Warren attorney challenged candidate’s party affiliation
By Ed Runyan
The Trumbull County Board of Elections voted 3-1 Monday to remove Randy Law, former Trumbull County Republican Party chairman, from the November election as an independent candidate for Warren mayor.
Atty. Daniel Letson of Warren filed a challenge to Law’s candidacy and served as his own lawyer at a hearing before the board of elections, saying Law is not unaffiliated from the Republican Party, as Ohio law requires.
Law voted in the Republican primary in 2018 and ran as a candidate for state representative in that election. He lost to Martha Yoder, who then lost in the general election to Democrat Michael O’Brien.
Letson also mentioned a May 7 article in a local newspaper in which Law said he decided to run as an independent after peopled urged him to run. He said that happened after the deadline had passed for Law to run in the primary. Law would have run against incumbent Democrat Doug Franklin.
“What Mr. Law is saying ... is that but for the deadline of a partisan politician to run in the primary, he would have run as a partisan politician,” Letson said Monday during the hearing.
Law said afterward he will appeal the decision to the Ohio Supreme Court. He said he and his attorney have “case law on our side.” He said, “I am very confident I will be on the ballot in November.”
Law called the 3-1 vote a “political decision” that was “clearly not based on the law,” but he declined to clarify what he meant by a “political decision.”
Law was ousted as county Republican Party chairman in 2017 after a lengthy dispute with other Republican Party leaders.
Law’s attorney, Ryan Stubenrauch, said Monday the courts generally rule in favor of a candidate trying to run as an independent. He cited a ruling in which the Ohio Supreme Court backed longtime Democrat Tom Bernabei’s bid to run as an independent for Canton mayor in 2015 despite being quoted in a newspaper saying, “I wish I would have run in the Democratic primary.”
In that case, Ohio’s top court said no one presented “clear and convincing evidence” that Bernabei failed to disaffiliate from the Democratic Party, according to the Canton Repository.
Both Democrats on the Trumbull Board of Elections, Greg Alberini and Diana Marchese, voted to remove Law. Republican Kathi Creed also voted to remove him, while Republican Ron Knight voted against removal.
In explaining the decision after it was announced, Alberini said there were “many, many, many factors” that caused the majority to remove Law.
Among them are decisions courts have made in similar situations, Law’s “previous public offices held,” his Republican candidacy for state representative a year earlier and “the signers and the circulators” of Law’s petitions to run for office.
Alberini said board members also questioned the timing of Law’s run as an independent and Law’s remarks in the news article. Another issue was, “Why are you running as an independent now?” Alberini said.
The board decided at a meeting earlier Monday to remove current West Farmington Mayor Shirley McIntosh, Cortland Councilman James Edwards, Warren Board of Education member Andre Coleman, Mathews Board of Education member Rex Rager and Howland Board of Education member Scott Lehman from the November ballot. All were trying to run as independents for re-election. But they were removed because of flaws in their candidate petitions.
They were among 18 people trying to run as independents who were removed. None are eligible to run as a write-in, elections board director Stephanie Penrose said. The deadline to file as an independent is Aug. 26.
The other 13 and the offices they sought are Michael Haddle, Mathews Board of Education; Patrick Glunt, Weathersfield fiscal officer; James Dechristefero, Niles Board of Education; Jackie Shannon, Victoria Rush, Paul Amos and Jenna Daugherty, Warren Board of Education; Jack Finch Sr. and Nick Solak, Howland Township trustee; Christina Miller, Greene Township fiscal officer; Rachel Hill, Liberty fiscal officer; Robert Woolf, Farmington Township trustee; Sara Grimes, Champion Board of Education.