Thursday, October 28, 2004

Butler Co. race 3-way hot

By John Kiesewetter
Enquirer staff writer

Michael A. Fox
Hometown: Fairfield Township
Age: 55
Occupation: Owner of a small marketing and distribution business
Experience: State legislator, 1975-97; county commissioner, 1997-present.
Education: Bachelor's degree, Miami University
Personal: Personal: Wife Mary Ann, two children.
Quote: "I believe that good government begins with taking care of people and their problems, and being able to take action on things that matter to them."

Catherine Stoker
Hometown: West Chester Township
Age: 60
Occupation: President of Brite Belt Technologies, a customized software consulting firm
Experience: West Chester Township trustee, 1994-present
Education: Bachelor's degree, San Francisco State University.
Personal: Husband, Mike; one son
Quote: "Good leadership doesn't come from bullying and threats. Good leadership fosters consensus on goals. We don't have this with the county commissioners today."

J. Michael Best
Hometown: Fairfield
Age: 57
Occupation: Researcher, Procter & Gamble Co.
Experience: Fairfield City Council, 1982-90
Education: Attended Ohio State University
Personal: Wife, Karen; six children
Quote: "I will provide the honesty and integrity you need to run a county government that needs to be watching the taxpayers' dollars. That is what's missing from the current administration."

Election 2004 page
HAMILTON - The Butler County race with the most spice is the three-way for county commissioner.

Democrat Catherine Stoker, a West Chester Township trustee, and J. Michael Best, a Republican running as an independent, are challenging incumbent Michael A. Fox, who alienated Republican Party leadership by attacking Republican judges last year.

Since being denied party endorsement, Fox has been fighting for political survival.

The legislature took his name off the Ohio 129 regional highway connecting Interstate 75 to Hamilton. Opponents charged him with filing incomplete campaign finance reports and creating an illegal political action commission. The Ohio Elections Commission cleared him of those allegations in August."I believe everyone in Butler County has been touched in a positive way by some project or program I've been involved in," says Fox, a legislator and commissioner for 30 years. "Innovation and creativity are my specialty, which is why I make people mad sometimes. I try some new things."

Stoker calls Fox a "bully" for pushing projects without consulting township or school officials.

"Commissioners should work with communities on their development goals, and support that vision, rather than force their will down the throats of a community," says Stoker, the lone Democrat on the West Chester Township trustees for 11 years.

Best, a former Fairfield City Councilman, says he running to provide a choice for Republicans who won't support a Democrat.

Both challengers have been critical of commissioners' funding of highways and other projects by creating special tax-increment financing districts on commercial and residential areas.

Fox defends the method, which paid for the I-75 Union Centre Boulevard interchange. He wants to use the same funding to extend Ohio 63 from Monroe to Trenton, and connect the I-75-Ohio 129 interchange to Hamilton-Mason Road.

Fox, who has raised the most money ($83,185) of the three, says his polls show Stoker and Best splitting the anti-Fox vote.

Other observers say Best and Fox could split the GOP vote, giving Stoker a shot to win if she runs strong in her township, the county's biggest.

Best has put $51,400 into his own campaign after potential funding "dried up," he says. "People have been hesitant to openly support me because they're afraid of repercussions if Fox wins," he says.

Stoker also says it has been tough to raise $31,426 in campaign funds too. "Republicans tell me they want me to run, but they won't write me a check because they cannot have their name associated with me," she says.


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