recent campaign finance report, O’Brien said he had $2,690 available to spend.

If this race attracts the attention of moderate Republicans, we wonder if they might be motivated to do some spending of their own.