The candidate will return to county court next month.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
BOARDMAN -- The Austintown man challenging Mahoning County Republican Party Chairman Clarence Smith was arrested on drug charges less than a week before he announced his candidacy.
Richard Duffett, 43, of Barrington Drive was pulled over by Boardman police at 2:08 a.m. April 10 on Southern Boulevard for driving through a red light, according to a police report. A check of his driver's license showed that Duffett was driving under suspension, police said.
Also, an officer wrote in a police report that he found two film containers with suspected marijuana, two marijuana pipes, a bong, and a wooden marijuana pipe with residue inside Duffett's Cadillac.
Police charged Duffett with possession of drug paraphernalia, drug abuse-marijuana, driving under suspension and failure to obey a control device. Duffett pleaded innocent to the misdemeanor charges April 11 in Mahoning County Court. His next court hearing is set for 6 p.m. May 16, nine days after the Republican primary.
Republicans for Real Reform, a movement formed by Mark A. Hanni to unseat Smith, announced April 15, five days after Duffett's arrest, that the Austintown man would be its choice for chairman.
Duffett, a political newcomer who works as a special education teacher in Mineral Ridge, could not be reached Monday to comment. He left a voice mail message saying that he planned to address rumors about him and the Real Reform's effort to take control over the Mahoning Republican Party at a press conference later this week.
Duffett emerged as the Real Reform's chairman candidate after Hanni withdrew from the race because a party bylaw change made him ineligible.
The Republican Party and the Real Reform organization have candidates running in most of the 312 Republican precinct committee races. Those elected during the May 7 primary will vote for party chairman, sometime in June.
Smith picked up an endorsement Monday for his re-election bid from Ohio Auditor Jim Petro. Petro, the recipient of campaign contributions from Smith, said the chairman has brought leadership to the Mahoning Valley and should be retained.