By Dustin Ensinger
Delaware County Commissioner Ken O’Brien will remain in office, but he will not have an opportunity for a new four-year term for another two years.
O’Brien, who despite having more than two years remaining in his current term, was defeated in his effort to gain the Republican Party’s nod to replace retiring Commissioner Dennis Stapleton, whose term expires at the end of the year.
The second term commissioner was defeated by Genoa Township Trustee Barb Lewis, who garnered 56 percent of the vote, according to final but unofficial results from the Delaware County Board of Elections.
O’Brien received 27 percent of the vote while Ostrander Implement owner Mike Kelley received 17 percent of the vote.
“People really voted against Ken O’Brien because he was a typical politician trying to game the system,” Lewis said. “Voters expect and deserve a lot more from their elected officials.”
Lewis said she believes voters gave her the nod in the race because of her experience and vision for the county.
“We really have so much opportunity here and I really sense that people want to be able to take that opportunity to the next level and saw me as someone who could help them do that,” she said. “I really ran as a fresh voice for Delaware County and I do think that was a key in my victory.”
O’Brien attributed the loss to a lack of fund raising and campaigning. He did not hit the campaign trail until the final weeks of the campaign, he said.
“For the amount of time and the amount of money I spent, I was not surprised by the results,” he said.
He said he did not build a campaign early on because Delaware County Republican Party (DCRP) Chairman Bob Mann had promised to work with him to restructure the county’s economic development department, which was one of his main issues in the campaign. The promise went unfulfilled and O’Brien decided to officially get in the race, he said.
O’Brien also believes a campaign mailer sent out by Lewis pointing out that the party leadership would select his replacement in the event he prevailed in the primary and general election led to voter confusion.
“The negative piece really didn’t say anything it just confused people,” he said. “I his belief it was something conjured up with (Mann).”
Despite the defeat, O’Brien, who also lost his DCRP Central Committee seat, plans to run for re-election in 2016.
Kelley did not return a message left with him seeking comment.
Lewis will face Democrat Jacob Fathbruckner in the November general election. Outside of judicial races, no Democrat has won a county-wide race since the 1970s.
Dustin Ensinger can be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @EnsingerDG.