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Thomas O’Grady, Tim Russo and Walter Allen Rogers Jr. Run as Outsiders for County Executive

Friday, May 2, 2014 at 5:06 PM

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The past two days we've reported on the Democratic candidates for Cuyahoga County executive -- State Rep. Armond Budish, State Sen. Shirley Smith and former County Sheriff Bob Reid. Today ideastream's Nick Castele covers the rest of the field.

Photo Gallery

Walter Allen Rogers Jr. poses for a photo in front of a work of art in his apartment. (Nick Castele / ideastream) At a March 2013 county council meeting, Tim Russo argues against changes to Ohio voting rules. (Photo: Nick Castele) Thomas O'Grady poses for a photo in his school office. (Nick Castele / ideastream) All six Democratic candidates for Cuyahoga County executive debated at the City Club in April 2014.

This piece is part of a series examining the candidates for Cuyahoga County executive. Listen to a piece on Armond Budish here, and a piece on Shirley Smith and Bob Reid here.

Thomas O’Grady, Tim Russo and Walter Allen Rogers Jr. may be back-of-the-pack candidates but they’ve also been the most interesting—at least in one respect:  they’ve had the sharpest criticisms of Cuyahoga County government during this campaign.

O’Grady says the county has misspent money on a new headquarters in downtown Cleveland. And he says it’s helping squander state and local resources on the Opportunity Corridor - a road project linking I-490 to University Circle through some of Northeast Ohio’s poorest neighborhoods.

“You take those two projects together, that’s half a billion dollars,” O’Grady said. “With half a billion dollars, we could do incredible things for our neighborhoods. We can reenergize our neighborhoods.”

O’Grady admits he can’t halt either. And his alternative plan for neighborhoods is light on specifics, but he suggests building satellite county offices in the region’s most depressed areas.

Thomas O’Grady is a former Army officer. He’s a 12th grade principal at a high school on Cleveland’s west side. He’s had ups and downs as a politician, but he has served as city councilman and Mayor of North Olmsted.

He threw his hat in the ring for county executive on the last day possible—angered that the Democratic Party Executive Committee had already endorsed Armond Budish by then. 

“That’s wrong,” O’Grady said. “Really what happens in those cases is the people of influence and power have decided who the next executive is going to be, and the people themselves are bypassed.”

Tim Russo, another Democrat in the running, has never held political office and has called his candidacy an act of performance art. He is the most vocal candidate opposing the sin tax which pays for upkeep of professional sports stadiums. He’s made that the crux of his campaign.

“The richest people in Cuyahoga County have carte blanche on every taxpayer dollar that comes into the county, and I want to bring that to an end,” Russo said.

Russo doesn’t have a paying job, according to Cleveland.com. He has done some campaign organizing in the past and is a political blogger now, living at home with his mother. He says he hasn’t asked anyone for money for his campaign—he says he wants to take money out of politics. Also a part of his record is a sex-related criminal conviction. 

“I paid a very high price for what I did 12 years ago,” he said. “I’m paying it now, talking to you.”

And rounding out the list is Walter Allen Rogers Jr.—the most unlikely politician of the six candidates. I met him in his East Cleveland apartment. He’s a photographer and artist. Hanging on the wall is a multicolored painting of flowers and butterflies.

He says he’s got a word for politicians—suspects.

“They’re all suspects,” Rogers said. “They’re suspected of doing nothing.”

And now you’ve heard from all of them. The election’s next Tuesday. 

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