Republican primary election ballot is set

Republican voters will have some choices to make in May with contested races for county auditor and Juvenile Court judge,
but for the first time Commissioner Cindy Carpenter is running unopposed.

West Chester Twp. Fiscal Officer Bruce Jones said he decided to seek the county’s chief financial officer role after it became apparent County Treasurer Nancy Nix might not be on the May 3 ballot. And he was right, Nix pulled petitions last week but decided not to run just hours before the filing deadline Wednesday.

With Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds under a criminal investigation, Jones said the time was right.

“Given the current situation with Roger it’s time we cleaned the slate,” Jones said. “I’m 100% positive the Butler County voters would welcome a new face. It’s been a long time. Somebody needs to step forward, voters need to be given a choice.”

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations and a special prosecutor from the Ohio Attorney General’s office are looking into whether Reynolds has done anything wrong in trying to get $1 million in public funds for mandated road improvements so his father’s West Chester Twp. property can be developed into a senior living community.

Reynolds is seeking re-election and told the Journal-News on Saturday he’ll fight to keep office.

“It’s unfortunate that a local zoning dispute has risen to this level,” Reynolds said. “I look forward to answering the accusations and continuing as auditor. My team and I are doing tremendous work in the office and we’re not going to be distracted by petty politics.”

He wouldn’t comment about his latest challenger.

Jones was elected as the township fiscal officer in 2011, 2015 and 2019. He grew up in Hamilton, went to Miami University and has also lived in Fairfield. He also serves as chairman of the Butler County Planning Commission, on the board of the Butler County Township Association, Butler County Transportation Improvement District and vice president of Butler County Right to Life.

Reynolds is a CPA and Jones is a realtor by profession but said he will be a fulltime auditor if he wins. He said few county auditors are CPAs and he has the credentials to do the job. On his watch the township has achieved a AAA bond rating, the highest possible, and won the Auditor of State award eight out of nine years in office and “I have a reputation for integrity and that’s what we need now more than ever.”

Nix pulled petitions last week to challenge Reynolds in the auditor’s race but decided not to file after collecting signatures and talking with other officials and constituents. She told the Journal-News previously county officials wanted her to be a “placeholder” if Reynolds is criminally charged, and they need her to lead the top financial office in the county.

Nix had pounded the pavement over the weekend seeking signatures for her petition, but says she felt they should just “let it play out” in terms of Reynolds’ future.

Nix did not file those petitions by the Feb. 2 deadline and said, “we just have to see what trouble comes down for Roger, it’s all speculation at this point.”

“What I’ve felt from the beginning is let it play out,” Nix said. “If Roger has done wrong he will face the appropriate consequences and I think if the (Republican) Party has to determine who will take his place they will make the right decision.”

She said she and Reynolds have been friends and colleagues for 14 years in office and a long divisive fight wouldn’t do anyone, especially county residents any good. She said she had misgivings about running from the start and another county official said “anytime you’re that undecided it’s just best to do nothing and I thought that’s so true.”

“I think that’s what sort of swayed me at the end, there were just so many opposing views because there are just so many factors, and no one knows and it’s all speculation,” Nix said. “It’s hard to run against a 14-year partner, I don’t care what you say but it gets personal when you’re running against somebody. You can say oh no we’re friends and it’s not personal that’s not true, it’s always personal. And when you are dragging two offices that have been so close for so long, it just didn’t feel right.”

Todd Hall, chairman of the county Republican Party said Jones filed to late to be on the endorsement ballot but Reynolds will be considered when they vote soon.

“Nancy is a terrific county treasurer, and I appreciate her thought process regarding the auditor’s office,” Hall said. “I prefer to let the process play out, and support our incumbent auditor unless or until something would change.”

There are two other colleagues who will be facing off in May — assistant prosecutors Jim Monk and Dan Phillips are seeking the Republican nomination for Juvenile Court judge now that Judge Kathleen Romans has to retire due to her age.

Monk, 62, has been chief of the Juvenile Court Division of the prosecutor’s office for 16 years and Area Courts for the past five. He said a smooth transition is needed.

“I started up here in 2004 and I’ve never left,” Monk said. “I’ve stayed there for a reason, I think the court’s important and I think you need to have qualified experienced people to run that court and people with the passion for that court. In Butler County I do know who has more experience and qualifications.”

Phillips, 41, was an assistant prosecutor in the Juvenile Court for two years before moving to the felony division.

“I made a difference in Juvenile Court when I was a Juvenile Court prosecutor and as a judge I believe I can make a difference for the rest of my career,” Phillips said. “You’re dealing with a lot of different things that you’re not dealing with in adult court, we have to be geared toward rehabilitation and toward protecting children. That has to always, always be our number one goal.”

Unlike Nix, the two men say they are friends too and won’t let the campaign change that.

“I consider Dan a friend, I never considered this to be a fight between me and Dan, this isn’t about me, this isn’t about Dan,” Monk said. “This race is about the kids and families of Butler County. I think you have to have that type of experience to lead that court.”

Phillips said he also has a deep commitment to the court.

“I have nothing against Jim, I just believe I would be the best candidate,” Phillips said. “As do many others that is why (county prosecutor) Mike Gmoser has endorsed me, that’s why Sheriff Jones has endorsed me that’s why many other elected officials and prominent Republicans have endorsed me.”

Gmoser told the Journal-News he endorsed Phillips before Monk announced his candidacy, saying “they are both very qualified individuals but I had made my endorsement for Dan early before Jim got into it and thought it would be appropriate to maintain my endorsement.”

Commissioner Cindy Carpenter is running for a fourth term and for the first time is unopposed in the primary. She will have a challenger in November — Democrat Latisha Hazell.

“I’ve always had to run both campaigns ... both primary and the general,” Carpenter said. “I think that means our Butler County Republican leaders understand how important it is to get through recovery from the COVID pandemic. Because of that leadership I didn’t have an opponent.”

Hazell is a political rookie and understands she will face a formidable opponent in the fall. She has worked in the public sector for 21 years at the state level, some with school districts and currently is the deputy Human Resources director for the city of Cincinnati.

The West Chester Twp. resident said she is running because “diversity matters” and the commission should be reflective of the entire county.

“It’s not really her that I am up against the reality is she is the incumbent,” Hazell said. “It’s wanting to be part of the change in my community.”

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