A former Wood County commissioner has narrowly — unofficially — won the election for Wood County Common Pleas judge.
However, the race is close enough to possibly be within the range of a recount between candidates Joel Kuhlman and Corey Speweik.
With 66,298 votes cast, from 93,228 voters, as an unofficial count, Kuhlman had 27,651 (50.25%) and Speweik 27,381 (49.75%), according to the Wood County Board of Elections.
There are still 1,900 provisional ballots to be counted and Speweik said an “untold” number of mail-in ballots. For this election, mail-in ballots need to be postmarked Nov. 2, or earlier.
“We don’t know how many there are, because we don’t know who mailed them in,” Speweik said of mail-in ballots.
If, after all the votes are properly counted, there is still less than a half percent difference, then there would be a recount.
Neither candidate found that any traditional candidate issues were of interest to potential voters.
“I found, when I could be out and about, that most voters cared more about being able to just meet the candidate, as opposed to asking specific questions about how I expected to run the court, or staff or expected to manage cases before me,” Kuhlman said.
“My impression was that they wanted to know more about my history and my family and where I came from. I think just being able to identify with them personally became the motivating criterion for their votes.”
Experience and its application to the job was what Speweik heard the voters looking for.
“Apparently there were a lot of issues that resonated with voters, but talking with voters the two issues that I saw people most interested in is my experience as a magistrate and my experience as a prosecutor,” Speweik said. “You know, somebody that knows the system and knows how it works, hopefully, hits the ground running.”
This was one of the most closely-watched races in Wood County, with both men’s campaigns spending significant advertising dollars. There were also dozens of letters to the editor on the race.
Kuhlman, who lives in Perrysburg, works out of offices in Bowling Green and North Baltimore. As part of his job, he is the solicitor representing Bloomdale, Jerry City and North Baltimore.
Speweik has a practice in Perrysburg and is solicitor for several municipalities, including Wayne, Bradner, Risingsun, West Millgrove and Luckey.
The Wood County Court of Common Pleas hears felony, divorce, civil cases in amounts over $25,000, real estate, pipeline and zoning cases.
They each waxed philosophical about the race, but Kuhlman summed it up most succinctly.
“I hope to be on the winning side, but losing teaches perspective,” Kuhlman said.