Ohio Supreme Court to decide on Randy Law’s eligibility

Ex-GOP chair trying to run as independent in Warren mayoral race

WARREN — With final written arguments filed, the Ohio Supreme Court will decide if Randy Law is to be reinstated to the ballot as an independent candidate for Warren mayor.

It’s uncertain how long it will take for the court’s ruling, but it likely will come before the Oct. 8 start of early voting for the Nov. 5 election.

The only Warren mayoral candidate on the ballot is incumbent Democrat Doug Franklin.

The Trumbull County Board of Elections removed Law as a candidate Aug. 12. The board voted 3-1 that Law didn’t disaffiliate himself from the Republican Party in good faith to run as an independent.

That came after a protest by Warren attorney Daniel Letson, a Democrat and a former state representative who beat Law for that position in 2006.

The elections board had initially certified Law’s eligibility July 2 as an independent.

The board “did not abuse its discretion or act in clear disregard of statutes or other pertinent law,” William J. Danso, an assistant county prosecutor representing the board of elections, wrote in a filing to the court.

But Frank J. Reed Jr. of Columbus, Law’s attorney, wrote that his client took “multiple affirmative steps to disaffiliate from the Republican Party.”

Reed wrote Law resigned his seat April 13 from the county Republican Party Central Committee and changed his political affiliation on various Facebook pages from Republican to independent.

“The board seeks to hold those against Mr. Law — suggesting that he is gaming the system and merely checking a box. But those two affirmative steps, consistent with this court’s prior cases, show that Mr. Law did all that he could to make his disaffiliation in good faith,” he argued.

Also, Reed wrote, Law didn’t vote in any partisan primary after he filed as an independent, he didn’t receive any support from the Republican Party, more Democrats than Republicans circulated his nominating petitions, he didn’t make financial contributions to Republicans and he didn’t attend any Republican events or support its candidates.

Danso contends Law’s resignation as a Republican committee member doesn’t “state that he is disaffiliating from the party. Indeed, it is possible to resign as a central committee member but still be affiliated with the party.”

Law has long Republican ties — serving as a state representative from 2005 to 2006; running as the party’s unsuccessful nominee for Warren mayor in 2003; losing state House races in 2006, 2012 (losing to Letson that year) and 2014; losing the Republican primary for an Ohio House seat last year; and serving as county GOP chairman from 2014 until 2017, when he was ousted by the county’s executive commitee.

“This heavy involvement in the core of the Trumbull County Republican Party was lawfully considered by the Trumbull County Board of Elections as one of the many factors in determining that (Law) had not disaffiliated in good faith from the Republican Party,” Danso wrote.

Reed described that as “the board (attempting) a sleight of hand.” A board’s “reliance on partisan voting history then would seem to always preclude a candidate’s attempt at disaffiliation,” and that his “voting history, standing alone, is not sufficient grounds for disqualifying an independent’s candidacy.”

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