Saturday, July 29, 2000

Election heat is on for Butler candidates

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        WEST CHESTER TWP. With about 100 days to go before the Nov. 7 general election, Butler County's dozen or so contested races are heating up — especially for prosecutor.

        “I think we have the strongest, best slate of candidates we've had as long as I've been in the political arena,” said Catherine Stoker, a Democrat who is opposing County Commissioner Chuck Furmon in another high-profile race. “The Republicans in this county are used to rolling over top of everything. This year, they're having to work a little harder.”

        At a GOP fund raiser at tended by 160 people at Wetherington Country Club on Friday, the county's Republican Party candidates acknowledged they are facing tougher-than-usual challenges.

        Robin Piper, the Republican nominee for the prosecutor's post, told attendees that he was reactivating his campaign, following a six-day moratorium he observed in deference to the family of his opponent, Prosecutor John F. Holcomb, who died last weekend.

        Mr. Holcomb, who held his post for 27 years, was the sole Democrat holding countywide office in Butler. Mr. Holcomb, 63, died of heart failure while at River Downs race track.

        “This morning, when I said my prayers, I included Mr. Holcomb,” Mr. Piper said at the fund-raiser for him and other Republicans. “He did not pass away as my opponent, as a politician, but as a person with loved ones.”

        Then Mr. Piper threw barbs at the man likely to become his new opponent.

        Dan Gattermeyer, an assistant prosecutor, was named interim prosecutor by the county commissioners on Monday. He also is poised to gain the Democratic Party's appointment next week to fulfill the remaining five months of Mr. Holcomb's term — and to run against Mr. Piper.

        “(Mr. Gattermeyer) is already mimicking my ideas for reorganization of the office,” Mr. Piper said.

        Mr. Gattermeyer had held a news conference on Thursday, announcing he was seeking the post with the blessing of Mr. Holcomb's family, prosecutor's staff and Democratic Party leaders. Mr. Gattermeyer, who did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment Friday, criticized Mr. Piper for “vicious personal attacks against Mr. Holcomb and his family.”

        Mr. Piper has spoken out against Mr. Holcomb's so-called “2 Percent Club,” in which prosecutor's employees gave about 2 percent of their salaries to Mr. Holcomb's campaign fund. Mr. Piper also decried Mr. Holcomb's use of a county employee to dig political dirt, revealing that Mr. Piper had been cited in 1981 for a minor misdemeanor marijuana charge.

        “The criticism has always been about John Holcomb's leadership and his management of the office,” Mr. Piper said. “It has never been about him personally.”

        Mr. Gattermeyer on Thursday also pledged to wage a clean campaign and said he has more integrity than Mr. Piper.

        Mr. Piper retorted: “He promises a clean campaign, and in the same breath makes a personal attack on my character. The future will show us how honest Mr. Gattermeyer is.”


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