By Reid Forgrave
The Cincinnati Enquirer
DELHI TOWNSHIP - Political newcomers, an Elvis impersonator, and the Republican son of one of the county's best known Democrats are on the Nov. 4 ballot for two trustee spots in this westside township.
For the full-term trustee spot, the incumbent who has been endorsed by the Republican Party the past 24 years was snubbed this year. Instead, the Delhi GOP endorsed a political neophyte and local automotive shop owner for the nonpartisan seat.
Another trustee spot is up for grabs after Republican trustee Ann Langdon moved to Colerain Township. That left a two-year term open. Running for it are: the Democrat Langdon defeated by a slim margin six years ago, the son of the Hamilton County auditor who chose the opposite political party of his father, a stay-at-home dad and a well-known Elvis impersonator.
At stake is the political balance of power in this township of 30,000 people.
"In the race for my seat, it sure will be interesting," said Langdon, who watches from a safe distance at her new Colerain Township home. "I really don't see a standout, someone who can step up to the plate and define themselves. The main issue is going to be, 'Who do they trust with their money?' With the economy the way it is, people want their money spent the right way."
The candidates for the full four-year term are Nicholas J. LaScalea, a trustee for 24 years, and Al Duebber, the owner of Duebber's Automotive Service Center, who was endorsed by the local Republican Party.
Duebber wants to revitalize what he calls a struggling Delhi business district.
The Republican party said LaScalea, a lifelong Republican, has become less conservative over the years, and Langdon, a staunch conservative, said she often found herself pitted against LaScalea and board president Jerry Luebbers, a Democrat. Langdon and other Republicans say LaScalea and Luebbers are spending tax money frivolously. They cite a new $5.4 million firehouse in Delhi.
"I think that over the years (LaScalea) has simply grown out of touch with the Republican Party," said Delhi Republican Party co-chair Tom Foster.
The local Democratic party gave LaScalea "preferred status," which supports him over Duebber but doesn't go as far as endorsing him.
"The stuff LaScalea has accomplished in this township?" Delhi Democratic Party co-chair Jack Ryan said with a laugh. "You got about a half-hour? He's done a lot of good for this township for a long time, but the only thing his opponent can come up with is improving Delhi Pike's business district."
LaScalea, 74, said he would have considered stepping down for new blood if the Republicans asked him to, but he felt slighted by the way the party went about it.
"I feel very insulted," LaScalea said. "I've been a Republican all my life. If they wanted to put in fresh blood, I would have said, 'Fine.' But the way they did it, it's sort of a challenge to me. And I like challenges."
Opponents of Duebber say he's ignored township zoning laws and can't be trusted to enforce them. Earlier in the year, he made a parking lot improvement at his automotive shop without first seeking zoning permits. (His project was approved afterward.)
The other race is considered a free-for-all.
Many believe Ron Kruse, a trustee from 1994 to 1998 who is the interim replacement for Langdon, is the favorite. He's endorsed by the local Democratic Party, and he said keeping green space is the township's most urgent concern.
"Everyone else is talking about what they're going to do," Kruse said. "I'm running on what I've already done."
But some believe Kruse could face a strong challenge by Kevin Rhodes, endorsed by the local Republican Party. He's the son of Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes, a Democrat.
His biggest concern is the money spent on the new firehouse. Green Township, he said, spent only $3.75 million on building or renovating three firehouses.
"I'm just tired of it," said Rhodes, a Realtor and former firefighter. "It's time for the voters to send a message that they don't want their elected trustees spending like the money comes from a bottomless pit in their backyard."
Two others are running for this spot: Mike Davis, an Elvis impersonator who could not be reached for this story, and Scott Heile, 37, who works from home and raises his 21/2 -year-old son. This is Heile's first foray into politics, and he, too, believes the township spent too much on the firehouse. Heile said he stands for fiscal responsibility and believes the Delhi business district needs more upscale businesses.
"We need to keep Delhi residents and their money in Delhi Township," he said.
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