Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Butler Co. politics looking like 'Pulp Fiction'

When Ohio Rep. Greg Jolivette showed up for the Butler County beauty contest to decide the Republican Party endorsement for county commissioner, there was a surprise waiting for him.

A copy of a 1987 police report had been circulated, naming him as a purse thief.

"It was a case of mistaken identity," he said. The woman who filed the report admitted it was wrong. "It was a bogus police report," Jolivette said, "but it was distributed to the central executive committee."

He blames his opponent, Commissioner Mike Fox. In retaliation, Jolivette points out that Fox "was censured by the (Ohio) House and stripped of his chairmanship" of the House Education Committee for violating ethics rules in 1997.

The election is three months away, and already it's as ugly as a purple bruise. Jolivette supporters are accusing Fox of gouging taxpayers for travel and favoring contractors who contribute to his campaign.

Fox says it's all pulp fiction. He says Jolivette is a hit man handpicked by county Republican godfathers who want Fox eliminated for rocking the boat.

As it turned out, neither one got the endorsement, so they are headed for a primary election cage-match on March 2.

"Of course, I wish I could have got the endorsement and it was disappointing not to," Fox said, "but, putting it in perspective: When the mob is out to lynch you and you just come away from the ordeal with rope burns, you've done pretty good."

A preview of coming detractions:

• Fox has been accused of lobbying the county to buy Dell computers. "I provided marketing support and advice for Dell sales representatives in Ohio and other states. I did not engage in direct sales," Fox said. He says he fully disclosed his role and never voted for anything related to Dell, even long after he stopped working for Dell in 1999.

• Jolivette supporters say Fox's contributors include contractors who worked on the county's fiber-optics system and the Mike Fox Regional Highway. Fox says fiber-optics contractor Rob Schuler is among 1,253 different contributors, donating $2,500 in 2002 and $600 this year.

A contractor who worked on the highway donated $500 in 2001, $1,000 in 2002 and $1,200 in 2003, Fox reported.

• Fox replies that Jolivette is a backslapping party hack. "So far, all Greg seems to be offering is that he will be friendlier to other Republican office holders. Being uncommonly friendly and never being objectionable to your colleagues might make one uniquely qualified to be a Wal-Mart greeter, but it does not move entrenched bureaucracies and systems resistant to change - nor does it yield creative solutions to difficult and important problems."

All this makes Butler County politics look like one of those lurid Quentin Tarantino movies: Big-name actors. A bizarre, violent plot. And when it's over, everyone goes away feeling like they need a shower.

And here's the plot twist at the end. While Fox and Jolivette are beating on each other with baseball bats, Democrat Catherine Stoker of increasingly powerful West Chester could walk away with the prize.

"As I tell my Republican friends," she said, "we Democrats are sitting back and passing the popcorn and watching you guys tearing each other to bits."


E-mail pbronson@enquirer.com or call 768-8301.

Bronson: Butler Co. politics looking like 'Pulp Fiction'
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