Thursday, November 6, 2008

Democrats sweep county offices again

Cuyahoga County's corruption and patronage scandals had very little effect on this week's election. The three county Democrats with Republican challengers beat them as soundly as ever.

Incumbent county commissioner Peter Lawson Jones (pictured) defeated Bay Village Mayor Debbie Sutherland, even though she made the scandals her top issue.

Compare Barack Obama's vote totals in Cuyahoga County to the local races:

Barack Obama (D) 441,836 68%
John McCain (R) 196,369 30%
Total 646,994

County Commissioner

Peter Lawson Jones (D) 341,976 62%

Deborah Sutherland (R) 206,319 38%

Total 549,125

County Recorder

Lillian J. Greene (D) 351,454 70%

Cathy Luks (R) 151,438 30%

Total 502,892

Prosecuting Attorney

Bill Mason (D) 402,366 74%

Annette Butler (R) 142,227 26%

Total 544,593

How many people who voted for Obama split their tickets to vote for Sutherland? About 6 percent of the electorate. Sutherland got more votes in Cuyahoga County than McCain, a sign her arguments made some impact, but not nearly enough to break up Democrats' one-party rule.

It's also a sign of Jones' popularity and reputation. Voters knew he is not implicated in the FBI probe. Sutherland's best argument against him was that he had not done enough to curb patronage hiring.

What could ever cause Cuyahoga County voters to elect a Republican to county office again? I think the Democratic candidate would have to be facing a felony charge. (A misdemeanor charge isn't enough, we learned in 2004.)

This doesn't end the debate over the problems in county government. It just shifts it away from the ballot box. The Cuyahoga reform commission's recommendation is due tomorrow. And the FBI probe continues. Indictments of elected officials would cause big change fast.


Unknown said...

Do you think Sutherland would have done a better job than Jones in keeping the office clean? Do you think that the Democratic crew will be able to resist corruption and govern well? What type of authority do both the county commission and reporter wield?

Erick Trickey said...

Dan: I think Sutherland might have made a difference on the commission by questioning the patronage hiring in county offices. Jim Rokakis suggests that none of the commissioners question their colleagues' patronage (see my post about the county reform plan). As for corruption, I think the federal investigation will matter more than the election results. Jones is waiting to see if anyone is indicted. Hard to say Sutherland could or should have done more than that if elected.