Warren County Republicans battle for commission seat


Two veteran Republican politicians are running for a seat on the Warren County Board of Commissioners.

Former State Rep. Ron Maag is contesting incumbent Commissioner Tom Grossmann’s re-election in the May Republican primary to one of three seats on the board, which manages the county government.

RELATED: Former state rep files to challenge incumbent on Warren County commission

Grossmann, a lawyer and prosecutor, served as mayor and councilman in Mason.

He had focused during public events and in campaign literature on his political and professional life, the affluent, growing county’s financial condition and other accomplishments over the past four years he has been in the county office.

Last week, this changed after Maag blasted Grossmann in a statement read in Maag’s absence at a recent campaign event. Also an Ohio Elections Commission complaint filed against Grossmann by another Warren County man surfaced, prompting Grossmann to accuse the Maag campaign of bringing out the complaint in hopes of falsely discrediting Grossmann.

With less than two weeks to go, reports filed by both campaigns indicate the challenger’s campaign coffers are 20 times fuller: $45,934 on hand for Maag, to $2,258 for Grossmann. The incumbent also spent more, $31,048.45, to $16,173 by Maag, according to the pre-election reports.

“You can waste a lot of money early. You put it in at the end when it’s going to count,” Maag, a four-term state representative, said last week as his first mailer arrived.

In the election complaint, resident Michael Schneider claims Grossmann misrepresented or failed to report a $6,000 loan from the Friends of Pete Beck in 2009.

After a reporter described the complaint, the incumbent Grossmann said, “We’re about to see a case study in political trickery again.”

Grossmann was referring to 2010, when in a five-way commissioner race, he finished second to Tom Ariss, whom he defeated in a head-to-head race four years ago. Grossmann brought a complaint against false advertising by the Ariss campaign.

RELATED: Candidate: Misleading political ads an issue in campaign

In response to the complaint against him, Grossmann pointed to his campaign’s April 26 pre-election report as proof he reported that the loan from the campaign committee for Beck, a former state lawmaker who went to prison, had been forgiven.

Beck was sent to prison in August 2015 for his role in bilking millions of dollars from investors in the failed start-up, Christopher Technologies. He was freed after the First District Court of Appeals overturned 10 of 13 charges.

RELATED: Beck to get out of prison early

Grossmann also noted the Ohio Elections Commission scheduled the hearing on the complaint after the election, although Schneider asked for an expedited hearing.

Grossmann said the state board reviewing the case would dismiss it as soon as he provided the campaign report and other evidence. He accused Maag of failing to check out his claims.

“He’s making stuff up and I don’t appreciate that,” said Grossmann who settled the complaint he filed over the 2010 ads after Ariss apologized.

“I’m not making anything up. I didn’t file the complaint,” Maag said.

However Maag said his review of campaign reports indicated Grossmann’s campaign failed to properly report on the loan.

“The facts are the facts,” he said.

The two long-time Republicans have similar, conservative views on some issues.

READ MORE ABOUT THE CANDIDATES, THEIR POSITIONS

For example, they both see a need for more housing to provide homes for workers employed by existing and new local businesses.

But they differ on the legalization of medical marijuana.

MORE: Some doctors troubled about lack of medical marijuana research

As a lawmaker, Maag supported the law enabling the cultivation, production and distribution of pot for medical uses.

“I certainly voted for it and would be glad to vote for it again,” Maag said, recalling the testimony of doctors, as well as people who used marijuana as medication for cancer and other serious ailments.

Noting marijuana use remained illegal under federal law, Grossmann said he opposed it for “any usage.”

Maag revealed his strategy in a statement read in his absence at a meet-the-candidates event, put on by the Mason-Deerfield Twp. Chamber of Commerce.

RELATED: Grossmann questions sales tax hike for jail

And last week, while revealing the election complaint filed earlier this month, Maag continued to focus on how the commissioners hiked taxes during Grossmann’s term to fund a $15 million sports complex and $50 million jail, while rolling back a levy benefiting the county’s board managing programs for residents with developmental disabilities.

“You can’t lower taxes on one hand and raise them on the other,” said Maag, adding he ran at others’ urging after being told the commissioners were “non-responsive.”

RELATED: Jail sales tax hike takes effect with New Year

Grossmann pointed out he voted against the 0.25 percent sales tax hike expected to pay off the jail debt and hotel and motel owners backed the lodgings tax hike - which Maag helped get passed by the state legislature.

RELATED: Lodging tax to help pay for Warren County Sports Park at Union Village

In addition, Grossmann said the developmental disabilities board accounts still hold more than $40 million with no designated use.

“They didn’t need the money,” Grossmann said, projecting property owners would save about $50 million over five years thanks to the rollback.

There is no Democratic candidate for the commission seat, so the race should decide who fills it through 2022.

Election Day is Tuesday, May 8, but early voting has already begun.



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