Politics has already turned ugly in Butler County this election season

Early voting started Wednesday for the Nov. 7 election, and some Butler County races are already heating up with accusations of misconduct and more thrown about.

1. Butler County Democrats launch website targeting West Chester trustee

Those who want to see West Chester Twp. Trustee Mark Welch lose in November have launched an opposition website while the candidate's landing page is still "under construction."

Butler County Democrats launched MarkWelchForTrustee.org on Tuesday, the day before early voting was set to start in Ohio. The landing page of Welch's campaign site — MarkWelchForTrustee.com — indicated as of Thursday morning the site is not ready, but an Internet search found live links to the site's pages.

The opposition website consists primarily of news stories and court filings over the past four years, but Welch said the claims “are shallow” and involve “extenuating circumstances.”

“The township is being run by special interests at the expense of West Chester families. It’s time to clean up West Chester government and start fresh with new leadership,” said Butler County Democratic Party Executive Chairwoman Jocelyn Bucaro.

2. Lakota board candidates dispute 1 man’s claims he is sole block to higher taxes

Lakota Board of Education Vice President Todd Parnell told the Journal-News: "I am the only fiscal conservative running" and if voters were to choose some of the other five candidates, residents risk seeing a school tax hike.

Explore MORE: Why the stakes in this year’s Lakota board race are historically high

The other school board candidates say Parnell’s claim isn’t so.

“It is disingenuous for Mr. Parnell to guarantee there will be no levy while he is on the board. You cannot make that kind of guarantee when you only have one vote,” said candidate Kelley Casper.

Board candidate Brad Lovell said for Parnell “to make the comment that there will be no levy if one person is elected is a bit irresponsible in my opinion.”

Fellow Lakota board incumbent Ray Murray, a veteran manager for national hotel chains, was puzzled by Parnell’s contention of being the current board’s lone representative of private industry.

“Quite a curious statement since I am a businessman myself,” said Murray. “But I do not think this district need business skills on the board as much as they need leadership skills. The ability to inspire and encourage others to be their very best is far more important than business skills.”

Candidate Jason Baldwin said of Parnell’s contention that he is the best candidate to prevent a tax hike, “I feel that this isn’t the case.”

“No one wants to see another levy. We are in great financial shape right now,” said Baldwin, whose statement is backed up by Lakota district officials.

Explore MORE: Lakota officials project financial stability

Also on the ballot is Ernest Gause, who responded by saying “Mr. Parnell is not the only fiscal conservative running,” and criticized Parnell and other board members for not controlling cost increases in the 16,500-student district.

“If Parnell is the only business voice on the board, then in the words of (President) Donald Trump, “you’re fired.”

3. Middletown judge accused of using city-paid newsletter to campaign

Some have complained that Middletown Municipal Court Judge Melynda Cook Howard used city-paid collateral to campaign for the upcoming election, according to an email sent by the Middletown city manager to city council.

The city affords the municipal court space in a water bill insert to relay information to Middletown residents. Cook Howard, who was appointed in May, recently used the space to introduce herself to the community.

Explore RELATED: More Butler County voters request absentee ballots

The biography for Cook Howard states she will run “to retain this judicial seat in the November 7, 2017 election.” It makes no mention if she’s opposed or of her opponents, local attorneys James Sherron and Beth Yauch. The biography also states, “The late judge Mark W. Wall … entrusted her with his court before his passing.”

Gov. John Kasich’s office appointed the former defense attorney to the judgeship some 3½ months after Wall’s death. In that time, the Ohio Supreme Court had assigned three retired judges to hear cases until an appointment was made.

“I would certainly categorize Judge Cook Howard’s remarks as approaching campaigning,” Adkins told city council.

Cook Howard insists the remarks are “not a form of campaigning” and said the print was “okayed” by the city and any complaints are part of a political opponent’s campaign.

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