Columns and Editorials

‘Mystery Candidate’ Has Been Tool of Ohio’s Oldest Political Machine

Interview Reveals William R. Smith as Opposed to the Piketon Nuclear Dump

By Geoffrey Sea

smith

William R. Smith — photo provided by the candidate

UPDATE: On May 7, after this article posted and in response to it, Jill Schiller issued a statement clarifying that she now opposes the Piketon nuclear dump, asks that the Department of Energy Record of Decision be reopened, and wants all waste at Piketon removed from the site.  Her new position brings all three Democratic primary candidates into agreement on the Piketon dump.

Ohio’s second congressional district is an American microcosm if not a bellwether. It runs from the true-blue outskirts of Cincinnati, through the ruby-red suburbs of Clermont County, to the swingin’est swing region of the rural Scioto Valley, including the rust-belt city of Portsmouth and most of Ohio’s historic first capital, Chillicothe. Some of Ohio’s wealthiest and poorest neighborhoods are in OH-02, at the west and east ends, respectively. But of the eight counties that, in whole or in part, comprise the district, its politics have always been controlled by the smallest.

That is because Pike County, among the four poorest counties in the state, is home to “the A-Plant,” a sprawling former uranium enrichment complex that closed in 2001 and that still awaits multi-billion-dollar cleanup. During its near fifty years of operation, the A-Plant was the economic generator for a six-county region in south-central Ohio, providing not only thousands of jobs, but the highest-paying blue-collar jobs in the region. It was also a sinkhole for federal spending that substituted as an aid program for Appalachian Ohio, justified for conservative politicians by the plant’s vacuous claims of importance to “national security,” even when the plant was producing no usable product.

Now, the A-Plant site is a dumping ground, both for federal radioactive waste and for the real juice that powers the all-important Ohio political grid–federal corruption dollars. The nine-figure contracts now go not to production companies like the old Goodyear Atomic, but to consortia of carpet-bagging consultants and tech giants, led by “Fluor-Babcock&Wilcox,” a specialist in creating giant mounds of radioactive garbage. It is probably no accident that the disgraced Speaker of the Ohio House, Cliff Rosenberger, who just resigned under intense quid-pro-quo allegations, represented Pike County and the A-Plant that generates graft on a megaton scale.

The Zombie Candidate

In a nutshell, that explains why William “Butch” Smith, now a low-income semi-retired truck driver from the backwoods of Pike County, has run for Congress as a Democrat in five of the last six election cycles, including this year, 2018. His continual runs, in which he makes no campaign appearances, raises and spends no money, and takes no positions on major issues, but occasionally wins, have made him the subject of national media attention, including by USA Today, Gannett’s Cincinnati Enquirer, and the Huffington Post.

Smith has been dubbed “the Mystery Man,” “the Zombie Candidate,” and worse. When a series of untraceable robocalls made Smith the Democratic nominee in 2012, and then he repeated that feat in 2016, so he ran on the party ticket of Hillary Clinton, Smith was hailed as a mountain-man magician, a gray-beard wizard able to slay the monster of Ohio swing-state politics, a gen-u-ine (rhymes with rhubarb wine) populist hero.

All of this upset the party establishment and the collective sensibilities of big-money-Democrat urban Ohio. The Ohio Democratic Party took the unheard-of step in 2016 of disavowing its own nominee, Smith, and endorsing a write-in Independent. In 2018, the ODP has upped the ante and has issued a pre-primary anti-endorsement, confusedly recommending a vote for any primary candidate who isn’t Butch Smith.

That may actually help Smith in the seven of eight counties that lie in Appalachian Ohio, where establishment endorsements are the kiss of death. Likewise, the occasional urban media inquiries into the Smith phenomenon have all revolved around the city-country feud in Ohio politics. Like an old Mother Jones coalfield confrontation where the feds and the miners both claim victory after a pointless bloody melee, the city-slicker reporters joust with Smith, wrongly thinking that their  stereotypical portrayal of him as a hillbilly rube will discredit him, when they accomplish the opposite.

One of the few video interviews of candidate Smith was actually set to Hee-Haw type music, with the clear intent of mocking him. Not a single major position was revealed, but the video climaxed with Smith’s full rendition of the theme song of the old Underdog cartoon TV show. Smith triumphed there by outsmarting the cognoscenti journalist.

So intent has the urbane media been to play the anti-Appalachian card here in Appalachia that the important questions have been universally neglected: Who recruited Smith to run? What Pike County interests has his candidacy served? And what does the A-Plant have to do with it?

From the start of Smith’s entry into congressional politics in 2008, it was obvious that his Pike County residency and support base, and the rise of contentious big-dollar A-Plant nuclear waste issues into congressional politics starting in 2006 were, as we say in Pike County, too coincidental to be coincidence. It was equally obvious that Smith was tied, in some way, to the Pike County Democratic mob, called by some locals “the Junta” (with Appalachian pronunciation), the oldest continuous political machine in Ohio and perhaps the nation.

Get That Schmidt Out of Here!

I have been directly involved in this mishmash. I wrote my college thesis about the A-Plant in 1981, helped make a professional documentary film about the plant, and worked as a consultant for the union that represented plant workers from 1982 to 1985. I returned to the Piketon area in 2004, after the plant closed, when I bought a historic home and property that has a one-mile fence line with the A-Plant. In 2006, I led opposition to the proposed storage of high-level nuclear waste at Piketon, an issue that had major impact on the congressional race that year, and that resulted, I believe, in Butch Smith’s entry into the congressional fray the following cycle.

Big money–on the order of many billions of dollars–hinged on whether the decommissioned Piketon site would be open either to the storage of high-level nuclear waste from outside, or to the dumping of lower-level waste generated on-site from the demolition of the massive buildings. In 2006, we proved that the Piketon waste issue could be a potent force in Ohio politics; Emily’s list produced and ran a targeted radio ad featuring a mock radiation emergency at Piketon, aimed at defeating Mean Jean Schmidt, the horror of a congressentity who then represented OH-02 and whom I had caught in a stealth interview as supporting the storage of high-level nuclear waste in her own district.

Jim Borgman, the celebrated editorial cartoonist for the Cincinnati Enquirer, produced a cartoon for Halloween 2006 featuring a ghoulish Schmidt unloading a trick-or-treat bag of radwaste on the doorstep of terrified Ohio homeowners. We produced bumper-stickers saying “Get that Schmidt OUT OF HERE!”

By the 2008 cycle, the would-be corporate radwaste-dumpers were not about to let the same thing happen again.Though he likely didn’t realize it, Smith was their tool. The strategy was obvious and well-known to me personally, because it had already been employed right here, with another Smith, by the same handlers.

In 1984, a different set of high-dollar A-Plant issues had intruded on the local congressional race, then revolving around plant closure. Piketon was then in OH-06, the district that local-boy Ted Strickland, a product of the Pike County Democratic mob, would come to dominate. But Strickland was then taking a breather from politics, and the district was firmly in Republican hands.

A retired dentist named Phil Holmes decided to make a run for Congress. Phil was a pacifist, a member of one of the pacifist churches, and he had an ethical opposition to nuclear power and nuclear weapons–a total misfit for the district but I saw it as an interesting opportunity to at least raise the impending shutdown of the A-Plant as a political issue. It was kind of an experiment because Phil, if nominated, would challenge the total lack of preparation for plant shutdown and cleanup, the issues that are now bedeviling the community in 2018. Still on staff of the union that represented A-Plant workers, I volunteered to be Phil’s campaign manager. He accepted. Then all hell broke loose.

Anticipating what we had planned for the fall campaign, the Pike County A-Plant interests who control both major parties in that county, recruited a man named Bob Smith to run in the Democratic primary against Phil Holmes. Like the William R. Smith of the 21st century, the 20th -century Bob Smith was, by design, a nobody, a man no one knew or could identify and who had no business in congressional politics.

In fact, both Bob Smith and Butch Smith come from the same corner of Ohio high in the hills, where Highland, Ross, and Pike County join, perhaps the most remote and unpopulated part of the state, near a puddle called Pike Lake and an ancient Native-American hilltop earthwork called Fort Hill. Whether the two Smiths are related is irrelevant. The point was that, with their generic names and lack of portfolios, rural primary voters would be fooled into thinking they were a known Smith, a good ol’ boy, a man who could be trusted.

1984 All Over Again

It was Orwellian, literally. By that I mean that George Orwell named the protagonist of his novel 1984 Winston Smith for the identical reason — only a generic nonentity can turn his anonymity to advantage in fighting, and failing to fight, the tyranny of an increasingly technocratic world. Surely it was without consciousness of the irony that the Big Brothers of Pike County, in the year 1984, selected Bob Smith (he was listed on the ballot as “Bob”) as their champion, for the purpose of warding off any raising of A-Plant issues in the fall campaign.

And it worked. Bob Smith decidedly kept photos of himself under wraps and he refused to campaign. Thus, many voters were tricked into assuming he was some Bob Smith they knew, and he handily defeated Phil Holmes in the primary. William R. Smith of 2008-2018, is just a replay of Winston and of Bob. All the reporters considering William Smith to be a “mystery” have simply failed to do research.

There is an old joke in Pike County about a John Smith, who lived at 123 No Name Road. He constantly complained that he had a hell of a time checking into motels. Only it is no joke. Johnny Smith was a real man who really lived at that address–I’ve spoken to a few of his friends and relatives. His family owned the big lumber mill on No Name Creek, a creek near Elm Grove, a few miles west of Piketon, where the Elm Grove Smiths are known as one of the ruling families of Pike County.

Johnny was the son of Jim Smith, a real good ol’boy who was a Pike County commissioner. When Johnny died mysteriously in 1976, “alone” in his VW bug atop Yankee Hill, just east of Elm Grove, (some say he was murdered in connection to the A-Plant), it drew the entire Copperhead Democrat aristocracy of southern Ohio to the funeral. That included young Ted Strickland, then bedecked in long hair and bell-bottoms and in the middle of his first run for Congress, on the platform of building a second A-Plant in Pike County. This was the milieu in which the Smith strategy was born.

Those who think the notorious political corruption in Pike County stems from the A-Plant and its infusion of federal dollars have it backwards. The A-Plant is in Pike County because of the county’s history of corruption. Pike County was the birthplace of the nation’s Copperhead Democrat phenomenon, and essentially of the national Democratic Party. In 1832, Robert Lucas, the first governor of Ohio to hail from Pike County, where his home remains a site on the National Register of Historic Places, chaired the very first National Democratic Party Convention.

The End is Nye

The Copperheads, who grew from the Lucas political machine, were northern Democrats who supported slavery and whose allegiance went to the South in the Civil War. Until that war, they drew financing from the lucrative industry of hunting fugitive slaves for bounty as those slaves attempted escape across the Ohio River. Waverly, the seat of what passes for government in Pike County, was the Copperhead capital of Ohio, and the monarch of Waverly, James Emmett, boasted in his autobiography about keeping Negroes and Abolitionists out of town by various violent means.

Waverly became notorious as a “sundown town” — a town where blacks were not permitted after sundown — as a posted sign on Route 220 warned until late in the 20th century. Pete Crossland, an adviser to the Ohio Democratic Party, told me that in law school he had done a study that showed Pike County as the bastion of surviving Copperheadism in Ohio, so this phenomenon has not gone unnoticed by state party leaders.

Piketon, just four miles south of Waverly, had an opposite history, led by activists of the Underground Railroad movement. Among them was a Quaker couple named Adam and Unity Nye, whose old farmstead is now covered by uranium and PCB-contaminated asphalt and concrete,

But descendants of the Nyes became the father-son mob bosses of the Copperhead Democratic machine in the first half of the 20th century. George B. Nye was a medical doctor who used his influence to get himself “elected” on a permanent basis as state representative, the joke being that vote tallies in Pike County were then decided without the needed public expense of counting ballots. This was memorialized in a ballad actually published in 1923 in the Pike County newspaper, then based in Piketon, as a protest against the Waverly machine:

 

Oh! It’s great to live in old Pike County,

Where they vote the year around,

In the land of election contests

Where the floating votes abound.

Where one half will sell their birthright

And the other half will buy,

Where they vote by absent ballot,

In the land of George B. Nye.

 

Yes, it’s fun to live in old Pike county,

Where the honest men are few,

Where the idiot and the moron

Vote, if what they say, is true.

Where the safe won’t hold the ballots—

And the keys fall from on High

In the Judge’s Ermine pocket,

In the land of George B. Nye.

 

But I’m proud of old Pike County,

My old home, I’ll stand by you.

And I brand these allegations,

False, malicious and untrue.

There may be a few amongst us

Who will cheat and who will lie,

But the most of us are decent,

In the land of George B. Nye.

 

The reference to absent ballots refers to the regular practice, continued into the 21st century in poor Appalachian counties, of requiring debtors or welfare recipients and the elderly to turn in signed absentee ballots unmarked, a practice that remains remarkably unknown to the intellectual Americans who blame the rural poor for voting unwisely.

Nye, in every sense the forerunner of Cliff Rosenberger, was indicted at least three times for soliciting bribes. That nest egg enabled his big windfall as a beneficiary of FDR’s depression-ending government largesse. George White, the Democratic governor of Ohio in 1935, was called upon to secure the federal funds to transform the Nye farm south of Waverly into a man-made lake, the notoriously problematic Lake White, which instantly converted near-worthless property into luxury lakefront parcels, in addition to making the Nyes the water-selling barons of Pike County.

On that record of grand larceny, the son George D. Nye (“D. Nye, D. Nye, D. Nye!” was the slogan) was elected three times as Ohio’s lieutenant governor between 1944 and 1953. It was in that position that Nye teamed up with Truman’s vice president, Alben Barkely of Paducah, Kentucky, to ensure that the two big additions to the Manhattan Project’s A-Bomb complex would be built at Paducah and Piketon, respectively the Barkley and Nye hometowns. This further enriched those families at federal expense and saddled those two communities with permanent problems of radioactive and toxic contamination. Work on the Piketon plant commenced in 1952, while Nye was still lieutenant governor.

The Waverly Junta

The chain of control of the Copperhead Waverly machine passed unbroken from the days of Lucas, Emmett, and the Nye boys, to an oligarch consortium of Democratic Pike County commissioners that included Eddie West and his son Teddy, Jim Smith, and Blaine Beekman. (By way of disclosure, I purchased Eddie West’s old home from his widow, under the advisement of Teddy and Blaine, who were very forthcoming about the history of the home, except about the prior leakage of TCE contamination from the A-Plant onto the property. My property is one of only two where the Department of Energy has acknowledged off-site contamination.)

It was that junta of commissioners that, by his own regular admission, recruited Ted Strickland, into politics at a nominating meeting of the Pike County Democrats at the Lake White Club in the 1970s. Strickland would openly refer to Eddie West, Jim Smith, and Blaine Beekman as his “mentors.” Hence, for a time, the Pike County boys had another one of their own in the governor’s mansion.(Strickland hails from neighboring Scioto County, but from not far over the county line.) It’s also worthy of an aside that, as told to me by an informed source, the reason that Scioto County’s own legendary Democratic mob boss, Vernal G. Riffe, viewed Strickland with intense mistrust and a distinct lack of camaraderie, was that Riffe saw Strickland as a political product of Pike County.

The A-Plant-funded graft machine worked smoothly in Pike County for nearly five decades, but came to a crashing halt with the election of 2000, as the Republicans finally figured out how much the Democratic corruption in Pike County exposed that party to raiding. The Clinton administration had made the gargantuan mistake of privatizing operation of the A-Plant in the late 1990s, a move opposed by Clinton’s top advisers but that lined the Clinton political coffers with cash. The newly-privatized operating company, stacked with Republican neocons, realized that by announcing plant closure in 1999, political blame would be dumped on the Democrats. The successful maneuver led Al Gore to abandon Ohio early in the 2000 election campaign, a foreseeable swing since Piketon had also helped swing the presidential election of 1976. Jimmy Carter, who had actually helped design the Piketon plant while in the nuclear navy, carried Ohio, and thereby won the White House, in 1976 by only eleven thousand votes out of over four million cast.

With Republicans in control of both the nation and the state after 2000, they simply seized the Piketon political money-making machine by moving Piketon from Strickland’s OH-06 to Rob Portman’s OH-02, in the 2001 redistricting. This created the modern second congressional district, with its weird stretch from African-American neighborhoods of Cincinnati to the Appalachian hinterlands of Nye territory. Both Portman and Strickland already had presidential ambitions at the millennium, but after losing the Piketon money-pot, Strickland lacked deep-pocket funders, making him a walking dead man, even through his ill-fated one term as governor. Yet Strickland kept walking, propped up by the Waverly Junta, which accounts for why Ted Strickland became widely hated among the poor folk of his home region.

Which brings us to William R. Smith, the “Zombie Candidate.” This is an article about Mr. Smith.

Mr. Smith Ain’t Going to Washington

It has struck me as humorous, over the past decade, when the media portrays Smith as a lone wolf, a self-made man, a guy who keeps running for Congress of his own accord. Do none of these reporters know enough Ohio history to know a thing about the Waverly political machine? Has none of these reporters followed the intrigues at the A-Plant or asked how a Pike County “truck driver” might be connected to that plant? Have none of the reporters even bothered to check Smith’s candidacy petitions to see who has been backing him? When Smith tells reporters “God told me to run,” do none of the reporters recognize that Smith is using the local pseudonym of Blaine Beekman?

In fact, those petitions show that Smith is nothing but a figurehead of the Waverly machine. The majority of signatures on Smith’s 2012, 2014, and 2016 petitions were collected by Blaine Beekman, formerly the director of the Pike County Chamber of Commerce and now the most senior of the Pike County commissioners. (The 2008 petitions are no longer available; Smith did not run in 2010, when Strickland was running for reelection as governor; Beekman refrained from circulating Smith’s petitions in 2018, after Smith became highly controversial, though Smith claims that Beekman had promised to do so.)

William Smith lives on Route 772, near the far northwest corner of Pike County, less than a mile from the Ross County boundary. The nearest hamlet is Nipgen, which is over the Ross County line, where Fredneck’s, the local convenience store, is operated and frequented by Smith’s nieces and nephews. (Smith has never discussed why he’s running for Congress with his niece who operates the cash register at Fredneck’s, though according to her, Smith comes into the store about every other night.) Smith’s trucking jobs have been out of Ross and Franklin counties, not Pike, and Smith formerly worked for the US Postal Service in Ross County. Smith’s parents are buried at a cemetery in Ross County.

frednecks

If Smith were a lone wolf candidate, his petitions for candidacy should at least reflect a mixture of support from Ross and Pike counties. But that is not the case. The signatures on the 2012, 2014, and 2016 petitions are 100% from Pike County. Smith’s 2018 petition contains 49 valid signatures from Pike County, and one from Ross, that one being a former coworker from USPS . Fifty valid signatures are the minimum number required for ballot access.

The actual signatures are a virtual Who’s Who of the Pike County Copperhead machine. Of the five Democratic county commissioners who have served in Pike County over the past two decades, all of them signed Smith’s petitions between 2011 and 2016: Harry Rider three times; Teddy West twice; Jim Brushart, Fred Foster; and Blaine Beekman once apiece (Beekman apparently didn’t want to sign petitions for which he was also the circulator). Other county Democratic officials including the treasurer, the former auditor, and the county sheriff also signed for Smith.

 

Of the other signatures, roughly half or more are Pike County employees, signed in blocks by county office, indicating that the petitions were simply brought from office to office at the Government Center in Waverly by Beekman or Smith or by someone acting for them (which would not be legal). Current and former employees of the county who wish to remain nameless confirm that this is what happened, and some imply coercion.

This method of placing a congressional candidate on the ballot by a political party of one county is clearly illegal. It violates Section 3599.05 of the Ohio Revised Code, “Corrupt practices — employer shall not influence political opinions or votes of employees,” and that this was done by public officials in a government office building may involve other federal and state statutes. That Beekman and other Junta leaders refrained from signing or circulating Smith’s 2018 petitions, after the Ohio Democratic Party raised a stink about Smith’s candidacy, and after a rumored FBI investigation, shows awareness of the potential legal repercussions and a definite fear of getting nailed. Memo to Ohio’s next attorney general. (The current AG, a Republican running for governor, is linked to the Pike County Democratic mob. The objective, after all, of running a definite loser for Congress is to get the incumbent Republican reelected.)

Because of these problems, I expected that Smith would not file in 2018, and was surprised when he did, just before the deadline on February 7. Smith’s live-in mother was gravely ill — she wound up dying on February 18. It was a very strange time for this God-motivated man to run for Congress again.

A quick review of Smith’s 2018 petition showed that he had only fifty valid signatures, organized into the usual blocks by county office, the minimum number required for the ballot. On that basis, another Pike County voter and I filed a complaint charging potential violation of ORC Section 3599.05. In subsequent days, however, we learned that the very conditions of coercion and organized criminality that prevail at the Government Center in Waverly, prevent employees there from stepping forward without fear of reprisal. Our complaint had to be withdrawn, to preserve the case for future investigation and prosecution. That left Mr. Smith on the May 8 primary ballot.

The Interview

I was discussing this frustrating situation with another friend one day in April as we were driving from Pike to Ross County. She happens to also be of the Pike County Smith clan, maybe not of the same Smith branch, but, as she says, “all Pike County natives are cousins,” and a cursory genealogy search shows a profusion of historic marriages between Beekmans and Smiths and other Pike County oligarch families, most of them emanating from Elm Grove. We pondered the question of why the Junta recruited this particular Smith as its stalking horse. Was Butch Smith related to former commissioner Jim Smith, or to former federal marshall Alan Smith, or to Beekman himself? Why not go ask him?

So we did. It required only a minor detour. On April 10, we knocked on Butch Smith’s door, figuring my friend could introduce herself as a probable relative, but that wasn’t necessary. Such is the hectic life of a congressional candidate that we apparently woke Smith up from a deep sleep at 3 pm, on that sunny April day, and he graciously ushered us into his living room, where the beautiful wood flooring was covered with a whirlwind of papers in a chaos attributed to his mother’s recent passing. I had never met Smith in person, and there seemed no need to disclose my last name.

For the first hour, Smith used the same tactic I had seen him employ in a few other interviews — he launches into a story totally irrelevant to himself or planet earth and keeps on going in a bid to exhaust the available time. We indulged him enough until polite interruption seemed justifiable, and then got down to business.

One of the few serious issues on which Butch Smith has opined in previous interviews is welfare, which he appears to be against. That’s a pretty curious position for a Pike County Democrat who needs to win a competitive primary, because welfare is the literal life-blood of Pike County. Some overwhelming majority of Pike County residents are on the welfare rolls, and welfare distribution is a major source of county employment. I asked Smith about that, and he was quick to clarify that he supports social security and medicare “which I’ve worked for,” implying that he is indeed against the other forms of welfare that keep his neighbors afloat.

Regarding the reason for his candidacy, on which he has obviously been challenged, Smith was again defensive, repeating again and again that his late father had told him to enter politics “because I’m always talking.” It then became clear that this was a load of manure insofar as it explains his candidacy. Asked about Blaine Beekman, whose name is all over Smith’s petitions, Smith made clear that Beekman has actually complained to Smith about Beekman being blamed for the recruitment. “Poor Blaine,” said Smith, “he’s taken a lot of heat for this.” But in that deflection, Smith was admitting that the subject has been discussed enough between the two of them as to represent an attempt by perpetrators to get their story straight.

In other words, Smith is by no means a lone wolf.

On his relationship to Beekman and the other Smiths, Butch was elucidating. His brother, Walter Smith, had graduated with Beekman from Western High School. Meanwhile, Butch Smith and Alan Smith, who went on to become the Federal Marshall, also graduated from Western together, but are of no known relation. This tight-knit group of friends and relations explains why the Junta felt confident in using Butch Smith as its tool. Like Bob Smith of 1984, they knew that Butch Smith would remain mostly anonymous and wouldn’t cross them. There was no indication that Butch Smith understands the way he has been used.

And then there was a real surprise. The big issue now regarding the A-Plant is whether the Department of Energy will be permitted to build a 100-acre permanent nuclear waste dump on the site, to accommodate the demolition debris that comes from tear-down of the existing buildings. Blaine Beekman has been the leading advocate of the dump, and he wrangled the other county commissioners into signing off on it “on behalf” of the people of southern Ohio. A major problem with the process for dump approval is that the Department of Energy has taken the position of the Pike County commissioners as reflective of the sentiments of the entire region.

In open rebellion, the mayors of Piketon and Waverly and six other area municipalities (Portsmouth, New Boston, Jackson, Chillicothe, Kingston, and Athens) have led their elected councils in passing resolutions against the dump. They have been joined by local school boards, township trustees, and numerous county officials, including the Pike County Auditor and the Pike County Treasurer, though the last two are on opposite sides of a bitter political fight. Within Pike County, opposition to the dump is a de facto rejection of rule by the Waverly Junta.

So I asked Butch Smith his position on the dump. He was delighted I asked–no one else has asked him! He then launched into one of his trademark “rambles” about the importance of water and the environment. “The aquifer is more valuable than any of the atomic things out there,” Butch said, referring to the important ancient “Portsmouth River” aquifer that runs right under the proposed nuclear waste dump.

“Water is going to be more important than nuclear power,” Butch continued, adding his name to the long list of politicians who oppose the dump. As for the A-Plant cleanup in general: “I do not like it. It’s being used as a political ping-pong ball.”

Shades of Winston Smith

William R. Smith seemed totally unaware that in saying “I’m against it,” in reference to the nuclear dump, he was in fact contradicting the man who had recruited him to run for Congress and had enabled his candidacy, like Winston Smith’s semi-conscious revolt against Big Brother. I wound up liking Butch Smith. I believe he is an honest man. If I have have ever suggested otherwise, I here offer my apology. He doesn’t comprehend how the Waverly machine has used him, and somehow he’s been convinced that their petitioning to get him on the ballot was his own idea. Smith is, however, utterly unsuited to run for Congress, or to serve.

The Ohio Democratic Party and the Democratic Party of Hamilton County (which includes Cincinnati) have been utterly wrong in demonizing William R. Smith, as if he is some evil crackpot. Their problem is not with Butch Smith. If not Bob Smith or Butch Smith, it will be some other Tom, Dick, or Harry. The Democratic Party’s real problem here is with Blaine Beekman and the Waverly Copperhead machine, who, as nearly everyone in Pike County knows, have been working to elect Republicans on the national and state level, at the same time they work to elect local Democrats.

That is extremely evident from the bizarre history of Pike County election results. For example, in 2016, Trump beat Clinton in Pike County by 69% to 31% and Republicans won all other national races by large margins. However, in the same election, all county-level Democrats except one won, by as much as 76% to 24% (the County Sheriff’s race). That only happens on a continuing basis when one party is working for the opposition.

The state Democratic Party establishment knows this. I’ve told them. But they won’t take on Beekman and his mob, because they know that to do so would mean crossing Ted Strickland, who could be called the Ghost of Ohio Politics if not for the fact that he is still alive. Thus there will be more Smithian machinations coming out of Pike County.

Eight days after the interview, on April 18, my birthday, I almost literally bumped into Blaine Beekman in Waverly. We talked about the weather. He brought up the congressional race, asking me whom I thought would win. I could not then resist asking him about Butch Smith. “Oh, he’s just a local guy,” said Blaine. “He asked for our support so we gave it.” Five times? With petitions circulated at the county office building? Ok, I reserved those questions for a future date, hopefully on a witness stand.

I said: “did you know that Butch opposes the waste dump? He’s concerned about the aquifer.” Inside I was chuckling. Beekman looked confused. He had to process how I would know such a thing, and how he should reply.

“I don’t know what you are talking about,” Beekman said, “there is no dump and there is no aquifer.”

At this point I suspected that he must retain Michael Cohen as an attorney. But I wasn’t going to let him off the hook. “The aquifer that runs underneath the nuclear dump that we will name after you,” I said. “You know, the aquifer that even Butch Smith knows all about, though he doesn’t know about very much.”

“There is no aquifer! You’re crazy!” Beekman said and then he walked away, I’m sure to make some phone calls.

Now to be clear, there is a very well-known aquifer that runs beneath the entire Piketon federal site. It flows north, to Chillicothe and Springfield, which is how Springfield got its name. If there were no aquifer, there would be no Springfield.  It is a remnant of the ancient Portsmouth River, and it is shown clearly, labeled “aquifer,” on DOE’s own model of the proposed dump:

dump

That sums up the credibility of Pike County’s incumbent county commissioners.

On the May 8 Democratic primary ballot for OH-02, three names appear: William R. Smith, whose positions I think I’ve covered; Janet Everhard, a medical doctor, who has staunchly supported the communities of south-central Ohio in opposing the Piketon nuclear dump; and Jill Schiller, a self-described Obama attorney, who has met three times with the Democratic Pike commissioners and who alone among the Democratic candidates, refuses to state her position on the nuclear dump.

At a Pike County Democratic Party Picnic on April 28, both Schiller and Smith were presented to the operatives of the Waverly machine. The Junta’s 2018 strategy is clear: By running Smith in yet another cycle, they hope to split the anti-machine vote just enough in the eastern district to stop Dr. Everhard from getting the nomination. Everhard is the only one of the three who would press the case against the dump in the fall campaign or in Washington, and who would support legal actions to end the Waverly Copperhead machine.

Vote wisely.