A last look at Hillsboro City Council races


Now that the results are final after the validity of provisional votes was determined, let’s take a last look at the outcome of Hillsboro City Council races.

A couple of the results were easily predictable, particularly Republican incumbent Justin Harsha comfortably leading the four candidates vying for the three at-large spots, as well as Democrat Mary Stanforth running away with the 4th Ward council race.

Justin’s main campaign message of being part of a sixth generation family business is a consistent winner.

People like and respect the Harsha family, and there are many suggesting to Justin that he run for mayor in 2019, which is good strategic thinking when you consider he garnered 71 percent of the vote in a four-person race. Why anyone would want to be mayor is a mystery to me, but if Justin decided to go for it, it’s his for the taking.

My old boss at the Ohio Republican Party, the late party chairman Bob Bennett, often said that most races are won or lost on filing day. That was true in the case of Mary Stanforth, a well-respected longtime educator who easily won the 4th Ward race over Republican Jason Grove.

Most people predicted that Democrat Brandon Leeth would perform well, and he did, comfortably taking second place in the at-large balloting, leaving incumbent Republicans Ann Morris and Tracy Aranyos to battle for the third and final spot, which went to Ann by a handful of votes.

Likewise, Republican Adam Wilkin’s bid to assume the seat held by his wife Becky over the last four years was widely predicted to be successful over Democrat Rob Smith, and it was, although Rob is a good candidate who should consider seeking office again someday.

But there were a couple of surprises. Most people I spoke with thought that Democrat Jason Burns would handily beat Republican incumbent Claudia Klein in the 2nd Ward council race, just as they thought Democrat Tim Countryman would win over Republican Wendy Culbreath in the 3rd Ward. They turned out to be wrong in both cases. The common explanation that Republicans always win is simply proven too often to be untrue, including in the most recent November outcomes.

In the 2nd Ward, Claudia has been relentlessly hammered by the Drew Hastings resistance for her support of most of Drew’s initiatives and her reluctance, as a member of the Employee Relations Committee, to jump on the bandwagon on the resolution to denounce the mayor for his social media posts.

By contrast, Jason was a vocal critic of the mayor, particularly at the first public meeting discussing the social media resolution. But in the end “Landslide Claudia” prevailed by a narrow margin, four years after winning an even tighter race that was decided by a coin flip.

Likewise, most observers seemed to think Tim Countryman would be victorious in the 3rd Ward, in part because he’s a Hillsboro High School grad, a former police officer and generally well-known and well-liked, and the fact that Wendy Culbreath was a last-minute recruit by the Republican Party, appointed to fill a vacant spot on the ballot. But Wendy won rather comfortably.

All in all, those who tried to make the council races a referendum against the mayor cannot be particularly pleased. Outside of a couple of members, the new council does not strike me as a group whose purpose will be to derail the mayor or his agenda.

On the other hand, it will be interesting to see how much time and effort Drew expends over the next two years trying to convince council to do anything new or bold, considering the debacle of how the Downtown Redevelopment District was sadly politicized.

Finally, in regard to the race for city treasurer, I’ll admit to some familial pride over the way my niece, Republican candidate Amy Robinson, handled a very tight loss to Democrat Patricia Burns. After provisional votes were counted, Patty ended up with just a three-vote lead, putting the race within the margin making it eligible for an automatic recount.

But Amy decided to concede the race and save everyone the time and money involved in a recount. She congratulated her opponent and expressed her belief that Patty will do a fine job. Classy move. Indeed, Patty is also a lovely, gracious lady who will do a good job. Congratulations to her.

Hats off to everyone who ran for city council and for all the other races across the county this year. Running for public office requires a sacrifice that most people are not willing to make and invites headaches that the average person does not want. So thank you to everyone who was willing to put their name on the ballot.

Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitte @abernathygary.


By Gary Abernathy

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