candidates will not benefit from a second look.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
and ED RUNYAN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITERS
YOUNGSTOWN — Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner’s office wants to take another look at the eligibility of write-in candidates, but it won’t help independents already kicked off the ballot.
State law forbids former independents to run as write-in candidates, said Jeff Ortega, a Brunner spokesman.
A March 24, 2006, advisory from the office states in part: “A board of elections shall not accept for filing the declaration of intent to be a write-in candidate of a person seeking to become a candidate if that person, for the same election, has already filed a declaration of candidacy, a declaration of intent to be a write-in candidate, or a nominating petition.”
That means the eight independent candidates who sought seats on Youngstown City Council and seven for various city and village positions in Trumbull County can’t run as write-ins.
Independent candidates lose that label if they vote in a partisan primary or serve on a party’s central or executive committees, according to an advisory issued by Brunner on June 4, about a month after the May 7 independent filing deadline. That decision was as a result of a 2006 federal court decision.
Taking a second look
Brunner’s office is looking at the legal issues surrounding who can be a write-in candidate, Ortega said. That second look won’t impact those candidates already decertified or disqualified, Ortega said. An advisory should be done in a few weeks, he said.
Under the impression Brunner’s upcoming advisory may affect former independents seeking to run as write-ins, the Mahoning County Board of Elections decided to wait for that opinion before accepting write-in forms from independent candidates it decertified.
There is no sense of immediacy because the write-in filing deadline is Sept. 5, said Thomas McCabe, Mahoning elections board director.
Of the eight Youngstown council candidates, seven voted in the May 8 Democratic primary. One of them, as well as Tyrone Peakes of the 5th Ward, serve on party central committees.
Maggy Lorenzi of the 6th Ward, one of those eight, plans to file legal action in the 7th District Court of Appeals to have her name back on the ballot as an Independent candidate.
The other decertified Youngstown candidates are: Frank Bellamy and Charles B. McCray III of the 1st Ward, Moses H. Mahdee (a Democratic central committee member) of the 5th Ward, and Michael J. Latessa, Janice L. Rovnak and Terrance P. Esarco of the 7th Ward.
In Trumbull County, seven candidates voted in the Democratic primary. Two unhappy disqualified Independent candidates, Myron Esposito of Girard and David Wilkerson of Niles, pleaded their case to the Trumbull County Board of Elections Tuesday to no avail. Later, Wilkerson said he planned to take legal action.
Esposito, a former candidate for Girard mayor, and Wilkerson, a former candidate for 1st Ward Niles councilman, were disqualified, along with Timothy E. O’Hara, a former candidate for Hubbard mayor; Julie Bolchalk Fox, former candidate for 1st Ward Hubbard City Council; and three former candidates for McDonald Village council, Eugene Gonze, Thomas Leskovac and John Meser.
Esposito said he understands the law that disqualified him, saying it makes sense that he would not be able to vote as a Democrat in the primary and then run as an independent in November.
But that’s why he asked Trumbull elections workers about it before the primary, and was told it had always been OK to do this in the past, and still was.
Esposito said it would seem proper to allow the seven Trumbull County candidates to stay on the ballot this year because of the bad information they got and require that the law be upheld starting next year.
Jim Saker, the assistant county prosecutor who advises the Trumbull board of elections, said the law was in effect at the time the candidates voted in the primary, and had been upheld by a federal court last October — even though Ohio’s secretary of state at the time, Kenneth Blackwell, didn’t notify elections boards of the ruling.
The next step for anyone who feels that he was given incorrect information is to file a lawsuit, Saker said.
“That’s what’s going to happen,” Wilkerson said, though Esposito said it seems unfair to have to pay for legal action in such a situation.