Candiates meet the public

League of Women Voters hold their annual Meet the Candiates event

By Frank Lewis -

Panel of candidates at the League of Women Voters Meet the Candidates night

Panel of candidates at the League of Women Voters Meet the Candidates night

In what is normally a typically non-combative format, the League of Women Voters’ Meet the Candidates event Tuesday at the Welcome Center, Kevin W. Johnson, candidate for Scioto County Commissioner for the seat currently held by Mike Crabtree, took the opportunity to take the gloves off.

Earlier in the day, two pieces of literature came to light, one a mailer and the other a flyer, with multiple derogatory comments about Johnson. Material Crabtree denies he has any knowledge about. Johnson took the “closing comments” portion of the program to express his outrage.

“Let’s just say it Pissed me off and angered me to no end, even taking on my partner who died seven years ago,” Johnson said. Johnson was referring to his life-partner Paul Johnson, who died of bone cancer. The mailer said Paul Johnson died of AIDS. “I’ve been in politics a long time and I have never seen this kind of crap in my life.”

The comment began when Johnson stood to speak for the last time of the evening.

“Most recently a mailing throughout Scioto County to Republicans and Democrats, costing thousands of dollars,” Johnson said. “It’s derogatory. It’s defamatory, and absolutely vile.”

Johnson said he had received a copy of the literature and said he believes it is from the Crabtree campaign – “If he denies it, I won’t believe it,” Johnson said.

Crabtree did deny it.

“Again, I will say I have not been involved with that,” Crabtree said. “I know that there’s some information that has been put out there. I have heard that some of it is derogatory, I don’t have the details of that. I don’t run a campaign that way. I’m not aware of who is behind it, or what the motivation was.”

Johnson told the audience there is not one statement in the literature that was true except for the part that said he was not born in Scioto County.

The differences began earlier when Crabtree talked about how the county has worked with the Southern Ohio Port Authority.

“We are the biggest supporter of the Port Authority financially,” Crabtree said.

“I’ll be the first to admit the Southern Ohio Port Authority is the best thing to ever happen in Scioto County,” Johnson said. “The unfortunate thing is, I think the county commissioners have interfered on their own with their staff.”

Johnson also said he opposed the splash park being built because of its location. He said he thinks it should be more centrally located.

Current Commissioner Cathy Coleman was not in attendance, while her opponent, David Malone was. One of the points he made dealt with the drug issue, with Malone saying he looks forward to working with the drug problem through rehabilitation processes. He said there is a misunderstanding that incarceration is about rehabilitation. He said there is a need to change the mindset of the addicted person. Malone also talked about his experience and mayor of Portsmouth in which he worked with the unions and when it came to budgeting, said the most important thing he learned to say was – no, when it came to making cuts to a deficit budget.

The two candidates for Scioto County Sheriff, incumbent Marty V. Donini and challenger Steve Goins, expressed their different views of the job, with Goins saying, he has heard from deputies that at times there is only one deputy in the field and four captains performing administrative duties. Goins said those personnel need to be on the road.

Donini explained his department has 13 officers funded through the general budget, and an additional 12 employees that are paid out of a rotary budget, that is founded by township levies, such as Clay, Green, Nile, Washington and Porter.

“Back in 1998 I took the initiative to file for what is called Community Oriented Police Grants. We received over a million dollars. We filed all this paperwork and worked with the township trustees so they could hire additional deputies,” We currently have 12 deputies on staff and that has continued since 1998.”

“The bottom line is my opponent is not real knowledgeable about what captains do,” Donini said. “There’s no way that I, as sheriff, could do all of the administrative duties that these captains do.” Donini said they process over 1,600 CCW permits, and register 136 sex offenders every year and follow up on each. Donini’s big revelation of the evening was that Scioto County has become the fifth county in the state to purchase full body scanners used to discover contraband on prisoners. He said what made him proudest was that he paid cash ($250,000) for that equipment.

The candidates who revealed their qualifications to those in attendance were the two candidates for the Fourth District Court of Appeals. Incumbent Matthew McFarland and challenger Valarie Gerlach were in attendance and both spoke of their experience. McFarland talked about the years he has been on the court and Gerlach talked about her experience in the court system, and that she graduated tops in her class in law school.

Scioto County Engineer Craig Opperman was not present, but his challenger, Darren LeBrun was in attendance and was asked it he believes private sector employment is important for a candidate for county engineer.

“I think experience in any field is helpful because it lets you know the importance of everybody involved,” LeBrun said. “The county engineer has to work with private developers and the citizens of the county to see what the needs are and to see what they want.. We are public servants so to see what the citizens want is important.”

Possibly the most poignant exchange of the evening came to the moderator’s challenge for each of the candidates to say something positive about his or her opponent and each did. Goins turned to Donini and said – “I want Marty to know, if I’m working, and if you ever put out a call for help, I’ll be the first person there and I’m sure you would do that for me.” The two shook hands.

Panel of candidates at the League of Women Voters Meet the Candidates night of candidates at the League of Women Voters Meet the Candidates night
League of Women Voters hold their annual Meet the Candiates event

By Frank Lewis

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.