Anyone who thinks that all Democrats are similar in their politics should watch one of the upcoming Democratic primary races for Athens County Commissioner.
The race for incumbent Commissioner Bill Theisen's seat will apparently match Theisen against local environmental activist Chad Kister, plus any other candidates who file before the Jan. 7 deadline. (The seat currently held by Commissioner Mark Sullivan is also up for election.)
Commissioner Lenny Eliason confirmed Friday that Kister recently told the commissioners that he is running for Theisen's seat, and a representative of the Athens County Board of Elections said Friday that Kister has taken out petitions to run for the seat.
Kister could not be reached for comment on his campaign plans, but he is well-known locally for his outspoken views and tactics. Since the late 1980s, Kister has been repeatedly involved in various environmental and social justice protests and campaigns -- targeting everything from Ohio University's management of the Ridges to clearcutting in the Wayne National Forest to low-level radioactive waste disposal to coal-mining near Dysart Woods.
Kister currently is the leader of Dysart Defenders, a group that's involved in the latter issue.
Over the years, Kister has been involved in numerous acts of protest and civil disobedience, and has been arrested several times.
Theisen and Kister have disagreed publicly on issues, such as a proposal for a coal mine north of Glouster. Kister has spoken out against the mine, while Theisen is for it.
Last year Kister was acquitted on charges of extortion in connection with a bizarre scenario in which he was accused of taking money from a United Mineworkers official, in return for backing off of protests against a mine proposal. (video taped footage by the Athens Sheriff department had Kister explaining how he would not in any way ask others to back of protesting.) Kister had denied making any such deal. Kister is currently suing the Athens County Sheriff's Office for alleged mistreatment in the county jail after his extortion arrest. (Jurors in Kister's trial who were interviewed by reporters said they unanimously thought that Kister was set up).
Theisen, meanwhile, represents the blue-collar wing of the county Democratic Party -- and has consistently pushed for more economic development and jobs in Athens County, whether through coal mines or factories. He was first elected to the county commission in 1992.
If there's one thing that Theisen and Kister have in common, it's their reputation for bluntly speaking their minds, whether anyone agrees with them or not.
Theisen declined to comment on Kister running for the seat, because he said no one is an official candidate until petitions have been filed with the Board of Elections. Theisen has already filed for re-election.