2008-01-12 / News

Van Buren replaces Phelps on county commission

By Charles Prince

NEWARK - Harrison Township Trustee Mark Van Buren fared better Tuesday night with the Democratic Party Central Committee than he has with county voters.

He was the overwhelming choice to serve out the one year remaining of Marcia Phelps' term as county commissioner. Phelps was elected Municipal Court Clerk last November and took officeJanuary 1. She endorsed Van Buren as her replacement before the central committee meeting.

The six Democrats that filed for the March primary - Van Buren, Billie Allen, Thomas Gaunder, Thomas Wolford, Beth Deering and Michael Weise - were candidates for the appointment.

Van Buren has run for county commissioner three times. Most recently, he lost to Commissioner Doug Smith in November 2006 by a 30,420 to 27,053. In November 2004, he lost to Commissioner Tim Bubb by a 43,523 to 29,639 votes. He didn't have primary opposition in 2004 or 2006.

In November 2000, Van Buren lost to Commissioner Albert Ashbrook by a 34,140 to 24,418 vote.

Van Buren joins Bubb and Smith on the three-member board. Both Bubb and Van Buren face primary opposition in March. Dan Gartner is opposing Bubb in March for the Republican nomination, while Lester Grennell and Doug Moreland are seeking the Democratic nomination.

Competition to succeed Phelps is particularly strong. Six Republicans are seeking the nomination including Union Township resident Rick Black, Municipal Court Clerk candidate Brad Feightner, David Johnson, Todd Johnson, Doug Joseph and Tonia Short. On the Democratic side, six candidates, including Van Buren, are seeking the nomination - Beth A. Deering, Michael M. Weise, Thomas E. Gaunder, Thomas Wolford and Billie R. Allen.

Three Licking County officeholders have no opposition in the primary election or from Democrats. They are Coroner Robert Raker, County Engineer Tim Lollo and Treasurer Michael Smith. Two other incumbents face opposition in the Republican primary - Sheriff Randy Thorp from former Sheriff Gerry Billy and Prosecutor Ken Oswalt from Jody R. Richter, but no Democrats filed for the offices.

County Recorder Bryan A. Long will face Democrat Dale Burns in November. Common Pleas Court Clerk Gary R. Walters will face Democrat Gerald A. McLaughlin in November. Common Pleas Judge Thomas Marcelain is unopposed. Common Pleas Juvenile/Probate Judge Robert H. Hoover will be challenged by Democrat Geoffrey Judge in November. Doug E. Sassen and Richard P. Wright are seeking the Republican nomination for the open Common Pleas-Domestic judge slot. Vicky M. Christiansen and Jerry Swank are seeking the Democrat nomination for the position.

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