In the true spirit of judicial elections, I say let’s make this November’s election of a new judge a completely nonpartisan race.
To recap the facts, Logan County Family Court Judge C. Douglas Chamberlain has announced his retirement effective Tuesday.
Credit to Judge Chamberlain for making his decision to enter his retirement in a manner timely enough to expediently decide who his replacement will be.
But when we examine the tight timeline ahead of the election, the need for a nonpartisan race is clear.
First, any apt lawyer who wishes to fill the seat can file as an independent by the end of the business day Aug. 10. The local Democrat and Republican parties, however, have until the end of the day Aug. 13 to decide who they want to put a rubber stamp on.
And with a broad selection of well-qualified individuals currently being mentioned for consideration — Steve Fansler, Dan Bratka, Linda MacGillivray, Thomas Minahan and Howard Traul II come to mind — the Republicans will have a tough decision to make.
Any of these individuals would make a fine judge, but the problem lies in who gets that official (R) behind their name.
In theory, the Republican Party could wait until Aug. 12 and announce who they want to appear on the ballot and deny any of the others a chance to run as an independent. And that would not only be unfair to the candidates, but the voters of Logan County as a whole.
So in fairness, if the party decides to make an endorsement, they should do so before Aug. 10 and leave the remainder of the field with a chance to run as independents.
On the other hand, the parties could choose not to decide and leave that decision entirely up to the voters.
How I would love to have a real election for a judgeship instead of letting the tight cadre of party decision-makers hand us our new judge — as happens in politics more times than we may like to admit.
And if the Republican Party chooses not to endorse a candidate, I suggest the local Democrats follow suit and make this a completely nonpartisan race as judicial races were originally intended to be conducted.
And that leaves the question of who gets to sit on the bench during the four-month interim.
A good question, but also one that doesn’t necessarily need to be answered.
It is technically up to Gov. John Kasich to decide, but even he could waive his right in this particular case and let the people themselves decide.
Judge Chamberlain has said he is willing to continue to serve on the bench as long as necessary. While he has said he will do it for free, I would suggest continuing to pay him his regular salary if we choose to ask him to serve the entire four-and-a-half months leading up to the elections.
It may be a bit of double-dipping, but I personally would have no problem with that in order to create a completely level playing field for the slate of candidates that could potentially emerge in this race.
With no primary in which, at least, the rank-and-file local party members get to weigh in, I believe it is more important now than ever for the parties to remain neutral and decide not to decide.
And honestly, if the Republican Party does choose to endorse a candidate, I will undoubtedly see their person as Logan County’s new rubber stamp judge.
Let’s keep this judicial election what it is supposed to be: Independent.
Reuben Mees is an Examiner staff writer, independent voter and advocate of fair elections. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.