The Ohio Supreme Court dismissed a case filed by a write-in Youngstown mayoral candidate seeking to disqualify DeMaine Kitchen as an independent in the same race.
The court in a unanimous Thursday ruling determined that Cecil Monroe, a write-in, “failed to satisfy his burden of proof” that Kitchen isn’t eligible to run as an independent because he’s actually a Democrat.
“There is no evidence that Kitchen has voted in a Democratic primary, held elective office as a Democrat, or held a position in the Democratic Party central committee at any time after filing his declaration of independent candidacy and nominating petition on May 6,” the court ruled.
The court added that the secretary of state “opined that a candidate’s prior voting history alone is an insufficient basis for disqualifying an independent candidate.”
The court agreed with the Mahoning County Board of Elections, which rejected Monroe’s request by a 3-1 vote July 18 to remove Kitchen claiming he is really a Democrat.
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.
Kitchen didn’t vote in a party primary or serve on a party committee after filing as an independent.
In a twist, Monroe withdrew as an independent candidate because he voted in the Democratic primary a day after filing. By withdrawing before the board could disqualify him, Monroe was able to file as a write-in candidate.
Monroe based his failed case in front of the board and the Supreme Court 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.”
Monroe said Kitchen has Democratic friends and as chief of staff/secretary to Mayor Charles Sammarone, a Democrat, he should be considered a Democrat.
Both the board and the court disagreed with Monroe.
“The evidence does not demonstrate an abuse of discretion by the board,” the court wrote.