Happy Election Day! With the noise level up to 11 regarding Issue 2 and other statewide initiatives, plus the rack of needed-now-more-than-ever school levies on the ballot grabbing most of the attention, we almost completely forgot about the most entertaining aspect of the political season: the candidates, those special personalities that for the better part of a year have been rutting around for your vote.
And as you already know, from the sidelines here, the best part of politics is when things go dirty. Accusations, smear jobs, misfired info — it all adds up to a circus that here in Cuyahoga County we've perfected into fine art.
But surprisingly this time around, the nastiest elections seems to have sprung up in the unlikeliest of places, small leafy suburban towns where you'd think politics was more about gripping and grinning at the backyard chili cook-off than smearing the other guy. Now that we've almost got the election season in the rear-view mirror, lets run through some of the more ridiculous examples of small change pols behaving badly.
Ranger-gate. There probably wasn't a more colorful personality on the campaign trail than David Hack. A decorated former Army officer, owner of a military supply store, and candidate for Hudson's mayor's office, Hack landed in the crosshairs about his military background. Turns out, somehow people got the idea he was an Army Ranger, when, according to documents dug up by WKYC'S Eric Mansfield, he only trained members of the elite unit. How did folks get that idea? It might have had something to do with photos of Hack sporting the unit's distinct garb, and that he called himself a retired Ranger in his autobiography, as well as online. Hack claimed it was all a misunderstanding (someone else wrote the autobiography; he was just modeling the outfit; etc.), and then promptly sued the station, his incumbent opponent, and 25 John Does, perhaps the actual Ranger who let Hack borrow their clothes and pinky swore never to tell.
The whole situation came to a boil in this clip, when Hack holds a press conference but refuses to answer questions; as he bolts from the scene, Mansfield trails behind, barking “Come on Sarge, when are you going to come clear about your military service?” while the military man continues to be stone-faced and silent under a pair of aviators. Awkward, but absolutely worth watching.
Reporter-gate. Seven Hills: land of political discord and upheaval, no stranger to dysfunctional government types, mostly thanks to now-ex-mayor David Bentkowski. This summer, a group of residents got together and started pumping out a newsletter called the Seven Hills Reporter slamming the mayor and other officials, charging chronic ineffectiveness and nepotism. When Bentkowski — who has left his job as mayor for a state gig but is still on this year's ballot for a council seat — heard about the newsletter, he did what you or I would have done: he jumped in his car and chased down one of the authors with a video camera.
With the election on the horizon, councilman Pete Draganic filed an official complaint with the state election board against the six guys responsible for the flier. He claims the newsletter is doing the dirty work for certain candidates in the city who don't have the cojones to jump into the ring personally.
The parties were supposed to be in Columbus earlier this month for a showdown before the board, but the hearing has been pushed back till after the election.
Pinocchio-gate. Someone picked Highland Heights mayoral candidate Scott Mills' talking points right out of his pocket. As the council president went head-to-head against incumbent Scott Coleman, he had a whole list of jabs he wanted to take at the current administration about nepotism and the mishandling of the city's finances. But before Mills could make his points on the campaign trail, someone sent an anonymous letter to the press laying into Coleman on the same grounds. It also featured a doctored photo of the mayor with an extended nose, a la a lying Pinocchio. Mills claimed he had nothing to do with the letter, but admits everyone in town has fingered him for the propaganda regardless.
Woodmere-gate. Man, what is there to say about this tiny East Side postage stamp that we haven't spelled out in a cover story from a couple weeks back? This is a town where an African American power base was once accused of throwing out white cops, where a councilwoman's house was turned into a pile of burnt wood thanks to the matches of an still at-large arsonist, and where racist political literature was stuffed in mailboxes during the last election. Compared to that tumult, this latest political season has been a lazy Sunday. Sure, there's been the usual claims and counter-claims battling it out in community newsletters, and a group of residents did make a stab at throwing out the five members of the village council, but by now, that's just the name of the game here.