Little primary competition in Washington County

MARIETTA – With less than a week to go until the filing deadline to run for municipal offices in the May 7 primary election, only one contested primary seems likely in Marietta and Belpre City Council’s 3rd Ward and treasurer’s office have no known prospective candidates.

According to the Washington County Board of Elections, 23 Belpre and Marietta residents have taken out petitions to run for city council and treasurer, as well as Belpre auditor. Of those, 15 are incumbents or prior officeholders.

Only four – Marietta City Councilmen Roger Kalter, Michael McCauley and Harley Noland, all Democrats, and Belpre Auditor Leslie Pittenger, a Republican – have turned in their petitions so far.

Board of Elections Director Tara Hupp said there could be more potential candidates than her office has tallied since people can also get petitions online from the Ohio Secretary of State’s website.

If only one candidate from each party files to run for a seat, they would be their party’s nominee in the November general election by default and a primary would not be held. So far the only office for which multiple candidates from a single party have taken out petitions is Marietta treasurer.


Marietta treasurer

With Treasurer Valerie Holley not seeking re-election after 20 years in the job, a trio of fellow Republicans are eyeing the seat – former city Auditor David Locke, former city Councilwoman Cathy Harper and Stan Lang, a merchandiser making his first run for public office.

Locke, who lost in the GOP county commission primary last year, said he sees the job as a good fit.

“It’s a financial position. I’m a financial professional,” he said. “I’ve had many members of the community ask me to run for this.”

Lang said Wednesday that he hasn’t decided yet whether to file his petitions.

“Over the last two or three weeks, I’ve been tossing it back and forth,” he said. “It’s starting to look like I’m not.”

The addition of possible challengers is not a factor in his decision, Lang said.

Harper did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday.

One Democrat, Willa O’Neill, 63, has taken out petitions for treasurer.

“I’ve always been interested in government and have worked 25 years in state government,” said O’Neill, who retired after 10 years as statewide quality coordinator for the Ohio Department of Transportation. “I don’t feel that I have given everything I can, especially to my community in Marietta.”

This will be O’Neill’s first run, as she was prohibited from seeking a partisan office while working for the state.

O’Neill said she wasn’t surprised at the number of people interested in the treasurer position and considers it a positive sign.

“I’m glad that there’s interest in people running for public office,” she said.


Marietta City Council

All seven Marietta council seats and the council presidency are on the ballot this year.

Kalter and McCauley are the only people who have taken out petitions for the city’s 1st and 2nd wards, respectively. Noland is running for re-election to one of three at-large seats, while fellow Democrat Councilman Denver Abicht is not running and Councilman Michael Mullen doesn’t have to file until the day before the election because he is an independent. Mullen has indicated he likely will run again.

Michael Boersma, 22, has taken out petitions to run for an at-large council seat. He did so in 2011 as an independent, but said he would have run as a Republican if he’d been able to file in time.

“I noticed that it was a bit more difficult to get support and funding as an independent,” Boersma said. During the last campaign, he also “learned that I truly need to do more to run, more campaigning, more door-to-door.”

Another at-large council hopeful is Democrat Kathy Downer, a 60-year-old nurse at the Strecker Cancer Center, making her first run for public office.

“I was raised in Los Angeles, and I think this is a great place to live,” said the 25-year local resident.

Former Councilman Jon Grimm, who ran for mayor in 2011, has also taken out petitions. He said Wednesday he hasn’t decided whether he will seek an at-large seat or the 4th Ward seat currently occupied by Democrat Tom Vukovic, who plans to run again.

“I haven’t even decided for sure if I’m going to run,” said Grimm, noting he’s been recovering from a car crash recently. “Picking one up and filing to run are two different things.”

In the 3rd Ward, which Grimm represented from 2008 to 2011, Councilman Steve Thomas, a Democrat, plans to run again and could face a rematch of the 2011 race with Republican Debbie Scott.

Council President Walt Brothers, a Democrat, is not seeking re-election. Republican Josh Schlicher, who served a year as an at-large councilman and lost to Brothers in 2011, has taken out petitions for that job.


Belpre offices

In Belpre, there’s one candidate for each seat, with the exception of the 3rd Ward council representative. Incumbent Eric Sinnett did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday.

Councilman Larry Martin, R-1st Ward, took out petitions but did not indicate whether he would seek re-election to his current seat or run for an at-large post. He could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Incumbents Deborah Marshall, D-2nd Ward; Dewey Robinson, D-4th Ward; Susan Abdella, R-at large; and John Newberry, D-at large; have taken out petitions for their current seats. Belpre Council President Will Neff, a Republican, plans to seek a fourth term.

Councilman Robert Wallace, I-at large, like Mullen in Marietta, would not have to turn in petitions until May 6. Another independent candidate, Steven Roddy II, has already taken out petitions for an at-large seat, which he unsuccessfully sought in 2011.

Callie Lyons, a 43-year-old freelance writer and projects manager, plans to run for an at-large seat as a Republican.

“I’ve always tried to encourage other people to pick up those petitions and get themselves out and give it a go, and I saw this as a good and exciting opportunity,” she said.

Lyons said this is her first run for office, noting her work as a local journalist has prevented her from doing so in the past.

Belpre Treasurer Bill McAfee is not seeking another term. Republican James Griffith took out petitions but later decided not to run.