Mahoning board refuses to remove two candidates from ballot
By David Skolnick
The Mahoning County Board of Elections rejected requests to remove two independent candidates for Youngstown mayor from the November ballot.
A formal protest has been filed by Cecil Monroe against retired Police Chief Jimmy Hughes and DeMaine Kitchen, the mayor’s chief of staff/secretary.
Monroe contended the two aren’t eligible to run as independents because they are Democrats.
The four-member board disagreed Thursday, unanimously voting to reject Monroe’s protest against Hughes, and voted 3-1 to reject the protest against Kitchen.
Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras, the elections board’s vice chairman, was the lone vote to remove Kitchen from the ballot.
A 2007 advisory opinion from the secretary of state, based on a 2006 court decision, requires elections boards to disqualify independent candidates if they vote in a party primary after filing as independents, or if they are members of a party’s central or executive committee when filing as independents.
Neither candidate voted in a party primary or served on a party committee after filing as independents.
Monroe based his cases on a provision in the advisory that states voting history “with other facts tending to indicate party affiliation may be sufficient grounds to disqualify an independent.”
Both candidates have voted in Democratic primaries, previously ran as Democrats (with Kitchen winning two terms as a Youngstown councilman), and Kitchen served on the county Democratic executive committee, but resigned in August 2011.
Monroe based much of his case on comments Kitchen and Hughes made to The Vindicator about being Democrats, and that running as independents was a strategic decision.
Elections board members said the provision used by Monroe isn’t specific enough to be considered.
But Betras said Kitchen has been long affiliated with the Democratic Party, and voted to disqualify him.
Monroe withdrew as an independent candidate for Youngstown mayor in late May before the board could disqualify him.
Monroe was to be removed because he voted in the Democratic primary May 7, the day after he filed petitions to run as an independent.
Monroe acknowledged the irony, but added, “It isn’t a vendetta. It isn’t sour grapes.”
He also said no one asked him to file the protests.