Sheila McLaughlin reports:
Political newcomer T.C. Rogers came out of nowhere to barely take the lead (by 24 votes) in Tuesday’s Republican primary for Butler County commissioner.Provisional and mailed absentee ballots still have to be counted, and that won’t likely happen until March 20. So the results could change and Courtney Combs could wind up the winner.
There’s no question about Commissioner Chuck Furmon though. He won’t be back next year after the surprise upset.
“Chuck is retired. I’ll finish my obligation. But there’s a lot of Pitch (a card game) to be played,” Furmon said Wednesday while removing campaign signs with his wife Peg. “I’m grateful for the time that I’ve been allowed to serve the citizens of Butler County. I have no regrets.”
Furmon said he has “no read” on how he came up short in the primary election, but he said he was shocked that Rogers took the lead.
“The politics right now from the top down is just so strange. The party is just fractured,” Furmon said.
The Butler County GOP did not endorse any of the commission candidates.
Rogers received 11,482 votes to Combs’ 11,458 votes, according to unofficial election results. Furmon received 9,310 votes.
Election results posted online late Tuesday as complete showed that Rogers won by a mere seven votes. However, Butler County election officials said Wednesday that paper ballots cast at some polling places were still being counted at the time.
Rogers was out taking his signs down too on Wednesday. He is keeping them for November, confident that he’ll be on the ballot.
“We just worked it. You have to pick your spots. I think the presidential election shows that you can’t do the same things you did four years ago and win,” Rogers said.
Rogers, a home builder and real estate agent from West Chester Township, said he won straw pulls in West Chester and Fairfield, where he has had a business for years.
He ampaigned on reckless spending in Butler County government while Combs and Furmon focused on development and creating jobs.
Rogers thinks Furmon and Combs were grabbing votes away from each other in Hamilton, where both have support bases.
Furmon retired from the City of Hamilton as a police officer and served as mayor there.
Combs, a state representative who lives in nearby Ross Township, has represented Hamilton in Ohio District 54 since 2004. He’s losing that job at the end of the year because of term limits. He did not return several calls for comment.
Jocelyn Bucaro, Butler County elections director, said results of the commission race could be announced on March 20, when 440 provisional ballots will be counted.
Election workers also will count any absentee ballots that were mailed in and postmarked by March 5, she said. There are about 320 absentee ballots still out, she said.
If the margin between Rogers and Combs remains less than half of 1 percent, state law calls for an automatic recount.
Whoever comes out the winner will face Democrat Jodi Billerman of Liberty Township and Libertarian Daryl Olthaus, a registered nurse from Somerville, in the November race for county commissioner.