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Government & Politics

Six file to Run for Stark County Commissioner

Tom Bernabei in the WKSU Canton bureau

Four Democrats and two Republicans have filed to seek their parties’ respective nominations to run for the seat on the Stark County Commission being vacated by Canton Mayor-elect Tom Bernabei. 

The Democrats are Katherine Blaylock, head of a small nonprofit, former Stark Commissioner Peter Ferguson, Canton Councilman Kevin Fisher and  state Rep. Stephen Slesnick -- all of Canton.  

The Republicans are Dr. David Mungo of Alliance and Canton Township Trustee Bill Smith.

The primary is in March; the general election is in November.  The question is, who will fill Bernabei’s seat until then.   WKSU’s Tim Rudell reports.


Ohio election rules say the party of a county officeholder who leaves gets to pick the person to finish the term. Though Bernabei was a Democrat when he was elected county commissioner, he became an independent to run for mayor of Canton. Even he isn’t sure how the law now applies. 

Stark County Main Office Building
Credit Tim Rudell / WKSU
Main Office Building, Stark County Government

“The statute is in the present tense: the timing being the time at which the individual vacates the office.  At this point in time, I’m disaffiliated with any party. 

"Again, when you read the statute, it doesn’t appear to contemplate that.  Although, we know that courts will frequently provide their judgment as to what may or may not have been intended.”

Whether the succession goes to court, the first steps are for Bernabei to inform the other commissioners of his resignation; then they tell the Stark County Board of Elections. After that, things could get complicated.