Law fought the law, and Law won

Being considered an independent candidate for public office in Ohio isn’t that hard.

You really only have to not be affiliated with a political party — which typically means you don’t hold an office with that party, and after you file as an independent you don’t turn around and vote in a partisan primary.

You’d be amazed how many would-be candidates get thrown off the ballot for filing one day as an independent and then voting in a Democratic or Republican primary the very next day.

So on the surface, it appeared that Randy Law took the proper steps to disaffiliate himself from the Republican Party when he filed to run as an independent for Warren mayor.

He resigned his seat April 13 from the Trumbull County Republican Party Central Committee before circulating petitions as an independent. He also didn’t vote in the May 7 primary. There was only a Democratic primary and no Republican one.

Both boxes appeared to be checked, and the board of elections certified his eligibility July 2 as an independent.

Then Daniel Letson, a Warren attorney, filed an objection. After an Aug. 12 hearing, the board voted 3-1 to remove Law as a candidate with a majority of members saying he didn’t disaffiliate himself from the Republican Party in good faith.

Among the arguments made by the board in tossing Law from the ballot were his long Republican history, including running for various elected offices under the party banner as recently as last year, and his time as the county GOP chairman, which ended in a messy breakup. The board also pointed to a comment Law made to the Tribune Chronicle in May that essentially said he didn’t make up his mind to run until after the primary filing deadline.

As I mentioned, being considered an independent candidate is relatively easy.

But proving it can sometimes be tricky.

That’s because the Ohio Supreme Court makes the final decision if an appeal is filed, as was the case with Law.

Over the years, the court has interpreted election laws in different ways. Justices change, and the laws are constantly being rewritten and reinterpreted.

That meant that there was no guarantee that the court was going to side with Law.

As Mark Alberini, Trumbull elections board director, told me: “The laws are not black and white. They’re gray at best.”

The court ruled Monday that Law properly disaffiliated himself from the Republican Party and ordered the board of elections to return him to the ballot.

That’s what the board will do at a meeting today.

The court decision stated the board of elections “abused its discretion” with its decision.

To show that justices view elections law differently, four of the seven members of the state’s highest court concurred with the 15-page ruling with another concurring in judgment only and a different justice concurring in part and dissenting in part and stating overall he would have denied Law’s writ of mandamus. Justice Sharon L. Kennedy didn’t participate in the vote.

Law will face incumbent Democrat Doug Franklin in the November election for Warren mayor.

While Law won the court battle, he was hardly a gracious winner.

After the court ruled in his favor, Law said: “Mayor Franklin can’t defend his awful record on crime and job creation, so he tried to have his political cronies take me out of the race. The Ohio Supreme Court put a stop to that, and now the mayor is going to have to answer for lousy job he’s done.”

Franklin initially laughed off Law’s comments when I read them to him, adding he had nothing to do with the Letson objection and that his challenger presented “a total misinterpretation of my record.”

Franklin also got in a shot on Law: “If he lived in Warren, he’d understand my record a little better.”

This was a reference to a challenge last year when Law ran for an Ohio House seat in the Republican primary. Republicans said Law didn’t live at his listed Warren address. The board of elections that time ruled in Law’s favor, saying he was a city resident.


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