Saturday, March 29, 2008

Radio Blast From The Past

I'm out of town attending the Northwest Broadcast News Association's annual meeting, part of the Midwest Journalism Convention in Minneapolis with RTNDA, AP broadcasters in Minnesota and SPJ members from a six state region on hand. Just in time I get a nice reminder of the impact radio news has -- even the stuff I can't believe made it on the air.
Growing up in Medina in the 70's was a great time for radio; as a high schooler with a driver's license you were either a WMMS or WGCL listener, surfing off what was left of WIXY.

And then there was the Big 8:

As a professional I guess I should cringe when listening to these newscasts but I've got to admit I thought CKLW's news was the most amazing thing I'd ever heard. We didn't listen to the station for the was 20-20 News that had me sitting at the feet of Byron MacGregor and his news department. Later, trips as an adult to Detroit helped confirm for me the pictures painted by those words screaming along the Lake Erie shoreline weren't show biz, even if the delivery was.
Outrageous? Absolutely, but MAN what a blast listening to those guys!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Is Being Anti-Hillary Anti-Woman?

I've been giving this more thought than normal (memo to my more-youthful-by-the-day pal Diana: hold chuckle here, please) after today's media maelstrom following Hillary Clinton's "mis-speak" about a trip to Bosnia a dozen years ago. In the event you missed it -- YouTube's loaded chock-full of reports and clip postings from the CBS News coverage since the network dug up it's original footage to show the Senator's memory had a few holes in it. Of course, in today's computer age, that means everyone has video -- including this posting.

Why this comes to mind today is the conversation I had with some friends and fellow professionals in the communications business as we met the other night, performing our duties as screening judges for scholarships awarded to aspiring journalists. Among those present: two dudes and three ladies. My friend Sarah feels a loss by Clinton means a huge setback for the chances of a woman ever becoming President, which spurred a quick debate.

Is it really anti-woman to be anti-Hillary?

Sarah argues Hillary has to overcome the voters who won't vote for a woman, no matter who she is. I argue the decision in 2008 has as much, if not more, to do with Clinton's position as such a polarizing political force and that her candidacy actually clears the way for other women to succeed. Would voter reaction be just as swift and negative, for example, to an Elizabeth Dole (who can argue more executive experience at the cabinet level and while CEO of the Red Cross?) or a Kay Bailey Hutchinson among the Republicans? What about high-profile campaigning Governors Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS), Jennifer Granholm (D-MI), Janet Napolitano (D-AZ) or the five other women top state executives who merged politics with experience as a CEO to win?
Switch the argument to race and chief executives of color show an even wider margin in terms of representation, a far wider chasm in representative politics than the gender gap.

Characterizing a no vote for Hillary as one solely based on chauvinism is a dangerous thing; is the parallel then to demand the litmus test for women in power needs to be this line in the sand of Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign for President? By this reckoning voters of African-American heritage are traitors for not voting for Obama; the same can be held true for Hispanic-Americans not holding bigger sway for Richardson. Does that mean McCain wins the United Kingdom roots by default? By this logic winning an election truly is a numbers game where only more seasoned (read: elderly) white candidates should win since that is the biggest block of voters heading to the polls. Where does this end?

The hope should be that each candidate -- all candidates -- are weighed not by gender, race, religion or age but because we think she or he will do the best job, as defined by what we think most important when we step into the booth.

Earlier Clinton family campaigns rode to victory on the strategy "it's the economy, stupid." Modern campaigns should take a page from that strategy and admit "it's the person, dummy" that build the foundation for what voters consider worthy of filling in the circle on Election Day.

Klinger v Arshinoff: Mano et Mano

The die may be cast with plenty of debate ahead in the hallways of Cuyahoga Falls City Hall as Carol Klinger, at-large GOP member of City Council will face-off as the standard bearer for the New Summit Republicans in their bid to depose Alex Arshinkoff as chairman of the county party.

The primary election March 4th only set the table for more moves by both sides; Arshinkoff says he picked up the majority of contested seats among the 470-or so Central Committee members but the group backed by State Senator Kevin Coughlin claims a secret ballot will show their support runs much deeper so long as voter choices won't be public knowledge.

In the middle of all this: Cuyahoga Falls, ground zero for Summit County's GOP. It's not Hudson, Bath Township, Twinsburg or Green that play big (although new Board of Elections member Don Varian is from Bath). The Falls is where the heavy lifting comes to play, complete with Arshinkoff loyalist Mayor Don Robart now in the position of working against one of his own City Council allies in Klinger. Add Coughlin as a Falls resident to the mix and you really get a sense of how this battle is more like a siblings war then a simple neighborhood brawl.

Still waiting to hear on when the local party moves beyond the certifications from the Board of Elections and sets a date for the full Central Committee to meet and vote.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A TV News Geek's Dream

Now THIS is what I call cool. My friend Andrew Finlayson is the VP of News at WFLD-TV, the Fox station in Chicago. While there on a visit last fall he told me about a project they were working on called, giving web users the opportunity to see the news from dozens, if not hundreds, of streaming sources thanks to the ability to pull in satellite feeds and video web streams.

This idea of a web aggregator is not new; satellite and cable systems basically provide the same service, but what makes this unique is it is web-based and allows users to watch the mundane to the sublime. From Al Jazeera (which has a technically proficient stream that loads quickly, even seeing the scrolling news updates in Arabic going from left to right as opposed to our version of right to left) to boats sitting in the bay on Catalina Island off the coast of Los Angeles.

This is the new cable...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Well, I Swear!

We're posting some of the segments available from Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner's videotaped deposition in the Summit County GOP lawsuit challenging her decision to boot Alex Arshinkoff from the Board of Elections -- and, as reported, local Democrat boss Wayne Jones figures prominently.

This is old news to folks following at home on this blog, our reporting on, the Akron Beacon Journal and Eric Mansfield's reporting on WKYC (as well as his own blog) in what is becoming the best thing since Lost for local political junkies but now the actual video chunks are available.

As detailed earlier, Summit County Democrat Finance Chairman Jones figures prominently not only in the decision making process Brunner used to depose Arshinkoff and deny the Republican Party their hand-picked replacement (Brian Daley of Hudson) but also her choice to pick Bath Township attorney Don Varian to represent the local GOP on the Board of Elections. Jones, for his part, is unapologetic about his efforts to get Arshinkoff and Daley blacklisted -- even telling reporter Tina Kaufmann he'd like to see Arshinkoff and rival Kevin Coughlin "kill each other" in their ongoing struggle for control of the local party apparatus.

What will be interesting to watch is the feedback Brunner gets from all of this; after all, her Republican predecessor Ken Blackwell only suspended Jones from serving on the Board of Elections a few years ago after a ham-handed attempt by Jones and friends to use a trumped-up political committee operating out of a Cuyahoga Falls post office box to buy media time. Now one would think that kind of thing would be enough to trigger more questions from a Secretary of State looking into the conduct of the contentious Summit County Board of Elections -- one might even opine that the political infighting on Grant Street would be enough to trigger a sweep 'em all out mentality similar to Brunner's call to replace the entire Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, but this time apparently only the GOP gets that level of scrutiny.

A GOP source who claims to have discussed the suspension at the time tells me Blackwell didn't want to impose the ultimate sanction on Jones because he felt that would be overstepping his bounds over the wishes of local political organizations charged with electing their own representatives to serve on the board. Despite the frequent criticism Blackwell earned while in the state's top Elections Office, it bears noting he did understand more about due process than what Brunner's office apparently felt was necessary before giving long-time Jones rival Arshinkoff the boot and blowing off Daley's selection as irrelevant without as much as an open hearing for both to address and rebut the charges contained in the package of clippings hand-carried to her office by a subordinate.

This may very well have unintended consequences: Arshinkoff is getting exactly the kind of support he needs because he's now under the gun of what appears to be unfair and partisan administration of executive power from Columbus. Brunner is now forced to openly testify she doesn't need to define what "competent" is after applying the tar and feathers to two duly-elected representatives of the opposite party. Jones comes off looking like a brute, something even the most rough-and-tumble political leader should try to avoid when running roughshod over his rivals.

These things have a way of stacking the deck and refocusing the debate on the process, not necessarily the substance of any discussion on whether Arshinkoff and Daley are fit to serve. The central questions Jones wanted answered seem to be lost in the swirl of Roman Empire-esque intrigue worthy of Nero without the wine and fiddling.

Monday, March 17, 2008

More From The Mud Pits...

A clarification and update this evening on the route the "anonymous" material targeting Alex Arshinkoff took from the law offices of Wayne Jones in Akron to the Columbus offices of Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner.

Brunner's videotaped deposition was released today on DVD; at over a gig of data it is unlikely we will post the entire piece but we are working on pulling excerpts.

An update on our report last Friday: the Secretary's man in Summit County is James Hardy. He was deposed last week and noted he dropped off the envelope after picking it up from the Jones office at Roetzel and Andress. In an email today, Hardy (also an Akron School Board member) offers additional insight and a correction to our report:

"One correction: I knew the package was about Arshinkoff, I just didn't read it. And I didn't read it on purpose. Craig probably heard me wrong and I don't blame him, when he called me I was still a little flustered from my deposition. I don't normally get deposed everyday.

But I knew as soon as I got in the car to go to Wayne's office that this probably had to do with Alex. But, it's my job to send information up and send information down the food chain, and that's what I did in this situation. But I didn't want you to read my deposition and say, "Hey, James said he didn't know the package was about Alex?"

In fact, I did the same thing for Alex a couple months before. Alex was having a hard time getting Senator Coughlin's campaign finance reports from our office and so I received a phone call from Angela McMillen, the Ex. Director of the Summit GOP, and asked if I could meet her for lunch. I did, and was more than happy to get the bureaucracy working for them so they could get the info they wanted. They were very happy with my services then (I still have the emails praising me), but I doubt they feel the same way now:)"

James added his own emoticon at the end; he's always been a straight shooter since we first met just ahead of his race for the school board. It's good to see he still has a sense of humour, even after going through the deposition mill.

I've gotten other interesting responses to this story, not all in the form to share (I'm always amazed by how some have such a dominating command of at least four letters of the English language) but would like to add at no time have I ever claimed there was any law broken. In fact, my previous post on playing hardball deals with the political strategies, not any legal liability. I don't believe there's anything illegal about using the shadows of "anonymous" to plant a pitchfork in the back of one's political rivals. I do think the folks doing the pitching, however, should face the consequences when people find out what they've done.

Does this mean Alex is a lock to retain his post as Chairman of the Summit County GOP? The conventional wisdom must be that any interference from the opposition such as Wayne's actions ought to help, especially in an environment where it pays to be paranoid. Critics of Arshinkoff's rule offer a grudging admiration of how this plays to his advantage, telling me they marvel at his ability to re-focus the debate away from their questions and attacks on his performance.

What is interesting is the political junkies here in Summit County are getting a rare, more open look at the kind of back-stabbing that goes on as the players in the game pitch hardball; it's the world we pretend is the poison of Washington politics right here at home.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Pigs In Mud

The phrase "play hardball" isn't just about America's unique game; it denotes the winner-take-all mentality and whatever it takes to win mindset we voters love in our sports teams but say we don't want from our elected leaders -- but the results speak differently.

Supporters of Presidential candidates employ a constant mantra of apologies and resignation for ill-tempered, foolish outbursts designed to grab 20 seconds of air time; the candidates themselves play political pinball evading denunciation of the nonsense that erupts from the lips of friends and family, trying not to give aid to their enemies while spanking the exuberance of their allies.

A powerful state's Governor fades into exile after investigators of money-laundering hit the mother lode of sex, money and power -- even to the point of wiretapping the bedroom and phone calls of lovers. We've learned nothing from the kill 'em all impeachment pain of ten years ago. Everyone loses, but the powers-that-be continue to think as long as they lose less they win.

The latest chapter in the Summit County "Elephant Wars" battle between Alex Arshinkoff and Kevin Coughlin has now officially turned into a three-ring circus; a menage a trois of local political heavyweights that now includes Democrat Party boss Wayne Jones, thanks to his behind-the-scenes no-longer "anonymous" sniping at Arshinkoff. Both and the Akron Beacon Journal have provided quite a chronicle of the spectacle, a not normally seen view of what happens behind closed doors on an unfortunately fairly routine basis.

I was reminded of all this when going over some of our recent coverage, of all things, from Winter Haven and the Indians getting ready for the 2008 campaign. Manager Eric Wedge -- now with two children, a Manager of the Year award tucked in his belt and that oh-so-close season last year says he tells his players the game "Isn't your life; it's not your wife."

This is not to say Wedge doesn't want to win; it's pretty apparent he wants to bring that World Series gold to fans and a community spending far too much time as the butt of jokes from outsiders. It is a reflection of a man who's come to terms with the things that really matter in life and the journey it takes to get there. Former Indians third baseman and now Mahoning Valley Scrappers Manager Travis Fryman tells a similar tale of how the game almost destroyed his marriage, his family, and the life he worked so hard to build. Only when he realized the destructive power of such single-minded pursuit was he able to turn things around and save the people closest to him.

I admire Wedge, Fryman, and the entire Indians organization for their pursuit of a championship while keeping an eye on the core values they believe will get them to the promised land. The mindset clearly filters from the top office to the players, even down to the folks who keep the machinery of baseball's business rolling in the background, away from our view.

What does it say about Summit County's level of discourse when the whispering campaigns of political abuse, campaign shenanigans and even sexual preference (and that brush doesn't just paint one side, I must add) leak out as "evidence" placed in "anonymous" Manila folders hand-delivered by a state employee from a party boss's law office to the state official? When Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, ultimately charged with determining what "competent" means, can hold such "evidence" in higher regard without the due process of holding hearings in the open before tossing aside the wishes of the citizens who elected their duly-appointed representatives?

This entire case speaks of Gulag-type kangaroo courts employed by Soviet-style tyrants; should Ohio's business of managing elections and political parties really come down to which side does a better job of Khmer Rouge-style slash and burn attacks or is our expectation that, once elected, our public officials do the people's business with dignity and responsibility without the stench of the partisanship that got them to the dance? At what point do the bricks really start flying toward the glass houses these holders of our public trust live behind, and do we as an electorate really want to see that kind of game? When it's our game being played don't we hold the way it is conducted as high as the results?

"It's not your life; it's not your wife," says a leader of men we cheer for to bring honor and a championship back to Northeast Ohio in a game designed for boys. There have been enough attempts, especially in the past nine months, to use sleazy, shadowy attacks behind the curtain of "anonymous" as if that somehow make the attackers clean in Summit County's game designed by old men.

It doesn't.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Wayne's World, Party On!

In my last blog I asked if Jennifer Brunner was hiding anything with repeated attempts to block making her deposition in the Summit County GOP's lawsuit against her public -- the answer is, maybe she should have.

This is not exactly a pretty sight; the Democrat Ohio Secretary of State explaining the advice she was getting from the Summit County Democratic Party finance boss on how to blow out the Republican Party Chairman from the local board of elections. This could turn into a real mess and a real headache for Brunner, who to date as managed to avoid the uber partisan label that helped tag Ken Blackwell into a think-tank gig rather than the Governor's Mansion. The transcript reads less than favorable; when the video gets out it'll be worse, especially as fodder for the next statewide election when Brunner will have to better explain why four Republicans were bad enough elections officials in Ohio's 88 counties but no Democrats?

Our story details just some of the issues arising from the transcript of Brunner's deposition, as well as a key part of the story which had been missing: who dropped off the "mystery package" from Mr. Anonymous that led so quickly to Arshinkoff's unseating? It now appears it was Brunner's man in Akron, local school board member James Hardy, who told us he did indeed deliver a package (he says he didn't know what was inside) from Wayne Jones to the Secretary of State's office in Columbus. From law office to Elections Officer, hand-delivery; great service if you can get it, and in this case local Democrats targeting local Republicans got the gold standard.

The most honest individuals in this case of a political knife-fight are the two who all of this really centers around: Arshinkoff says they're trying to ruin him (they are) and Jones proudly says yes he did want his bitter rival out and even hopes Arshinkoff and GOP challenger Kevin Coughlin "kill each other" in their fight for control of the Summit Republican Party.

This latest round of blasting away may have some unintended consequences; for Brunner, it casts a shadow on her ability to remain impartial and above the fray. For Arshinkoff, it may be just the ticket to alert Republican Central Committee members that the barbarians at the gate should be turned away and in turn his leadership retained at the top of the local party. This strengthens his charges that putting him in the cross hairs has been nothing but a Jones-inspired scheme to hold real control over both parties.

There's an old adage: if it waddles like a duck, smells like a duck and sounds like a duck, it's a duck.


Is She Hiding Something?

The ruling yesterday by the Ohio Supreme Court denying the third bid by Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to slip out of having her decision yanking Alex Arshinkoff off the Summit County Board of Elections speaks volumes -- even though the state's top elections officer wants to remain remarkably quiet.

The latest is the videotaped deposition by the Secretary where she has to answer questions from her detractors, namely Arshinkoff and the Summit County GOP on just what led her to take the unique position of removing him from the Board. Just what in particular did he do to warrant this action? Arshinkoff has many detractors, most objecting to what they say is his heavy-handed use of power (or abuse of power depending on your perspective) but any decision to tell any local party their choice can't serve must be followed up by a clear, public disclosure of what the issues were.

Arshinkoff, no stranger to the machinations of hardball politics given his history of trying to build patronage jobs loyal to GOP office holders, says his woes lie at the feet of nemesis Wayne Jones (also no stranger, one must add, to hardball politics) and the alleged conspiracy of state Democrat and local Democrat banding together to control Summit County's Republican Party.

Now I'm not saying Arshinkoff is right; but I am a firm believer in the observation that"...just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you." Does it strike anyone, honestly, as a stretch to think that Jones and other Democrat power-brokers would take advantage of more friendly ears in Columbus to rid themselves of a more-often-than-not over-the-top pain in the neck like Alex? From a political power building perspective, it absolutely makes sense they would work hard to minimize their opponent's impact and power base and clear the way for their slate of candidates (and issues and cronies) to do better at the ballot box and in the halls of government. That's not corruption; it's politics, played by adults who fully understand the stakes involved and what it may take to win.

Hopefully, now that the Ohio Supreme Court has decided yet again that sunshine pokes it's rays even into the Secretary of State's decisions, we'll get an honest and clear review of just what's in that file that caused Brunner to pull the trigger on Arshinkoff and the party's properly-elected representative to replace him.

Questions we'd like to see answered:
  • Just what did she say in her deposition? We'd like to hear and see ourselves, not only the tape but a transcript as well;
  • What role did local Democrats and State Senator Kevin Coughlin's camp play in desposing Alex from his empire, if any? They are clearly stakeholders in this fight -- Democrats in ridding themselves of a bitter rival, the New Republicans to benefit from Arshinkoff's diminished stature;
  • Does that anti-Alex file include letters from Arshinkoff critics speaking for themselves or does it resemble more a Google search of newspaper articles? Example: should an opposite-party Secretary of State really base such a decision on the controversial Free Times article alleging trolling in Highland Square, or was her investigation more substantive than a collection of clippings?

The honeymoon on Brunner should be long past on forcing the process out in the open, much as it was when she explained her reasoning for replacing the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. In that case, she was able to make a clear and compelling case that their mismanagment put the state's largest block of voters at a disadvantage and hurt the system we need the most confidence in; but in the Arshinkoff case using as an excuse an abrasive and sometimes abusive personality should require more than just saying he's a jerk and other elected officials don't like him.

Can anyone imagine Republican Ken Blackwell getting away with removing duly-elected Democrat local party representatives from local political boards because they weren't liked? Just how long would those howls of indignation have lasted?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Death Penalty, GOP Wars and The Don's War Chest

The verdict is in from the jury: life in prison for Cameron Williams, no parole for 30 years the recommendation after more than a full day of deliberations. Despite the yapping from the pundits following the Bobby Cutts, Jr. case the decision to levy the ultimate is something no juror takes as an easy decision. A prominent member of local media, I am told, served as a member of the jury and it will be interesting to note his thoughts on the process behind the closed doors of the jury room once some of the dust settles.

- - -

There's a move afoot by Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to put under lock and key her videotaped deposition in the ongoing fight over her decision to yank Alex Arshinkoff from the Summit County Board of Elections -- and deny the local GOP's choice as a successor, Brian Daley. Why? Shouldn't the voters who still have decisions to make in this ongoing saga get a more complete understanding of how she made her decisions, by what prompting, and with what evidence? The file on Arshinkoff ought to be displayed in public view as well so the people deciding his fate as chairman of the Summit County GOP -- those hundreds and hundreds of local Central Committee members -- gain a perspective on how their representative lost the post and why their choice to replace him didn't make the grade according to Brunner. Seeing her deposition and the tale told under oath may shed more light on whether charges of Democrat cronyism and intrigue between Akron Democrat bosses and the Statehouse hold water or are just hot air in a political fight to the death on the other side of the aisle.

- - -

The pain in Mayor Plusquellic's keester -- besides this blogger and others who attract his ire from time to time -- has most consistently been the American Friends Service Committee, which today unveiled a report charging the Mayor's 2007 re-election effort set a record for ignoring the campaign spending "reforms" Akron voters clearly put on the books. Here's a spreadsheet from the AFSC -- you'll need Excel or Open Office Calc to read it -- of the folks with deep pockets the group charges exceeded the $300 limit. I asked AFSC's Greg Coleridge about his definition of "fundraising season", since the Mayor's supporters have split those hairs in the past by insisting there are two seasons: primary and general election:

"The original law (Subsection B) titled “Fundraising Season” says that candidates for Mayor and Council can only raise funds for an election or re-election from December 1 prior to a General Election to the Thursday preceding the General Election. That’s one season. The limits established by the law (Subsection D) were $300 for mayor and at-large council and $100 for ward council. We believe when you add these 2 together, a candidate can only raise $300 or $100 maximum from any stipulated source (i.e. person, PAC, party and campaign committee, but not company) since the “season” encompasses both the primary and general elections. Hope this is clearer than mud."

The Mayor's office was quick to weigh in -- after all, this is becoming a routine with every city election:

"Every time there’s a campaign, Mr. Coleridge sings the same tune. Our law director has said repeatedly that Akron’s Code of Ordinances specifies that the campaign contribution limit is $300 per person, per election. That means per primary and per general election. In 2007, I was a candidate in both. The U.S. District Court found that the ‘fundraising season’ was unconstitutional. Coleridge agreed and stipulated in that court that it was unconstitutional, yet he continues to misrepresent and whine about this after every election."

I've always believed there are two election seasons, so a check for $600 ought to be legal when covering the two periods. To be fair, any candidate running for Mayor should err on the side of caution and get two checks -- one for the primary, one for the general, each for $300 -- if they want to make that argument, but then Greg is right on the money in one aspect: this stuff is all clearer than mud, and a great example of what happens when politicians and lawyers write laws covering themselves. Should have had a bricklayer do it -- at least it would stand up.

Post updated 5:29pm with Plusquellic response

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Tuesdays With Alex

Summit County GOP Chairman Alex Arshinkoff did something he usually never does today: a sit-down with reporters, an actual, honest-to-God news conference to talk about the counting from his vantage point of Central Committee members who will decide the direction of the party.

This is the election that keeps on giving; members of the Central Committee will be the ones to elect the local GOP Executive Committee, which in turn elects the Chairman. That's the way it's been for the better part of three decades with Arshinkoff at the helm, either as the saviour of the local Republican effort or the devil taking the local party down (depending on your point of view.)

Just about a third of the more than 450 committee posts were contested in last Tuesday's primary election and Alex says his side picked up 87; he says rival State Senator Kevin Coughlin's troops took 72 with four still ties. No decision on when the Central Committee as a whole meets, says Arshinkoff, until the primary numbers are certified by the Summit County Board of Elections. When I spoke with Coughlin last Wednesday he expected such a meeting could come as early as the end of March but much depends on final counting at the BOE. Nice to see both sides agree on something here.

AkronNewsNow's Tina Kaufmann has posted her story here, complete with audio from Arshinkoff and Coughlin reaction. However, we can note a couple of things to watch for:

  • Just how much of a battle can we expect over the four ties?
  • Arshinkoff says a handful (seven) committee positions could actually be claimed by both sides as supporters -- folks on the Alex-Kevin fence;
  • Just what will the rules be in the actual voting? Coughlin indicated he thinks he will pick up quiet support from members if they cast secret ballots.

All interesting issues to consider ahead of the next round in what we've been calling the "Elephant Wars" in this classic struggle for control of the party that realistically doesn't stand a chance of achieving dominant wins with half the county (Akron) still 9-1 in the blue but the suburbs more to the purple or red.

Summit County is important to state Republicans because it's one of those gateway counties; to the north lies the Democrat Fortress of Solitude in Cleveland, to the south the GOP's promised land of rolling hills, farms, and subdivisions. When Coughlin talks about how Summit GOP candidates should do better he's talking about the suburban races the Republicans actually have a chance of winning; when Arshinkoff talks about staying competitive he's really talking about keeping the Democrats at no more than 60-65% which means a Republican candidate has a chance when the 'burbs and rural areas start to kick in.

At least, that's been the model that worked for the past three decades -- maybe this year will be different with the first election since 1952 to feature a Presidential ticket led by candidates with virtually zero true government executive experience. Even in the Reagan v Mondale, Bush 41 v Dukakis and Clinton 2 v Dole races at least one of the candidates had a clue on what holding the big office really means -- statewide or nationally.

This election, though, is different. No clear decision on who has more real experience, no matter how many times Hillary's red phone rings at three in the morning and McCain draws on his heroic history. I get a sense from listening to supporters (and detractors) that this election has more to do with who the heart says to vote for instead of the brain, and that may be enough to short-circuit the traditional wisdom of how to build a winner in Ohio -- and make no mistake we've earned our role as a microcosm for the rest of the country. It is also why the 35% solution for the GOP in Summit County may be a strategy outdated by the unique nature of candidates we're expecting to choose based on whether they uplift, repulse, or follow despite core value misgivings.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Election Watching From Florida

Personal note to my pal Diana Keough in Atlanta: I know, I posts post-election? Hold on a minute, there's a good reason -- sort of.

The reason is I've been workin' here in Winter Haven field producing WAKR's Ray Horner Show during Wahoo Week. We had the honor (thanks to the Indians) to call yesterday's 4-1 Cleveland-Atlanta spring game, unfortunately a near-no hitter broken up by Danny Sandoval with two out in the bottom of the ninth. Here's the call as Danny got the hit we were waiting for.

at right: The only reason I'm puffin' away on a Rocky Patel Sungrown puro is to chase away the mosquitos swarming the tent before the sun rises along the banks of Lake Lulu at the ballpark.

Kids, don't try the dangerous behavior at home...these things are best left to the professionals.

Our game broadcast was great fun, with Indians VP Bobby DiBiasio, Akron Beacon Journal Indians beat reporter Sheldon Ocker and Indians Network producer extraordinaire Jim Rosenhaus joining us for the coverage.

Wednesday was also hectic with WAKR's post-election coverage earlier that morning, with live interviews including County Executive Russ Pry, State Senator Kevin Coughlin, school officials from Stow, Coventry and Barberton as well as KSU's Steven Hook and UA's John Green. The Summit County GOP battle between Coughlin and Alex Arshinkoff (the "elephant wars") continue with the next 30-45 days critical in determining the direction the local party takes after the anti-Alex faction scored impressive wins in contested central committee races.

More later...back to slappin' skeeters...