Alex Butler, a graduate of Hillsboro High School and of Xavier University, has filed to run for Highland County commissioner as an unaffiliated candidate.
Butler is seeking the seat being vacated by the retirement of Tom Horst. Also seeking the same seat are Republican candidates Terry Britton and Barb Cole, as well as Democratic candidate Tara Campbell.
In a press release Tuesday, Butler said, “I will be running as an independent for one simple reason. This will allow me to focus on the issues while not being distracted by politics.”
He said he decided to run because despite hard times in Highland County, “there has always been one eternal redeeming quality about the county we can all be proud of, our citizens. That is why I have a strong desire to serve in this community.”
Butler has historically been a registered Republican, and is listed as a Republican on the board of elections website under “party.” He voted in GOP primary elections in 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014, according to election board records. He said he spent considerable time making sure he is eligible to run as an unaffiliated candidate.
In a 2013 story, The Times-Gazette reported that candidates running unaffiliated “must demonstrate they are actually unaffiliated with either the Republican or Democratic parties – in part by not having voted in the past two primary elections.”
Steve Witham, elections administrator with the Highland County Board of Elections, said in 2013 that after consulting with the Ohio Secretary of State’s office, the standard of whether a person has voted in the past two primary elections “will be applied to anyone claiming to be an independent candidate.”
Witham was unavailable this week due to a death in the family. Debbie Craycraft, director of the local election board, said Tuesday that she discussed Butler’s candidacy with the Secretary of State’s office. She said they referred her to the Ohio Candidate Requirement Guide, which states, “An independent candidate must actually be unaffiliated from any political party, and the required claim of being unaffiliated must be made in good faith for the candidate to be qualified to run as an independent candidate.”
Craycraft said Butler’s status as an unaffiliated candidate will be considered valid unless it is formally challenged, and “anything can be challenged.” Plus, she noted that if Butler does not vote in the 2016 primary, sitting out both the 2015 and 2016 primaries would likely fulfill the requirement stated by Witham in 2013, if that interpretation is valid.
Butler said Tuesday he looked into the subject before deciding to run and found that the interpretation of the requirements to run as an independent were often vague. He said he studied the material on the Secretary of State’s website, inquired of election officials, looked at specific cases, and has “no reservations” that he is qualified to run as an unaffiliated candidate.
In his press release, Butler said, “I have had the good fortune of calling Highland County my home for the past 25 years. Many of you may know me from my years of exposure to local government, possibly through my community service and/or my families’ small businesses.”
Butler said, “I graduated from Hillsboro High School in 2009, received an Associate’s Degree in Biblical Studies from Cincinnati Christian University in 2011, and in 2014, completed my B.A in business administration from Xavier University. Most recently, I’ve been working in the competitive world of the start-up business for Jarvis Corp., a Chicago-based LED light manufacturer. Regardless of where I went to school or what city I was working in, I always stayed in touch with the community and kept my finger on its pulse.”
Butler said that in recent years, Highland County has “had many difficult challenges.”
He said, “The economic downturn left our county with a soaring unemployment rate which intensified the drug epidemic, stressed our county budget and caused financial instability among many of our citizens. In today’s global economy, small rural counties like Highland County – whose economy is mostly dependent on agriculture and manufacturing – struggle to compete in the ever-outsourcing world. Naturally, these issues have made life in Highland County more difficult for many of us.”
Butler said, “During the past 25 years, I have seen the county go through plenty of good times and unfortunately – and more recently – bad times as well. Regardless of the situation, there has always been one eternal redeeming quality about the county we can all be proud of, our citizens. That is why I have a strong desire to serve in this community.”
Butler said he is running as an independent in order to focus on the issues and not be distracted by politics, because “we have real challenges to overcome to be competitive in the future. None of the previously mentioned issues have political solutions.”
Butler said, “In spite of our challenges, I believe in Highland County and see opportunity all around us. We have a solid manufacturing base to build upon, new jobs to attract, tourism opportunities to invest in, families to raise, and addicts to heal. I am confident that with a young, fresh perspective, enthusiastic leadership, teamwork, and working cooperatively with local non-profit agencies, faith-based organizations, and surrounding counties’ resources, Highland County can and will prosper in the future.”
Butler said that if elected to the commission, “I pledge to the citizens of this county to work across the political aisle to achieve progress, bring a fresh perspective and enthusiastic leadership, aggressively solicit new investment and work on the further expansion of our existing manufacturing base, which will create more/new jobs, work closely with law enforcement in an attempt to mitigate the drug epidemic and reign in the skyrocketing costs of Job and Family Services as a result of the epidemic.”
Butler said he is interested in hearing opinions, ideas and concerns from citizens.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.