Stark County voters appeared to be sending Richard Regula back to the commissioner seat he left six years ago.
Stark County voters agreed to send Richard Regula back to the commissioner seat he left six years ago.
Regula led with 52.5 percent of the vote over Democratic challenger Bill Smuckler, according to unofficial election results.
As of 1 a.m. Wednesday, Regula was leading by more than 8,000 votes — 86,302 to Smuckler’s 77,666. That doesn’t include paper ballots cast on Tuesday, some absentee ballots and provisional ballots.
Regula had trailed Smuckler significantly when early results were released, but took the lead around 11:30 p.m., unofficial results show.
If Regula keeps his lead, he will succeed Commissioner Peter Ferguson, who did not seek a second term, and will join Commissioner Janet Weir Creighton, a Republican, and Commissioner Thomas Bernabei, a Democrat who was unopposed this election. The position pays $76,976 a year, plus benefits.
Regula, who campaigned on better funding infrastructure projects and cutting county health care costs, served as commissioner between 2003 and 2007.
He is the director of market outreach for Mercy Medical Center, but plans to work only part-time once he takes office.
Commissioners next year will face multiple weighty decisions such as how to handle the rebounding county revenues, how to spend the county’s share of the Ohio casino profits, how to administer the county’s nearly nonexistent ditch program as well as whether to pursue a countywide computer-aided dispatch system.
Commissioners last month locked in the health insurance rates for county employees through 2016, with employees eventually paying 15 percent of their health care premiums, which is the level that Regula said he would seek if elected.