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Libertarian running for governor faces test

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COLUMBUS — Charlie Earl, a former Republican state representative from Bowling Green, will have to fight to keep his Libertarian spot on the ballot for Ohio governor. Protesters claim Democrats are behind his candidacy.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has scheduled hearings for Tuesday for Mr. Earl and Steven A. Linnabary, a Columbus candidate for attorney general, to fend off allegations that could invalidate their petitions.

A Libertarian and independent allege that the petitions that secured their spots on the ballot were circulated by professional signature gatherers who did not identify themselves as such on the petitions and that lawyers, consultants, and political operatives usually associated with Democratic candidates worked to ensure the Libertarians qualified for the ballot.

There’s been conjecture over what impact Mr. Earl’s presence on the ballot would have on the race for Ohio governor.

Some within the conservative Tea Party wing of the GOP have voiced support for a conservative alternative to Republican Gov. John Kasich, given Mr. Kasich’s support of Medicaid expansion under the federal health-care law and his refusal to sign off on attempts to make Ohio the latest right-to-work state.

“These charges are completely without merit and part of an attempt to limit voters’ choices in the governor’s race and on down,” said Aaron Keith Harris, spokesman for the Ohio Libertarian Party, whose own petitions for secretary of state were found insufficient. He said there’s no truth behind the allegations that Democrats are behind the Libertarian candidacies.

Democrats generally believe Mr. Earl will draw more voters from Mr. Kasich than their chosen candidate, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, but the Libertarian Party’s position on other issues may not be an easy fit with either major party.

Brad Smith, a Capital University law professor and former Federal Elections Commission member, will preside as hearing officer and make his recommendations to Mr. Husted whether Mr. Earl or Mr. Linnabary should remain on the ballot.

Mr. Linnabary wants to stay on the ballot alongside incumbent Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine and former Hamilton County Commissioner David Pepper.

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

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