By BRIAN BOHNERT
The race for Ohio’s 88th district took another turn Wednesday as the man contesting Rhonda Damschroder’s candidacy found himself being contested as well.
In a letter sent to the media Wednesday afternoon, Seneca County Republican Party Chairman David Koehl said John Brewer, of Clyde, provided local news representatives with false information regarding his formal objection to Mrs. Damschroder’s write-in candidacy.
State Rep. Rex Damschroder (R-Fremont) announced last week his wife Rhonda will run as a placeholder for her husband in the May primary election in hopes of securing his spot in the district. If nominated, she plans to step down so Rex could be nominated as the Republican candidate for the November general election.
Brewer, whose protest with the Sandusky County Board of Elections was made official at 9:18 a.m. Tuesday, said the Damschroder duo’s substitution strategy goes against Ohio law, specifically Ohio Revised Code 3513.041 which pertains to write-in candidates. He said the code makes no mention of allowing a placeholder and her violation of the law is a fifth-degree felony.
“By openly stating she has no intention of running in the November election nor serving even one day in office, Rhonda Damschroder has committed election fraud by filing a falsified petition for candidacy,” Brewer said in his written protest.
Koehl, however, said a “plain reading” of the write-in form does not indicate Rhonda has committed any sort of rules violation by intending to run as a placeholder.
“The form merely states that she is seeking the nomination at the primary, which is true. There is no requirement on the form that she continue on to the general election, or serve in the office,” Koehl said. “So, I believe Mr. Brewer’s protest has no merit.”
In a Wednesday interview with the Review Times, Brewer said ORC 3599.36, labeled “Election Falsification,” states: “No person, either orally or in writing, on oath lawfully administered or in a statement made under penalty of election falsification, shall knowingly state a falsehood as to a material matter relating to an election …”
“She’s making a statement under penalty of election falsification that is more than just desiring to be a write-in candidate for the primary election,” he said. “She made a statement that she desires to be a write-in for the 88th district house seat; and, in reality, she doesn’t.”
Koehl went on to say that Brewer’s information about filling a potential candidate vacancy is also false. Referring to ORC 3513.31, he said there is no provision for advertising the vacancy.
“(Brewer) is apparently correct that we could pick anyone, not necessarily Rex to replace Rhonda,” he said in the statement. “However, if the Damschroders repeatedly state to the voters (as they have) that writing in Rhonda at the primary means that Rex will be substituted on the fall ballot, and the voters nominate her on that basis, then as chairman I would feel obligated to select him for the vacancy.”
Since the 88th district encompasses all of Sandusky County and part of Seneca County, Koehl said paragraph B of ORC 3513.31 states offices in which the state representative seat is in two counties specify that the chairperson and secretary of each county central committee would make the decision.
He said those four people would not be selected until the committees re-organize in late May or early June.
In addition to Brewer’s protest, the Damschroders may have some strong competition at the polls. Bill Reineke Jr., president of Tiffin Ford, Inc., and a partner in the Reineke Family Dealerships, announced he is also seeking write-in candidacy for the district. Reineke is a Republican. Also seeking write-in candidacy for the district are Richard Geyer, a Republican from Fremont and Bill Young, a Democrat from Green Springs.
Monday was the deadline to file as a write-in candidate for the primary election.
The Sandusky County Board of Elections will have a hearing at 3:30 p.m. March 5 to evaluate the legality of Mrs. Damschroder’s candidacy.
If he is unsatisfied with the board’s decision at the hearing, Brewer has said he plans to take the matter to the state level, voicing his concern to Secretary of State Jon Husted and the Ohio Board of Elections.
In a Tuesday interview with the Review Times, Matthew McClellan of Husted’s office said all protests against state legislatures must be filed with the board of the most populous county and not with the state.
- The Docket
- Member Service