Multiple Portage County officials will face challengers in the March primary race, and school levies will try again

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Heidi Workman is endorsed by Donald Trump. In fact, she endorsed Trump.

Portage County’s state representative and two county commissioners will all face opposition in the March 19 primary election, while Prosecutor Victor Vigliucci will not seek re-election.

Republican State Rep. Gail Pavliga of Atwater is facing a challenge from Heidi Workman, also a Republican, of Rootstown. Running unopposed on the Democratic side is Kent resident Nathaniel Adams.

Workman’s website notes that she is endorsed by the Portage County Tea Party and the Ohio Citizens PAC for the Ohio TEA Party Movement. The website also includes a picture of her holding a rifle and affirming her support of the Second Amendment, small government, lower taxes and economic stability, pro-life movement and workforce development.

Adams does not appear to have an online presence at this point.

Sheriff Bruce Zuchowski, a Republican, doesn’t have a primary challenger, but he will have a challenger in the general election from Kent Democrat Jon Barber. Barber ran unsuccessfully for sheriff in 2020 when, according to the Portage County Young Democrats’ website, he touted having almost 40 years in law enforcement, emergency management and homeland security.

Zuchowski’s website notes an upcoming fundraiser and his almost three decades of public service: 26 years with the Ohio State Highway Patrol and two and a half years as a part-time and special deputy in the Portage County Sheriff’s Office. The website also touts his NRA membership and states that he is “a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment.”

He is running for his second term as county sheriff, having first been elected in 2020.

County Commissioner Tony Badalamenti, a Republican who lives in Aurora, is being challenged by Ravenna Republican Jill Crawford. Ravenna Democrat Carmen Laudato also filed paperwork and is running unopposed in the primary. Laudato is a former Streetsboro council member and a current member of Ravenna’s Planning Commission.

Badalamenti was first elected commissioner in 2020. If he is re-elected, he will be serving his second term.

County Commissioner Sabrina Christian-Bennett, a Republican from Rootstown, faces opposition from Ravenna Republican Sherry Griffith. Christian-Bennett has served as county commissioner since 2014 and is seeking her third term.

County Treasurer John Kennedy of Aurora, who was appointed earlier this year to fill the seat vacated by Brad Cromes, will compete with former Ravenna Mayor Joseph Bica to retain the seat in November. Kennedy is a Democrat; Bica is a Republican.

Longtime political activist and Republican Brian Ames of Randolph is challenging incumbent Democrat Jill Fankhauser of Kent to serve as the county’s next clerk of courts.

After decades of serving as Portage County prosecutor, Democrat Victor Vigliucci has decided not to seek another term. Republican Connie Lewandowski of Aurora, an assistant county prosecutor, will run unopposed for county prosecutor.

Also running unopposed in March will be county coroner Dean DePerro and county engineer Larry Jenkins, both Kent Democrats, and county recorder Lori Calcei, a Suffield Republican.

The filing deadline for the March 19 primary election was 4 p.m. Dec. 20. Candidates for the Republican Central Committee will also appear on the ballot; most of those races are unopposed and many precincts list no candidates at all.

School levies back on the ballot

School levies on the March ballot include a renewal bid by the Aurora City School District, which is seeking a five-year, 1.5-mill levy meant to fund general improvements. If approved, the levy would cost property owners $29 a year per $100,000 of appraised valuation for five years starting in 2024, and it would raise $826,000 annually. Renewal levies do not raise taxes.

Voters in the Ravenna City School District will determine a five-year, 6.9-mill additional tax levy meant to raise $2.7 million a year. If approved, the levy would cost property owners $242 a year per $100,000 of appraised value. The levy bid, which voters defeated in November, is meant to fund emergency requirements. Additional levies do raise taxes.

The Mogadore Local School District is seeking approval for a five-year, 5.9-mill additional levy meant to fund current expenses. Voters defeated the school district request in November.

If approved in March, it would cost property owners $207 a year per $100,000 of appraised valuation, and it would generate $743,000 annually for the school district.

Mogadore is the only district in Portage County deemed by the state to be in fiscal caution. As such, district officials are tasked with providing the Ohio auditor’s office with a written proposal to correct fiscal deficiencies, and state officials may visit the district to provide technical assistance.

Should the district not be able to sufficiently cut spending or to raise new money via levies, Mogadore schools could slide into fiscal watch and, finally, fiscal emergency, which is when state officials come in and make the necessary cuts themselves.

Other issues

Also on the March ballot will be a proposed charter amendment to increase the population disparity between Kent’s six wards from 10% to 15%. Though all council members did not agree, increasing the disparity would alleviate having to redraw district boundaries every decade when census numbers are posted, the majority decided.

Voters in Edinburg Township will decide a 2-mill fire and EMS renewal levy meant to raise $115,000 a year for five years starting in 2024. The levy would cost property owners $53 per $100,000 of appraised valuation each year. Renewal levies do not raise taxes.

Paris Township voters will face two renewal levies: a 1-mill levy meant to fund current expenses and a 2-mill levy to fund roads and bridges. The 1-mill levy would cost property owners $27 per $100,000 of appraised valuation. The roads and bridges levy would cost property owners $36 per $100,000 of appraised valuation. Both levies are meant to be effective for five years, starting in 2024.

Ravenna Township voters will face a five-year, 6.1-mill fire and EMS additional levy. If approved, this one would cost property owners $214 annually per $100,000 of appraised valuation, and it is meant to raise $1,071,000 a year starting in 2024.

Voters who receive service from the Mantua-Shalersville Fire District will decide a five-year, 0.9-mill replacement levy meant to raise $285,000 a year starting in 2024. If approved, the levy would cost property owners $32 a year per $100,000 of valuation.

Voters in Streetsboro precinct 1C will decide if the restaurant Another Broken Egg may sell wine, mixed drinks and “spirituous liquor” on Sundays, and voters in precinct 3B will settle the same request made by Barrel Lodge.

Voters in Suffield Township’s precinct B will determine if Paradise Lake Country Club may sell beer, wine, mixed beverages and spirituous liquor on Sundays.

Sugar Bush Knolls has three ballot items: a bid to allow village officials to choose an electric aggregator and a bid to allow the same officials to choose a natural gas aggregator. Residents who do not care for the aggregator that village officials may pick will be permitted to opt out, said Theresa Nielson, deputy director of the county board of elections. The third ballot measure names Portage County as the village’s recycling provider.

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Wendy DiAlesandro is a former Record Publishing Co. reporter and contributing writer for The Portager.