Meeting to have a special Guest

LISBON — The Columbiana County Board of Elections is scheduled to meet at 1:30 p.m. today to resume discussing the independent candidacy of Heaven Guest,

Guest, from West Township, filed petitions on May 7 to run for county Common Pleas Court judge as an independent after having been a Democrat. The only other candidate for judge is Republican Megan Bickerton, who won the GOP primary on May 8 by unseating longtime Judge C. Ashley Pike.

On May 29, the elections board voted 2-2 along party lines to reject her candidacy petitions, with the two Republicans board members — David Johnson and Vic Maroscher –disputing whether Guest had cut her ties with the Democratic Party. The decision is now before the Ohio Secretary of State’s office, which is charged by law with breaking ties. Its decision can also be appealed to court.

Today’s meeting was scheduled at the request of Johnson, who is county Republican Party chairman. He wants to discuss Guest’s April 14 resignation letter from the county Democratic Party Central Committee. One of the reasons Johnson gave for voting to reject Guest’s candidacy petition is because she was a member of the central committee. After the meeting Guest submitted a hand-written letter dated April 14 stating she had resigned from the central committee.

Johnson submitted other evidence he says proves Guest is a Democrat, such as the fact the people who helped circulate her candidacy petitions and serve on her campaign nominating committee are almost all Democrats. He also produced photographs from Guest’s Facebook pages showing her with various Democratic candidates and officials.

Meanwhile, Guest provided the Journal with a 2013 Ohio Supreme Court ruling that upheld the independent candidacy of a longtime Mahoning County Democrat under similar circumstances.

The 6-1 court ruling provided by Guest involves a case where someone tried to stop the Mahoning County elections board from allowing Demaine Kitchen to run for Youngstown mayor as an independent. The person challenging Kitchen’s candidacy claimed his decision to run as independent was not made in “good faith” –which is the legal standard.

The court noted that even though Kitchen had voted Democratic in five primary elections — the last time being in 2009 — and served as a councilman as a Democrat, he did not hold any elected position as a Democrat or any position with the party after he filed to run as an independent. The judges also pointed to a Secretary of State advisory opinion stating a candidate’s prior voting history alone is insufficient to disqualify someone from running as an independent.

Kitchen had worked for the Democratic mayor but the court pointed out this was still not enough to disqualify him as an independent candidate, nor was there any prior ruling to support making such a decision based on that.

“The fact Kitchen has friendships with members of the Democratic Party is irrelevant. For one, thing Kitchen testified that he also has Republican friends. Moreover, disaffiliation from a party does not require one to abandon all friends and acquaintances,” the court concluded

The Journal ran a story on Tuesday pointing out that after filing to run as independent Guest was being introduced around the county courthouse and at a public function by county Democratic Party Chairman Nick Barborak, a law school classmate. Guest said she has friends of all political stripes and she will be seeking votes from people of every political persuasion.

tgiambroni@mojonews.com

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