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Bigger spenders can be losers too
Bigger spenders can be losers too
By JOSEPH KOZIOL JR.
Although it's in the thousands, as opposed to the millions spent on national elections, political candidates still need the almighty dollar to secure seats at the table of local government.
This past November, thousands of dollars were spent to win, and sometimes lose, races in Geauga County communities, according to campaign finance records must be filed with the Geauga County Board of Elections.
Detailed filings are required of contributions and expenses only when a candidate spends in excess of $2,000. Those who spend less are required only to sign waiver, noting their low-budget campaigns.
In Chardon Township, the two-person race for trustee involved waivers, with both campaigns spending less than $2,000.
Losing candidate Donald Mohney said he spent under $1,000, all of it from his personal finances. His expenses consisted of signs and mailings, which are among the most common expenses for local candidates.
Incumbent Chardon Township Trustee Charles Strazinsky Jr. estimated that he spent around $1,800 to win a second term. His campaign also was financed from his own pocket, he said. He was offered campaign contributions but chose not to accept them, he said. "I thanked them for their support, but I didn't feel comfortable taking their money."
Mr. Strazinsky said he followed the same plan in his first race, ordering the same number of mailings, but found them "extremely more expensive than four years ago."
Dollars don't always translate to victory.
In Auburn Township, losing trustee candidate Claudine Steinfurth spent more on her campaign than any other candidate in the county's local races. According to board of elections filings, she listed $21,656 in expenses to campaign for the trustee position that pays about $11,318 annually.
Ms. Steinfurth said her campaign was funded from personal finances, and she would do it again. In fact, she plans to run again in two years for trustee, she said. "I'm willing to do what needs to be done for the people of Auburn Township," she said. "That's not the important part," she said of the money. "The important part is stepping up to serve the people of Auburn Township."
Ms. Steinfurth said she wanted to create awareness and accountability in a township where those traits are lacking. She said she believes she accomplished that in winning nearly 40 percent of the vote.
Her opponent, incumbent Trustee Patrick J. Cavanagh, spent less than $2,000 in winning re-election.
In Chester Township, where the annual salary for trustees is about $20,000, incumbent Trustee Clay Lawrence listed $6,003 in expenses for his losing campaign. He was defeated by Kenneth Radtke, who spent just $2,627, according to the filings.
The story was similar in Munson Township, where incumbent Trustee Irene McMullen spent less than $2,000 in winning re-election, while her opponent, Robert Faehnle, spent $2,780 in his losing effort.
Those running for trustee positions in the more populous western end of the county tend to spend more for campaigns than in smaller townships. Salaries for trustees are based on the size of the township budgets. Virtually all trustees in Geauga County township also are offered taxpayer-funded health-care benefits with their positions.
In Bainbridge Township, which pays around $20,000 annually plus benefits, victorious candidate Christopher Horn spent $5,361. Henry Vavrik listed $1,377 in expenses, and Jeremiah Polz spent less than $2,000, filing a waiver, in their unsuccessful campaigns.
In Russell Township, which pays around $15,000 for the trustee position, winning candidate Justin Madden listed $8,959 in expenses. Incumbent Trustee Kristina Port, who lost her bid for a second term, spent $1,141. Martin Winston, a third candidate in the race, has yet to file his campaign finance forms.
In Newbury, former Trustee Glen Quigley defeated incumbent Trustee David Snively. Records show Mr. Quigley spent $2,233 on his campaign, while Mr. Snively stayed under the $2,000 limit and filed a waiver.
Mr. Quigley was able to use $932 in campaign funds that he had acquired in an earlier campaign for Geauga County recorder. While he also used signs from previous trustee campaigns, he said, he believes his door-to-door efforts won the election for him.
Transferring funds from one campaign to another is permissible under the law, Geauga County Board of Elections Director Arch Kimbrew said.
Ms. Port may do the same in her announced intention to run for the Ohio House of Representatives, as she is showing a balance of $1,678 in her campaign account.
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