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196 foes of Ross file petitions for primary

Rivals of Lucas County Democratic Party Chairman Paula Ross received a boost yesterday after 196 write-in candidates belonging to a group trying to unseat her filed petitions with the county s Board of Elections for precinct committeemen in the March 2 primary.

The unusually large number of write-in candidates pleased the self-proclaimed “Toss Ross” group, which held an afternoon news conference in the Government Center lobby before submitting their write-in petitions to the elections board on the third floor.

“It tells you the party is not unified,” said Dennis Duffey, Northwest Ohio Building Trades president and Precinct 4 chairman.

Ms. Ross admitted she was surprised by rivals response.

“It s a very impressive number,” she said.

She had turned up at the elections board earlier in the day with 170 write-in petitions belonging to candidates who support her.

Elections board Director Joseph Kidd was also surprised by the number of write-in candidates - which totaled 394, including 28 applicants independent of the Ross and anti-Ross factions.

“It is an extraordinary number. I think we ll be here all night on election night. It s going to be a nightmare to account for all of these candidates,” Mr. Kidd said.

In 1998, when 201 Republicans and 218 Democrats ran as write-ins, it took nearly a week to determine the outcome of the 150 contested races.

At the press conference a group of speakers included Mr. Duffey, former Toledo Mayor Harry Kessler, and former county Commissioner Sandy Isenberg, tabbed as a possible replacement for Ms. Ross. They reiterated their dissatisfaction with Ms. Ross.

“I m concerned the Democratic Party is going in the wrong direction. We can t afford to let this continue,” Mr. Kessler said.

Ms. Ross said her plan is to win the majority of the precinct seats and maintain her chairmanship.

“It s not a matter of how many of them are running, but where they are running,” she said of the write-in candidates in the anti-Ross group. “We ll find out where the contested races are and proceed to win [them].”

Ms. Ross had about 180 candidate supporters whose petitions were approved last week by the elections board. Coupled with her write-in supporters, she said she has 350 committeemen candidates who support her. The anti-Ross group has 127 candidates on the ballot and 196 write-in applicants.

Meanwhile, a controversy over a disqualified batch of candidate petitions belonging to the anti-Ross group continued to simmer. In all, 40 petitions belonging to that faction were disqualified, including 15 because the applicants received wrong information from a county Web site. Ms. Ross supporters had seven petitions rejected, according to the anti-Ross group.

The Web glitch stems from a Dec. 8 meeting at which the elections board, headed by Ms. Ross, reduced the number of precincts from 530 to 495 and in the process changed the letter or numerical designation of 35 precincts. The changes were supposed to be recorded on the elections board s Web site, which is maintained by the county auditor and were used to complete nominating petitions.

But the updated information was not posted until two days prior to the Jan. 2 filing deadline. As a result, the 15 applicants who were disqualified filled in the wrong precinct on their petitions.

Yesterday, Mr. Kidd produced documentation that showed his staff forwarded the information to the auditor s office on Dec. 22. He said it took his staff two weeks to verify all precinct voters - 300,000 countywide - before they could pass on the information to the auditor.

Auditor Larry Kaczala was not pleased with the implication that his staff was delinquent in the matter, pointing out that the memo from the elections board wasn t marked “urgent.” More significant, he said, “They gave it to us on the 22nd. There were only three business days left in the year, and we were about as busy as we can be.”

The election board told the rejected petitioners they had no recourse in which to have their petitions validated, saying they had other ways to get the accurate information.

Mr. Kidd said he understood the concerns of the rejected applicants. “If you have a forum for public information, it should be reliable,” he said.

Anti-Ross organizers said they will challenge the other rejected candidate applications.

Mr. Duffey said he has proof some of the rejected applications contained errors identical to errors on the forms of pro-Ross candidates whose applications were accepted.

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