Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Butler commission: All incumbents being returned

By John Kiesewetter
Enquirer staff writer

Butler County voters were returning all three incumbent Republicans to the county commission in early, unofficial returns Tuesday.

Commissioners Greg Jolivette, Chuck Furmon and Michael A. Fox all jumped out to strong leads with 33 percent of 289 precincts reporting.

Jolivette, the former legislator who swapped jobs with former Commissioner Courtney Combs in January, had 65 percent of the vote to 35 percent for Lawrence "Rusty" Thomas.

Furmon, commission president and former Hamilton mayor, had 64 percent of the vote to 34 percent for James Lubbers of Fairfield Township.

Fox, who was not endorsed by the county Republican Party, had 54 percent of the vote in a three-way race. Democrat Catherine Stoker of West Chester Township had 32 percent, while J. Michael Best of Fairfield had 14 percent.

"I'm very grateful to the voters ... and I look forward to working on county issues for the next two years," said Jolivette, who was on the ballot because more than two years remained on Combs' term when he was appointed to the county board.

Fox, 55, a former legislator seeking his third term as commissioner, has been in the fight of his political life the past year.

Butler County Republican Party leaders were so upset with Fox criticizing Domestic Relations and Juvenile Court judges - all Republicans - that they encouraged Jolivette to leave the legislature and challenge Fox in the March primary. But a January deal avoided a bitter primary fight when Jolivette switched jobs with Combs, a Republican running unopposed for Jolivette's seat.

Not having the local party endorsement did not prevent Fox, a Fairfield Township resident, from raising the most money ($83,185) in the commission race - and being the only countywide candidate to buy TV advertisements this fall.

Stoker, 60, has served 11 years as trustee in the county's most populous unincorporated area. She failed to unseat Furmon four years ago.

Best, 57, entered the race as an independent to give Republicans an alternative to Fox and Stoker. The former Fairfield City Council member financed most of his $55,000 campaign himself.

Jolivette, 52, owner of Jolly's Drive-In, had served seven years in the legislature and 10 years on Hamilton City Council, including three as mayor. His opponent, Thomas, 29, was the youngest candidate for countywide office.

Furmon, 64, a retired Hamilton police officer, has served two terms as commissioner. Lubbers, 60, was running in his first countywide race.


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