Attorney general candidate’s eligibility could be at risk

By David Skolnick

The independent candidate voted in the March GOP primary.

The eligibility of the only candidate to file as an independent for attorney general could be in jeopardy.

Robert M. Owens, an attorney from the Columbus suburb of Delaware, filed as an independent for the job by Tuesday’s deadline.

Owens needs 750 valid signatures to be a candidate. The secretary of state’s office said he turned in about 1,100 signatures.

But even if Owens has enough signatures, his eligibility could be in question, said Kevin Kidder, a secretary of state office spokesman.

Owens voted in the Republican primary in March, only two months ago, as well as in 2006, 2004 and 2002, according to records at the Delaware County Board of Elections.

A 2007 opinion from the secretary of state, based on a federal court decision, states if a candidate votes in a party primary election after filing as an independent, that person’s “claim of independence was either not made in good faith or is no longer current.”

That didn’t happen with Owens.

But, Kidder said, “Voting history is a factor” in determining the eligibility of a candidate.

Owens disagreed, however, saying the federal case involved an active member of the Republican Party who filed to be an independent.

“Our situation is quite different, and we do not expect any such issue with certifying my candidacy for Ohio attorney general,” he said.

Someone would have to file a protest against Owens’ candidacy for the matter to be resolved, Kidder said.

The protest would be heard by a hearing officer, appointed by Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner.

The final decision on Owens’ candidacy rests with Brunner, Kidder said.

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