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Parties file nominees for judge in Trumbull

WARREN — The Trumbull Republican and Democratic parties filed nominees for an open common pleas court judicial seat by the deadline, with the candidates squaring off in a sort-of rematch from two years ago.

Trumbull Democrats nominated Cynthia Westcott Rice of Brookfield, an 11th District Court of Appeals judge since 2003. She was nominated at a Thursday party central committee meeting and had her name submitted to the Trumbull County Board of Elections at 1:10 p.m. Friday.

Trumbull Republicans chose Sarah Thomas Kovoor of Howland as their nominee at an emergency meeting Sunday and turned in her name to the elections board at 10:06 a.m. Monday.

The deadline to file candidates for the seat formerly held by Peter Kontos, a Democrat, was 4 p.m. Monday. The write-in deadline is 4 p.m. Aug. 29.

Rice beat Kovoor by 2.1 percent, 6,824 votes, in 2020 for a seat on the 11th District Court of Appeals, which includes all of Trumbull, Ashtabula, Geauga, Lake and Portage counties.

The race was very close in Ashtabula, Lake and Portage counties.

Kovoor won Geauga County by 4,720 votes, getting 55.3 percent to 44.7 percent for Rice.

Rice largely won re-election because of her showing in Trumbull, the court’s second-most populous county behind Lake. Rice beat Kovoor by 9,768 votes in Trumbull, garnering 55.9 percent of the vote compared to 44.1 percent.

Kovoor lost the Republican primary in May for a different seat on the court of appeals by 9.2 percent to incumbent John Eklund, but won in Trumbull County 67.3 percent to 32.7 percent. In 2018, she lost by 1.2 percent to Democrat Samuel F. Bluedorn for a Trumbull County Domestic / Juvenile Division judicial seat.

Gov. Mike DeWine chose Eklund, a former state senator over others, including Kovoor, in June 2021 for an open seat on the appeals court.

Rice was the only Democrat to seek that party’s nomination for the common pleas seat previously held by Kontos.

Kovoor was selected by Republican central committee members 27 to 16 over David Engler of Weathersfield for the nomination.

INITIAL PLAN

After certification of the Nov. 8 election, the winner will serve the remainder of Kontos’ term, which expires Dec. 31, 2026.

Engler, Koovor and Margo S. Meola of Howland are the three finalists sent late Thursday to DeWine’s office by the Trumbull Republican Party. The Republican governor is to appoint a successor to Kontos, who retired early on July 31, to fill that term until the Nov. 8 election results are certified.

The initial plan was to have the person chosen by DeWine be the party’s nominee on the ballot. But Michael Bollas, party chairman, learned last Thursday that the deadline to submit a candidate for the election was Monday.

Bollas initially said Thursday that his party wouldn’t file a nominee by the deadline because it wanted to wait for DeWine’s decision.

A day later, party officers sent a notice of a Sunday emergency meeting to recommend a candidate for the ballot. That email acknowledged that the meeting violated the party’s bylaws requiring a 10-day notice for meetings.

In a Sunday statement after the meeting, the party wrote the central committee heard “readings from Robert’s Rules of Order allowing the bylaws to be suspended as far as the rule requiring a 10-day notice to have a meeting.”

The statement added that, “Bollas then asked the 43 in attendance if they had any objection to the bylaw rule being suspended; there were no objections.”

But those at the meeting — the media wasn’t permitted to attend — said letters written by Martha Yoder, the party’s county auditor candidate, and Lynda Hall Chos, the party’s former treasurer, were read objecting to the meeting because of the bylaws violation. The two central committee members declined to attend Sunday’s meeting.

At Sunday’s meeting, the party had 43 people vote. At an Aug. 4 meeting in which Bollas and others were elected party officers, 59 people voted. At a June 10 meeting that had Kenneth Kline re-elected — he resigned as chairman July 17 — there were 65 votes cast.

The timing of Kontos’ early retirement left the central committees of the two parties to nominate candidates for the election as the primary date had passed.

Meola said she was out of the state when the Republican screening committee held interviews last week. She said she asked for an interview via Zoom, which didn’t happen.

Meola didn’t attend Sunday’s meeting and wasn’t nominated by any central committee member to be on the ballot.

Meola said Trumbull County Republican officials say she wasn’t registered as a member of the party. A review of her certificate of registration record, provided by the board of elections, shows she hasn’t voted in a Republican primary since at least 2008.

Under state election law, she is not considered a Republican. Her party is blank on the certificate at the board of elections.

Meola said her voting record “does not seem accurate, but I did not keep track of every time I voted.”

Meola said she hopes to run for a judicial seat in the future.

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