West Chester Township Politics And Issues

Will Trustee Stoker Finish Her Term?

For the last few months, the rumor mill has been churning up the question Will Trustee Stoker Finish Her Term? I’m not exactly sure what the origins of this rumor are. Some might suggest it’s just a political tactic. If that were the case then why isn’t anyone concerned about Trustee Lee Wong completing his term as well? Considering the number of times I’ve heard it, I thought it was worth a discussion, if for no other reason than “for the record”.

The rumor goes something like this…

“Catherine Stoker understands the value of incumbency in elections and rather than announce that she will not serve the full term, she will capitalize on being an incumbent and then after being re elected she will step down and appoint her successor”

Can she really appoint a successor?

Not exactly but the process would most likely end up that way. According to Ohio law, in the case of a mid term Trustee vacancy, the two remaining Trustees must agree on a replacement. Given the past history of Trustee Wong voting with Trustee Stoker on most issues, I doubt Mr. Wong is going to allow Trustee Lang to have his choice for the appointment. The voting alliance between Wong and Stoker is almost automatic on any given issue. This means that the decision next falls on the “committee of five”. When a person runs for office, they submit a nominating petition and list 5 people to be their committee should they be unable to finish their term.

Per Ohio Revised Code  503.24

The initial authority for filling a vacancy in any township office is vested in the board of township trustees. A majority of the board members may fill the vacancy by appointment.
However, if the township is without a board, or if the board fails to make the appointment within 30 days after the vacancy, a majority of the persons designated as the committee of five on the last filed nominating petition of the township officer whose vacancy is to be filled, shall appoint a person to fill the vacancy.

I think that it’s a reasonable assumption that the people Trustee Stoker named as her committee of five share her big government and progressive ideology. I’m also pretty sure, given her political savvy, that she would not step down without the committee being in complete approval of her successor.

Why waste time on rumors?

I seriously doubt any person that is planning something like this would confess to it. In the arena of politics I’d say transparency is about 100 times less likely. The question was popular enough to have made it into the questions posed to the candidates at the Chamber Alliance “Meet The Candidates” forum. While it was posed to all candidates by the moderator, I doubt anyone in the room did not recognize that the question was intended for Trustee Stoker. In fact, in that forum, Mrs. Stoker stated several times that she wanted “one more term”.  She did indicate (as did the other three) that she would serve the full term.

It makes sense politically

People don’t spend nearly 20 years in office without a support and voter base. In the case of Trustee Stoker, she is deeply embedded in the Democrat political machinery of West Chester and Butler County Ohio. West Chester Township is dependably conservative and has been for decades. It would be very difficult for a democrat running for an open seat to get elected to the West Chester Board of Trustees. One does not need to be a political strategist to see how and why the claim has merit. In the interests of party and ideology, stepping down after winning another term and naming a replacement  is about the only way to preserve her legacy of lone democrat official in a sea of conservative voters. This would also give the replacement a few years to build support and enjoy the incumbent advantage in 2017.

County office aspirations?

Twice, Trustee Stoker has run for county office. She was defeated in a 2000 election for Butler County Commissioner by Chuck Furmon and again in 2004 by Michael Fox. She was able to pull 41% and 32% in those elections which were both presidential election years with huge republican turnout. Current Commissioner Cindy Carpenter’s term expires in 2014. Perhaps Mrs. Stoker feels she has a stronger chance given the current national political climate and running against another female?

Stoker said she has no future aspirations to seek a higher office.

“I love being a trustee,” she said.

She ran twice for county commissioner in the last decade, but realized it is tough to win in the county as a Democrat.

journal-news.com Posted:  Friday, Feb. 25, 2011

I can’t think of a better time for another run for County Commissioner. An announcement in 2014 would also provide plausible deniability for breaking her promise that she would server her full term.I realize she can serve as trustee and run for commissioner at the same time but this is likely her last best shot and worthy of her full attention.

Regardless of whether she will serve her “final term” as Township Trustee or not, I think 24 years as Township Trustee is way past too long. A huge part of the problem with our country is decades long incumbency. I also don’t like the idea of parliamentary tricks by politicians, laws and elections (ie: ACA deemed “passed” by Senate). Personally, I’d prefer a special election in the event an elected township official stepped down. I also feel that any elected official running for higher office should step down from their current position. There are too many examples of politicians using their current position to position and pander for votes. This affects the people that put them in office as they shift their positions and votes to appeal to a different demographic.