Perhaps voters in the Barberton court district thought four clerks in five years was enough.
They opted to keep Diana Stevenson, appointed clerk last year, in the seat Tuesday, instead of electing state Rep. Zack Milkovich.
Stevenson, a Republican, was leading Milkovich with just over 70 percent of the vote, according to unofficial election results provided by the Summit County Board of Elections.
“It feels good,” said Stevenson, a Republican. “It’s definitely a relief.”
The clerk’s race was heated, which isn’t the norm for a position that is largely administrative, though it does come with perks, including a $97,000 a year salary and 13 patronage positions.
Stevenson, 46, of Barberton, who has a law degree and has been a magistrate and assistant county prosecutor, painted herself as the more qualified candidate, including sending out a recent mailer that said “WARNING!” in big red letters, followed by, “MILKOVICH is totally UNQUALIFIED!” She also pointed to different issues that have been raised about Milkovich, including property taxes that were owed, and have since been paid, on several properties he co-owned, and misleading wording on his initial yard signs.
Milkovich, 48, of Barberton, who has a high school diploma and some college and is in his second term in the Statehouse, questioned whether Stevenson has been aggressive enough in collecting outstanding fines owed to the court and a $3 increase in court fees made for legal research. (The judges made the decision to increase the fee.)
“When it comes down to it, the last couple of weeks have certainly been stressful,” said Stevenson, who spent election night with her husband, picking up yard signs. “I am glad it’s over.”
Milkovich, a Democrat, congratulated Stevenson on her victory and said he learned a lot from her and her team.
“I am going to put this tough loss behind me and continue my fight for the working class people of my Statehouse district,” he said in a text message. “They deserved better and I hoped to get it for them from the clerk’s office. With God’s help, we will make a difference in Columbus.”
Stevenson will fulfill the unexpired term of Christine Croce, now a Barberton judge, that runs through January 2015.
The Barberton clerks over the past five years were: Andrea Norris, who stepped down from the seat in 2009; Andy Padrutt, who was appointed to Norris’ spot, but lost in the primary; Croce, who was elected clerk in 2009 but left the seat after being elected as Barberton judge in 2011; and Stevenson, who was tapped to replace Croce in January 2012.
The Barberton court district includes Barberton, Norton, Green, New Franklin, the village of Clinton, and Copley and Coventry townships.
Voters gave different reasons for their decisions in the clerk’s race.
Carla Steiner of Copley, who voted at Copley High School, didn’t want to reveal who she voted for, but said she had also received a lot more literature from one of the candidates.
“One of the candidates was very nice,” she said. “That influenced my decision.”
Nancy Roth of Copley wasn’t shy about her vote. She said she always vote Democratic, but “this time I didn’t.”
“I didn’t like what I read about him,” she said of Milkovich. “She [Stevenson] seems to have better qualifications.”
Marilyn Scheffer of Copley said she read online about the candidates’ plans if they were elected.
“I prefer one over the other based on what I read,” she said.
Scheffer was surprised by the controversy in the clerk’s race.
In the Barberton judge race also on Tuesday’s ballot, Judge David Fish, currently in his first term, held onto his seat, defeating Jill Flagg, a trial attorney.