Portage County Commissioners Flip To 2-1 Republican Majority
Updated: 2:15 a.m., Wedensday, Nov. 4, 2020
For the first time in decades, Republicans have taken the majority of Portage County Commissioners seats, according to unofficial election results in two races early Wednesday morning.
Republican Tony Badalamenti defeated incumbent Democrat Kathleen Clyde, 40,712 to 36,258 votes.
And incumbent Republican Sabrina Christian-Bennett held off Democratic challenger John Kennedy, by more than 10,000 votes to win her second term as commissioner.
Clyde was appointed to the seat in 2018 when Democrat Mike Kerrigan resigned nearly a month after being elected. This year, Clyde was running to be elected for her first full term.
Badalamenti narrowly lost that election to Kerrigan.
A chiropractor from Aurora, Badalamenti campaigned on the claim that Portage County residents are tired of politicians like Clyde, who he said is more focused on national politics than her role at the local level.
"I really think Clyde never appreciated the job that she was given, and a lot of people in the county realized that she didn't want to be present," Badalamenti told ideastream late Tuesday night, after the race was called. "This was just a step-over that she was given that she didn't really care for. That sentiment resonated through the county quite a bit."
Clyde, who grew up in Garrettsville and now resides in Kent, campaigned largely on her plan to work on the county’s COVID-19 response by ramping up testing in the area.
This is the first time in decades, Badalamenti said, that Republicans have held two commissioners' seats in the county. With Portage voters also favoring President Donald Trump and Republican candidate for sheriff Bruce Zuchowski, Badalamenti said this election shows that Democrats are not attracting voters in the county.
"[Democrats] stuck on a narrative that does not resonate well with the county," he said. "The county wants to be open, the county wants leaders to be present, and they didn't do that at all."
As commissioner, Badalamenti is looking forward to creating a strategic plan for the county, he said. The county currently does not have a comprehensive vision in writing for the future, he said.
"I've watched other counties – once they had their strategic plan ... they began to prosper," he said. "I think Portage County has some great opportunities, and we've got some great years ahead of us."
Counties can get extra funding from the state, he added, if they complete a strategic plan.
Portage County Commissioner Kathleen Clyde lost her seat to Republican challenger Tony Badalamenti, according to unofficial election results. [Kathleen Clyde]
Christian-Bennett, who owns a title company headquartered in Ravenna, touted her experience as a small business owner on the campaign trail, which she said has prepared to make tough decisions required of county commissioners. During her second term, she plans to focus on workforce development, housing those who are recovering from addiction, and creating a five-year comprehensive plan for the county, she said.
Her opponent, Kennedy, an I.T. manager who resides in Aurora, focused on COVID-19 financial relief during the campaign. He recently volunteered at food pantries, and said he saw first-hand that many county residents are experiencing poverty for the first time due to the pandemic.
Democrat John Kennedy lost his bid for Portage County Commissioner to incumbent Republican Sabrina Christian-Bennett. [John Kennedy]
After Tuesday's election, Vicki Kline will be the sole Democrat commissioner in Portage County.