Candidates in the March 6 primary elections for Fairfield County prosecutor and clerk last week appealed for votes at a Pickerington Area Chamber of Commerce lunch.

Candidates in the March 6 primary elections for Fairfield County prosecutor and clerk last week appealed for votes at a Pickerington Area Chamber of Commerce lunch.

On Feb. 16, the chamber, as it does prior to each election, invited candidates who will appear on the Fairfield County ballot March 6 to address community business leaders.

While most of the county's political action won't heat up until November, candidates for two contested races - county prosecutor and county clerk - took to the podium to state their cases. Each candidate was given four minutes to speak.

In the Republican primary for county prosecutor, Gregg Marx, 56, is facing Lancaster city law director and city prosecutor Terre Vandervoort, 47. Both are endorsed by the Fairfield County Republican Party.

Marx was appointed to serve as county prosecutor last May following the retirement of David Landefeld. Prior to that, Marx had been assistant county prosecutor since December 1982.

"The reason I'm so happy is that every day is different and I get paid to help people," Marx said at the luncheon. " I've helped thousands of victims through what frequently is the worst time of their lives."

While Vandervoort also noted her past - she began her career as a criminal defense lawyer in 1990 and served as Lancaster's assistant city prosecutor from 1992-96 before becoming city law director and city attorney - her campaign message centered on a "crisis" currently facing Fairfield County.

"I believe our county and community is at a crossroads and we're dealing with an opiate problem that has engulfed us," Vandervoort said. "I want to send a consistent message to drug dealers."

In seeking his first full term as prosecutor, Marx cited his experience in the office and his record of trying cases, many of which were against individuals accused of serious crimes. He also said due to his restructuring of the prosecutor's office, he's been able to hire four new attorneys while cutting expenditures by approximately $63,000.

"I've worked on more than 20 murder cases, I've worked on more than 94 (cases) involving different crimes," he said. "I've won more than 80 percent of my trials since 2000. My office has maintained a winning record since I started."

Vandervoort also said she has a proven record of convicting criminals, which she said includes being ranked in Ohio's top 10 for convictions of those charged with operating vehicles while intoxicated.

Vandervoort said she has been a staunch advocate of victims of domestic violence, including annually prosecuting more than 500 people charged with the crime, and she has plans for sharing county and local resources to reduce costs for prosecuting felons throughout Fairfield County.

"I'm the only candidate that has been elected to lead a prosecutor's office for 17 years," she said. "Fairfield County needs my prosecuting experience and leadership.

"We will together send the message this is not business as usual and we will attack the opiate crisis in our county one balloon of heroin at a time."

The Republican candidates in next month's other contested county race, Fairfield County Clerk of Courts, took a different tack in addressing chamber visitors.

Deborah Smalley, 59, is seeking re-election to the office she's held for the past seven years. She is endorsed by the Fairfield County Republican Party.

John A. Bowman, 64, retired as a captain from the Lancaster Fire Department, where he spent 25 years. He currently is Pleasant Township's zoning administrator, a post he's held for 20 years, and until last January, he had spent 10 years as the Lancaster Community Development Department's housing program coordinator.

Bowman used the chamber luncheon to reiterate past claims he's made about Smalley, which have included allegations of mismanagement and pressuring her employees to contribute to her past campaigns.

Bowman said the Ohio Auditor's Office last year found Smalley's office in violation of Fairfield County's credit card policy for public offices. He also said $1,000 "disappeared" from the clerk's office in 2007 and was never explained. (See related story, page A1.)

"I feel there is a need for a change in leadership," Bowman said. "There's a litany of indiscretions and transgressions that cannot be overlooked."

Smalley said the four-minute time limit prevented her from touting her qualifications while refuting Bowman's allegations.

However, she denied his claims that she's been involved in mismanagement or wrongdoing while serving as county clerk.

"There are no violations," Smalley said.

Smalley said some allegations against her have come from disgruntled employees who were reprimanded or disciplined for not properly doing their jobs or serving the public.

"There were some people working for me in my title office that felt entitled," she said. "I started making people accountable. ... You know that I am an upright citizen and I do moral, ethical things in my office."