NEW LEXINGTON — When Jim O’Brien decided to step away from his county commissioner position after serving Perry County since 2012, a two-man race featuring two longtime, well-known names in Perry County emerged for the vacancy.
A ballot featuring Fondale versus Householder would have created an outstanding voter turnout, but the stunning arrest of former Ohio Speaker of the House, Larry Householder, overshadowed all but one aspect of this Perry County race.
Derek Householder, the Republican candidate in the commissioner’s race, is the son of Larry and Taundra Householder. The Democratic opponent facing Derek is Frank Fondale. Despite every Ohio media outlet covering the news about his father, Derek is focused on his first foray into politics.
He formerly had been employed at Buckingham Coal for several years as a coal prep operator before a company-wide layoff cost him his job. In an interview earlier this year in our sister paper, The Logan Daily News, Derek was quoted as saying, “he knew firsthand how fragile good paying jobs are in our area.” His personal employment experience is why he plans, if elected, to follow the same full-time commissioner approach that current commissioner, Scott Owen, has chosen.
“I like the way Scott has devoted his entire time to the job, and I intend to do the same thing when elected,” said Derek.
The other driving force behind his decision to pursue public office is to continue “moving Perry County forward.” Re-electing President Trump is key to keeping Perry County in forward gear, according to Derek. When asked why he believes the city born and raised President Trump, who inherited his wealth from his father, strikes such a resounding chord with hardworking rural populations, Derek immediately cited two reasons.
“He fights for what he believes in is one, and he does what he says he’s going to do, that’s the second reason. Those two factors appeal to the values of people in our area. Under Donald Trump is the best economy Perry County has seen in 100 years, up until COVID-19,” stated Derek.
When describing how he has been presenting his campaign message, Derek says COVID-19 has adversely affected candidates’ ability to communicate their positions to the voting public.
“I’m not a Facebook guy so making phone calls is one of my primary ways to gain support,” he remarked.
With alleged illegal campaign finances at the core of the indictment facing his father and four other men identified by authorities, Derek explained why he has received donations from sources not anywhere close to Perry County. One such place is Cleveland, Ohio, where he received campaign donations from a group called Political Education Patterns.
“This group represents Local #18, which includes highway workers from Shelley,” explained Derek. He further explained that their individual donations go through this group’s central office in Cleveland. Searching for this group will take you to a page that identifies it as the Political Arm International Union Operating Engineers Local 18.
When asked what action he would follow if it was ascertained he had inadvertently accepted “dark money” or illegal campaign donations, Derek’s responded without hesitation.
“I can’t have a dark money contribution. It’s impossible,” Derek emphatically stated. He further detailed the forms he must periodically complete identifying every campaign donor, the amount of the their donation, and when the donation was received.
While the commissioner candidate declined to reveal how his family is handling the situation that cost his father the Speaker’s position, he did express gratitude for the responses his family has received from supporters.
“There has been a real outpouring of support, and that’s been greatly appreciated. My family is as much committed now as they’ve ever been to the people of Perry County,” related Derek.
Perry County voters will make the final call in what will be a very interesting county commissioners race in November.