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Trumbull GOP picks judge candidate

Votes to place Sarah Kovoor on November ballot

HOWLAND — Attorney Sarah Kovoor was selected as the Republican candidate to be placed on the November ballot for Trumbull County Common Pleas Court judge regardless of whom Gov. Mike DeWine picks to fill the seat on an interim basis.

Central committee members on Sunday picked Kovoor of Howland by a vote of 27 to 16 over fellow Republican David Engler of Weathersfield. The decision was made during a meeting Sunday at the local party headquarters. Margo S. Meola of Warren, a third candidate who applied for the appointment, did not attend Sunday’s meeting and did not receive any votes.

“I am very happy with the process,” Kovoor said after the meeting, which was closed to the media. “I’m thankful for the support of the Trumbull County people. … Our party has to unite.”

Peter Kontos, a Democrat, retired July 31 as a common pleas court judge with more than four years left on his term. DeWine will appoint an interim judge to the bench, but it’s unlikely that choice will be made by 4 p.m. today, the filing deadline to appear on the November ballot.

Write-in candidates have until Aug. 29 to file.

The parties were permitted to vote to place a name on the Nov. 8 ballot since Kontos’ resignation came after this year’s primary elections. The winner of the Nov. 8 election will serve the remainder of Kontos’ term, which ends Dec. 31, 2026.

Sunday’s meeting was called on Friday, even though it violated the 10-day-notice requirement in the county party’s bylaws. Michael Bollas, who was elected Republican chairman Aug. 4, initially said Sunday he would not comment on the meeting, but then a statement was released a few hours later.

According to the statement, no one in attendance objected to suspending the rules in order to selected a candidate, and he criticized earlier press accounts that said the party would fail to meet today’s deadline.

Others who left the meeting spoke to a waiting reporter in the parking lot.

Kenneth Kline, who resigned as party chair in July, supported the move to ignore the bylaws in order to pick a candidate.

“Sometimes, the end justifies the means,” Kline said. “I don’t care if I get into Heaven by the skin of my teeth as long as I get in. I’m glad she (Kovoor) has the opportunity to be on the ballot. … We have another great Republican candidate.”

Kovoor and Engler each had four minutes to speak to the committee members before the vote was taken during the half-hour meeting.

Engler said he believed the process was fair and said he would support Kovoor in November.

“Sure, I’ll support the Republican. That’s what you do,” Engler said, before adding, “If the governor appoints me, that will be a tricky situation.”

Trumbull County Commissioner Niki Frenchko said, “This sends a message to Mike DeWine that this is the candidate our county wants.”

Denny Malloy, who is the Republican nominee for Trumbull County Commissioner against Democrat Michael O’Brien to succeed retiring Commissioner Frank Fuda, said, “As a candidate, it’s important to have Sarah added to the slate. We have an opportunity to flip four seats (from Democrat to Republican) instead of three now.”

Karen McGaha, a Warren central committee member, said she voted for Kovoor because, “I just thought she was the best candidate. She listens to the people and her children are involved in the community as well.”

The Democratic central committee on Thursday voted to name Cynthia Westcott Rice of Brookfield, an 11th District Court of Appeals judge since 2003, as the party’s candidate.

Kathy DiCristofaro, vice chair of the Trumbull County Democratic Party, said, “Our vote was unanimous. We felt very fortunate that Cindy Rice stepped up and placed her name in for consideration. We don’t feel there is any other candidate in Trumbull County who can do as good of a job … We have the utmost confidence in our candidate.”

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