Trump effect still plays out in Barberton and Summit County elections

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This month, Barberton voters promoted a Republican to chairman of the board, elected another for a full term on the board, and picked a third, a first-time candidate, as their other member in general .

Mark 2021 on your calendar: this is no longer your father’s magic city.

For three decades, Barberton’s Democrats have been the heads and tails of the political play. If there was significant opposition to an outgoing board member, it took place in the primary.

But voting patterns began to change significantly about 10 years ago, with municipalities in northern Summit County leaning more toward Democrats and Republicans gaining ground in the south, Party Chairman Bryan Williams said. Summit County Republican.

Following:Political change in Magic City

Following:2019: the mayor of Barberton wins the primary

In Barberton, the change was glaring, he said, with Republicans taking all three positions up for grabs on November 2. In addition to the council, the two judges of the Municipal Court of Barberton are Republicans, as is the clerk of the courts.

Thomas “Bebe” Heitic, who worried before the election that the “Bebe” – as most locals know him – would be crossed out from his name on the ballot, had no reason to fear. He led the field of four general candidates for two general council positions, followed by the other Republican on the ballot, political newcomer Tayler Marie Thompson.

Heitic had already won an election, when he and Justin Greer broke Democrats’ grip on the council in November 2019.

But Thompson’s victory, where she garnered more votes than former board member Shannon Conrad Wokojance, had special significance, Williams said.

“Tayler’s victory – that tells me where we have a political realignment,” he said.

Williams said he expected Greer to win over City Councilor Carla Hart Debevec, but the ease of her victory was another indicator of the change.

“The win didn’t surprise me, but what surprised me was the margin of victory,” said Williams. “I think people like him and they like his birthday.”

The Barberton trio

Greer, in an interview the day after the election, said he was also a little surprised by the margin of his victory.

The municipal councilor in the first term won all of the city’s neighborhoods with his victory from 1,372 to 988, garnering more than 58% of the total vote.

The council chairman-elect said he had presented a plan to improve communications and accessibility between council members and residents, and between council and the mayor’s office.

“Being open and accessible is probably the # 1 thing, the [No. 1] feedback I get, ”said Greer. “We have to continue this. “

He plans to update the technology the board used at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It took us over eight months to get a system where we could broadcast live,” he said. “I felt it could have been faster, smoother and better.”

Greer said he plans initiatives with social media, committee reorganization and better availability of technology for the board. One idea involves push alerts for phones so that the board can have immediate knowledge of voter needs or important developments.

“I’m not trying to go over there and destroy the house,” Greer said. “The chairman of the board is a liaison officer.

Heitic has positioned himself as a level-headed lawmaker ready to listen to the opinions of fellow council members and to compromise when needed. In an interview after the election, Heitic said the election showed Barberton’s voters approved of his approach.

“I think it was a referendum on my ability to be reasonable, logical and accessible and get the job done,” he said.

The city councilor has long been known for enthusiastic and at times colorful boosterism of the Magic City, and – like Greer – has used social media to promote his political views.

At the onset of the pandemic, he passionately discussed in a Facebook post the damage the coronavirus-related restrictions were having on the hospitality industry and its workers. As the months passed and the extent of the financial devastation caused by the closures became more apparent, his point of view proved prescient.

“Barberton is ready to watch people regardless of their party,” Heitic said.

Thompson shares a similar view of the city’s electorate.

“I think for a lot of people the party doesn’t really matter – it’s about who you are as a person,” she said. “[I] spoke to hundreds of people during the campaign [and] they didn’t even ask me if I was a Democrat or a Republican.

Thompson, a former reporter for local newspaper The Barberton Herald, said she has built relationships with community leaders who will help her in her new role.

“[I] was fired from the Herald near Christmas, ”she said. “The mayor contacted me and said, ‘Hey, would you like to sit on the planning committee?’ “

This experience will be beneficial as the city develops a new development code to replace one that has been heavily criticized and has become obsolete over the years.

“I want to attract more business to the city and make it more business friendly,” she said.

She said she was the first Republican woman to hold a post on the city’s general council.

“I’m a team player and I think it’s going to be great,” she said.

How Democrats See It

Tom Bevan, chairman of the Summit County Democratic Party, said Democratic dominance in Barberton had waned, but the party had made big gains elsewhere, citing Hudson, Twinsburg, Reminderville and Macedonia.

In the county’s second-largest city, Cuyahoga Falls, voters elected Republican Don Robart on every occasion for nearly three decades. That changed in 2013, when current mayor Dan Walters overthrew the former mayor.

On November 2, Walters won with nearly 69% of the vote and the Democrats widened their majority on the board from 9-2 to 10-1.

The changes at Barberton, Bevan said, reflect a national shift from blue collar workers to the Republican Party and from graduate voters to Democrats. This dynamic is also playing out in Summit County, which continues to be Democrat.

“I think what is happening [in Barberton] that’s what’s happening across the county, ”he said. “Politics is never a static thing.”

The Trump effect

Although Donald Trump is no longer in power, Bevan and Williams both cite his influence in national and local politics.

In Barberton, 10,590 voters in 2012 gave Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama 2,171 more votes than Republican candidate Mitt Romney. By 2016, however, the tide had turned.

That year, 9,924 Barbertonians voted and gave Donald Trump the advantage over Hillary Clinton, 4,739 to 4,524. This gap widened in 2020, with Trump beating current President Joe Biden from 5,580 to 4 876.

“I think there is this cult of Trump that has persisted,” Bevan said. “Whether it’s a temporary or a permanent change… we’ll see if it’s permanent. “

Bevan believes blue collar workers will end up being disappointed with the Republicans they elected. Voters who nominated Republicans in Barberton and other Summit County municipalities should demand “bread and butter” results from these officials, he said.

“At some point they’re going to say, ‘Why am I supporting elected officials who only hurt me?’ ” he said.

Williams said his sentiment with Barberton and other Summit County communities is that Democrats have swung too far to the left, supporting policies antithetical to the majority of voters. He is almost stunned by the possibilities of the Magic City.

“The change is here at Barberton,” he said. “I am convinced that a Republican will be elected mayor in 2023.”

It will be a tall order for a city that elected Mayor William Judge for three terms and ran unopposed in the 2021 general election.

Williams said the Democratic Party’s progressive positions nationwide affect the way people vote locally.

“The Democratic Party is so liberal it hunts voters [and] drive people out, ”he said. “[Their] war on everything that consumes energy, [their] war on the second amendment is to turn people away.

Returning to Barberton, Greer, Heitic and Thompson hope their election will result in long-term changes in the city that will benefit residents, with new businesses bringing jobs and increased accessibility to their council representatives.

“Good things are going to happen,” said Greer. “They are on their way.”

Leave a message to Alan Ashworth at 330-996-3859 or email him at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @newsalanbeaconj.


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