The battle in Cuyahoga is heating up.
The last remaining member of Cuyahoga County's election board says he's prepared for a dragdown fight with Ohio's secretary of state to keep his job. Robert Bennett, head of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections and chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, told reporters, "I think you're going to be seeing that this is going to be ratcheted up from here on out."
Bennett, you'll recall, is one of four board members that Brunner called on to resign after two election board employees were sentenced recently for rigging a 2004 recount and after numerous other problems with the administration of Cuyahoga's elections were revealed. Three of the board members resigned, but Bennett has been holding out and has promised to fight Brunner to the end.
Bennett called Brunner a "hypocrite" and noted that she hired Jean Burklo as her office's field director for nine Ohio counties after Burklo had been fired in April 2005 by former Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell for allegedly ordering records to be altered.
"If Brunner really cares about upholding the integrity of elections, she needs to match her actions with her rhetoric and remove this employee from her position immediately," Bennett said.
Brunner argued that Burklo was never criminally charged with any wrongdoing, unlike the two election board employees under Bennett's watch.
Yesterday, Attorney General Marc Dann got in on the fight, representing Brunner in a court hearing to discuss a restraining order Bennett filed to temporarily halt Brunner's attempt to oust him. The court denied the restraining order, and a hearing to discuss Brunner's complaint against Bennett will proceed on Monday.
While the focus should be on getting the best election administration for Ohio, partisan politics is bound to cloud this effort -- which some might say is a good argument for why states should not allow officials from political parties to serve on election boards in the first place.