Four join race for Ottawa County commissioner

OAK HARBOR Four independents -- including apharmacist facing drug charges -- havetaken out petitions for the Ottawa CountyCom
May 24, 2010



Four independents -- including apharmacist facing drug charges -- havetaken out petitions for the Ottawa CountyCommissioner's race.

They are: Joseph Baumgartner, a Salem Township resident who owns the Medicine Shoppe in Pemberville; Kenneth Benjamin, a Put-in-Bay resident who is president of a local industrial marketing agency and a past president of the Erie-Ottawa Regional Airport; Robert J. Hensley, an Erie Township resident; and Jeffrey M. Streng, a Danbury Township resident.

The two commissioners' seats up forelection are held by Steve Arndt, who isrunning for re-election, and outgoingcommissioner Carl Koebel, who announced his retirement in December.

Independent candidates have until the March 3 filing date to declare which seat they will pursue, but all the candidates have unofficially indicated a seat, said Monette Garn, deputy director of the Ottawa County Board of Elections.

Baumgartner, who faces felony and misdemeanor drug charges in Ottawa County, plans to run for Arndt's seat.

"There's a lot of things wrong in that county that need to be straightened out," said Baumgartner, who previously sat on the Benton-Carroll-Salem Board of Education. "I'm just thinking fresh faces, fresh ideas. I think it's time for Ottawa County to start taking care of itself."

Baumgartner said he received the highest number of votes in three school board elections.

The drug charges stem from prescription medicines found when police searched Baumgartner's home during an investigation of his wife, disbarred attorney Elsebeth Baumgartner. She is appealing two convictions in Erie and Cuyahoga counties for intimidation, retaliation, failure to comply with an officer and eluding police.

Joseph Baumgartner said he will address the drug charges when he begins his campaign.

"People definitely know me, and they'll know what I think and mostly agree with me," he said. "I believe in America you're innocent until proven guilty. I've been harassed and stalked, but they haven't proven anything."

Benjamin, Streng and Hensley told elections officials they plan to run for Koebel's seat, Garn said.

Benjamin, president of Put-in-Bay-based Benjamin Company, said he wants to improve Ottawa County.

"I'm interested in the community," Benjamin said. "I'm interested in furthering Ottawa County's prosperity and helping the current commissioners in any way I can."

Streng could not be reached because his phone number is not listed.

Hensley could not be reached because his listed phone number was disconnected.

The four independents must receive 175 signatures on their petitions from registered voters and file the petitions before 4 p.m. March 3 at the board of elections office, Garn said.

The independent candidates will run in the Nov. 4 general election against the winners of the March 4 primary election, Garn said.

In the primary race for Koebel's seat, Port Clinton Council president Linda Hartlaub and Robert Krompak will seek the Democratic vote, while Republican voters will choose between Elmore Mayor Lowell Krumnow and Mark W. Stahl.

In the race for Arndt's seat, Port Clinton Councilwoman Debra Benko, a Democrat, and Arndt, a Republican, have no competition in the primary.