Loychik set to challenge candidacy of his opponent
WARREN — One day after securing his party’s nomination in Ohio’s 65th District House race, Republican state Rep. Mike Loychik announced he intends to challenge the candidacy of his would-be opponent in November.
Loychik on Wednesday stated in a news release it was his intention to file a legal challenge to Jennifer Donnelly’s nominating petitions, her residency and her separation from the Democratic Party before filing to run as an independent.
“After defeating an independent candidate masquerading as a Republican, it appears my next potential candidate may be a Democrat masquerading as an independent,” Loychik stated in the release. “If it is determined that Ms. Donnelly is eligible to run for this office, I look forward to defeating her and continuing to serve the people of my district in Columbus.”
He declined to comment further when reached by phone. Donnelly did not respond Wednesday to messages seeking comment.
Loychik, R-Bazetta, who is in his first term in the 63rd District, handily won the Republican nomination in the new 65th Ohio House District on Tuesday with 71 percent of the vote over Randy Law of Warren Township, a former state legislator and ex-chairman of the Trumbull County Republican Party.
Under Ohio law, a voter affiliates with a political party by voting in that party’s primary election. A person is considered to be a member of that party if he or she voted in that party’s primary within the preceding two years or did not vote in any other party’s primary two years prior.
The Ohio Secretary of State’s 2022 Ohio Candidate Requirement Guide provides details on independent candidates, stating one “must actually be unaffiliated from any political party” and the claim of unaffiliation “must be made in good faith.”
The guide also links to a 2007 advisory from the office that gives more details.
It states if an independent candidate votes in a party primary after filing as an independent, that person “is not actually unaffiliated” and the person’s claim of independence “was either not made in good faith or is no longer current.”
It’s the same if a person was on a party’s central or executive committee at the time he or she filed as an independent candidate or joined either committee at any point during the independent candidacy.
A review of Donnelly’s voting record at the Trumbull County Board of Elections shows the last primary election she voted in was in 2016 as a Democrat. That was a presidential election year. Democrats running for president were Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Roque De La Fuente.
Donnelly did not vote Tuesday nor in the May primary this year, according to the elections board.
Also, Trumbull County Democratic Party Chairman Mark Alberini said Donnelly never has held an elected central committee post or an appointed executive committee role in the party.
The 2007 advisory also states indications of party affiliation like voting history, information on required election-related filings, political ads, being a party officer or member or holding public office for which the person was nominated in a party primary election and elected on a partisan ticket “may serve as evidence, though not necessarily conclusive evidence” to support a protest of an independent candidate’s candidacy.
A candidate’s voting history combined with other facts that tend to indicate party affiliation, however, “may be sufficient grounds to disqualify an independent,” the advisory states.
Donnelly, 361 Stahl Ave., Cortland, a pet health insurance claims adjuster and political newcomer, filed in the race Monday.
The elections board plans to meet Aug. 19 to certify Tuesday’s election results and nonpartisan and independent candidates for the November election.
Donnelly said earlier this week that she became interested in the seat after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion decision, and because “you can’t have an effective democracy with one candidate running” in the general election race.
Donnelly received help from various Democrats, including Alberini, in collecting signatures on nominating petitions. The party posted Friday on its Facebook page news of an event Saturday to sign Donnelly’s nominating petitions.
The party affiliation of circulators of independent candidate nominating petitions nor of the signers matters when considering the validity of those petitions, according to elections board Director Stephanie Penrose, a Republican.
The district comprises most of Trumbull and Ashtabula counties.
The last challenge to a candidate’s party affiliation was of Law in the run-up to the 2019 election for Warren mayor.
Then Warren attorney and resident Daniel B. Letson challenged Law’s party affiliation before the elections board, claiming Law had not unaffiliated from the Republican Party to run as a nonparty candidate for mayor.
The elections board sided with Letson, however, Law appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court, which determined Law properly disaffiliated himself from the Republican Party and ordered the elections board to return him to the ballot.
Law lost the election in a landslide to Mayor Doug Franklin, who received 67 percent of the vote.