Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Meet Thomas West

As I mentioned, Thomas West (and apologies for getting his name wrong in the previous post), Canton City Councilman and candidate in Ohio’s 29th Senate District also spoke at yesterday's Sherrod Brown media event. That's him listening to Sherrod.

Since YellowDogSammy is on vacation, and West was willing to be interviewed, it fell to me. So what's he like? West is one of those guys that party leaders love, but drives certain policy wonk bloggers a little nuts. He is a smooth speaker and a monster in the meet and greet. He has an admirable resume, having worked for years in social service agencies, then started a successful small business. He has the goods to be a successful politician.

As a guy in a policy discussion, he falls a little short. Good on talking priorities, low on specifics. West isn’t unique in this manner and of course talking about an ambitious legislative agenda sounds foolish for someone who is running for membership in the minority caucus. For the record, his priorities are jobs, education and healthcare. More than anything, the conversation reminded me why I so like Betty Sutton’s watchdog platform.

I always ask about the nuts and bolts of the campaign, but never expect much but happy talk (Tom Sawyer being a notable exception.) In Ward’s case he says he's part of a combined campaign and we be there for the ground war, getting the vote out in November.

We had an interesting discussion about Blackwell. I mentioned my concern that his Lease the Turnpike plan is part of a Buy the Votes strategy. As I feared, this issue is flying somewhat under the radar even for politicos. Let's keep an eye on that ball, people. On the other hand, he says that reciting Blackwell's history of supressing Black votes is resonating in inner-city Canton.

West is running against incumbent Senator Kirk Schuring. According to YellowDogSammy’s estimable list of candidates, Schuring's opponent got 42% of the vote in 2002. In fact, Schuring is heavily entrenched. He's also a poster boy for the failure of term limits to create "citizen legislators" and get rid of career politicians. When I worked in Canton in the mid-90's he was a representative and Scott Oelslager was a Senator. Now they have pretty much swapped places. Not that things would be better if term limits did that. Both Schuring and Oelslager are moderate Republicans and capable legislators.

All of which makes for a mixed bag for West's chances. The district is all of Stark County. Dems can win county-wide. It's not a place with strong ideological divides. In 2004 it went for Kerry by about three-thousand votes. But Schuring is well-liked, well-financed and universally known. The wild card is whether Stark Countians pin the Republican's troubles on him.

He has a website under construction: www.westcares.com. I'll try to drop an update post when it goes live.

Finally, you can check out the press on the event yesterday in the ABJ and Canton Repository.