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Published: Friday, 2/7/2014

Ohioan decided in jail he’d run for governor

Trotwood man pursues Dem nomination


COLUMBUS — The Dayton-area man who made a surprise last-minute entry into the Democratic race for governor may be the first to say he hatched his plan for political office while behind bars last spring.

“I promised a couple of guys in jail that I would run for governor and help them get out of prison,” said Larry Ealy, 51, a former tow-truck driver from Trotwood who is on disability.

It appeared Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald would have a clear path to the Democratic nomination May 6 after Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune gave up his attempt to qualify for the ballot with former mayor and now Toledo Councilman Jack Ford as his running mate.

But minutes before Wednesday’s candidate filing deadline, Mr. Ealy filed petitions to run with Ken Gray of Cincinnati as his potential lieutenant governor. He met Mr. Gray three years ago when he helped him with a child-custody case.

Although he said he filed far more than the needed 1,000 valid signatures of registered Democratic or independent voters, he will learn next Friday whether enough signatures survived the scrutiny of county boards of elections.

Mr. Ealy said he has a sixth-grade education and learned to read after leaving school. He said he’ll make his campaign about civil rights. “The United States of America has abandoned the people, and it’s time for a movement,” he said. “If we don’t move now, it will be a deprivation of our due process. I’m looking to become the first black governor in the state of Ohio. …

“They want to keep the status quo. …,” he said. “Based on history, minorities have always been deprived of their 5th and 14th Amendment rights. More Americans are starting to see government and officials don’t have their interests — black, white, or whatever.”

Born in Dayton, Mr. Ealy has had his share of run-ins with the law. He has faced a number of traffic violations, and a 1990 physical altercation with Dayton police led to his filing a lawsuit claiming police used excessive force.

A jury agreed with him, but did not award him monetary damages. The Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision.

Mr. Ealy stressed, “There are no felonies on me.”

He was not on the state Democratic Party’s radar screen before his filing. “He’s attempted to run in Montgomery County, and every time he’s never gotten enough names [on petitions], so he’s never run for public office,” said Mark Owens, chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Party. “He has an extensive, although relatively minor, record in the court system. He was litigious for a while, and [had trespassed at] the courthouse at one time and had to be escorted by sheriffs.”

Mr. FitzGerald’s campaign so far has ignored Mr. Ealy. On Thursday, Mr. FitzGerald urged both Mr. Kasich and Libertarian candidate Charlie Earl, of Bowling Green, to sign a pledge they would serve out the full term. There was no mention of Mr. Ealy or Green Party candidate Dennis Spisak.

The pledge is obviously aimed at Mr. Kasich, who has been mentioned as a potential presidential contender in 2016.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.

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