Wednesday, Apr 25, 2018
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Ohio court won't block GOP panel candidates

COLUMBUS - The Ohio Supreme Court yesterday rejected an attempt by Republican Paul Hoag to disqualify 52 candidates for the Lucas County Republican Party Central Committee who are allied with Jon Stainbrook.

The case stems from the continuing dispute over control of the county GOP and the Ohio Republican Party's failure so far to resolve the issue.

The justices unanimously ruled that they would not second-guess the county board of elections' decision to reject Mr. Hoag's challenges to the 52 central committee candidacies.

The board dismissed his challenges on grounds that he didn't have standing to make them, either as a voter in the precincts in question or as the unquestioned chairman of the committee.

He claimed that the candidates could not sign a declaration of candidacy stating they are "qualified electors,'' then register to vote, while at the same time submitting declarations of candidacy to the board of elections.

"… (A)s Hoag himself concedes, his status as chair of the Lucas County Republican Party Central Committee is disputed and his claim has been submitted by the board of elections to the Ohio Republican Party State Central Committee for resolution,'' the court wrote.

It found that Mr. Hoag, a Springfield Township resident and treasurer of the state party, failed to prove that the board of elections abused its discretion or clearly disregarded the law when it dismissed his claims and certified the candidates for the May 4 primary ballot.

"This was another failed attempt to intimidate, harass, and scare people away from running for central committee… '' Mr. Stainbrook said. "They did this when they should have been focused on working to get Republicans elected, not keeping Republicans off the ballot or attacking fellow Republicans.

"It's been all about keeping control of the party,'' he said. "That's been their true motive. While we were being attacked by them, we did the Karl Rover dinner, we recruited central committee people, and we got one-fourth of the signatures for more than half of the statewide endorsed candidates.''

Mr. Hoag did not return calls seeking comment.

A Lucas County Common Pleas Court judge ruled in February that neither side in the county GOP leadership dispute complied with state law and gave the state party's central committee 30 days to resolve the matter. The state committee is expected to discuss the issue on Friday at a conference center north of Columbus.

The court still has before it a separate lawsuit filed by the county Republican Party Executive Committee urging it to overturn Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner's appointment of attorney Ben Marsh to a GOP vacancy on the county elections board and replace him with the committee's recommended choice, Mr. Stainbrook.

That case argues that Ms. Brunner lacked the authority to opt for a third party rather than those recommended by competing factions supporting Mr. Stainbrook and Jeff Simpson, who also claims to be chairman. Mr. Hoag is part of the Simpson faction.

Justices Maureen O'Connor and Judith Lanzinger had previously removed themselves from the case. Although neither stated a reason, both are Republicans facing Democratic challengers on this year's ballot.

Chief Justice Thomas Moyer died on April 2, leaving a complement of four sitting justices to decide the case.

Contact Jim Provance


or 614-221-0496.

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