The Summit County Board of Elections has had the dubious distinction of sending more tie votes to the secretary of state’s office than any other elections board in the state. When the two Democrats and two Republicans (the same setup is followed across Ohio) lock horns, the secretary of state must break the deadlock.
So it came as something of a surprise this week to see a unanimous vote to boot former state Sen. Kevin Coughlin off the Nov. 5 ballot. Coughlin, a Republican, filed as a nonpartisan candidate to run for clerk of the Stow Municipal Court.
Might both parties have something to gain by blocking Coughlin? The patronage-rich position (17 jobs) is also being sought by Diane Colavecchio, a Democrat appointed to fill a vacancy, and Frank Larson, Republican and mayor of Munroe Falls. Neither can match Coughlin’s name recognition and campaign experience. (All three would appear on the nonpartisan ballot in the fall.)
Board members say Coughlin cannot file as a nonpartisan, avoiding a primary, given his political past. Yet Coughlin points to a law he authored in 2006, while in the state Senate, that appears to clear his way to the fall ballot as a nonpartisan candidate without regard to past partisan activities. He also points to the board approving Judge Kim Hoover of the Stow court, also active in the past as a Republican candidate, filing as a nonpartisan candidate for re-election to the bench.
Coughlin will take his case to the Ohio Supreme Court. There, fortunately, clearer eyes will examine why the Summit board allowed Hoover to file as a nonpartisan while bouncing Coughlin.