Former state Sen. Kevin Coughlin says he isn’t giving up his fight to run as a nonpartisan for Stow Municipal Court clerk even after the Summit County elections board ruled him off the ballot Monday.
He said the next battle will be in court.
“The Republican Party and Democratic Party are afraid to face me on Election Day,” Coughlin said in an interview after the meeting. “They know I’m going to win and end patronage in the clerk’s office. Rather than face me in the election, they took the coward way out. They’re going to lose that fight and going to lose the election.”
Tim Gorbach, the board’s Democratic chairman, said he thinks the issue of whether a candidate with ties to a party like Coughlin, a longtime Republican office-holder and candidate, can run nonpartisan should be tested in court.
“Maybe that’s where it needs to be,” he said.
The board, however, unanimously approved Stow Judge Kim Hoover running as a nonpartisan candidate for his seat in the Nov. 5 election, making a distinction between judicial and clerk candidates.
Hoover will face Kandi O’Connor, a Republican and the judicial attorney and magistrate for Summit County Common Pleas Judge Amy Corrigall Jones. Linda Malek, the Democratic candidate and sister of Judge Joy Oldfield, withdrew from the race.
Coughlin claims he has the right under state law to run nonpartisan, just as Hoover does. He said he will appeal the board’s decision in the Ohio Supreme Court as soon as possible and, in the meantime, isn’t slowing down on his campaign. He plans to go door-to-door today.
“I will not be interrupted while I resolve this issue,” he said.
Coughlin’s hearing brought him back face-to-face with Alex Arshinkoff, an elections board member and the county GOP chairman he tried unsuccessfully to unseat in 2008.
At one point during the hearing, Arshinkoff questioned Coughlin about his ties to the GOP, asking him, “Are you a banana or an orange?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Coughlin replied. “There’s no standard. It does not exist.”
Donald Nelsch, a Cuyahoga Falls resident, challenged Coughlin’s ability to run non-partisan. He was represented during the hearing by Jim Simon, an attorney with strong ties to the county Republican Party.
The current Stow clerk candidates are Diane Colavecchio, a Democrat appointed to the seat, and Munroe Falls Mayor Frank Larson, a Republican.
The board also disqualified Stow Councilwoman Mary Bednar from running for re-election because of two checks she wrote to the board when she filed that didn’t clear because the account had been closed.
Robert Adaska, who is running for Bednar’s Ward 4 seat, filed a challenge with the board, arguing that she hadn’t met the requirement for filing and paying the required fees, though she belatedly provided the money to the board when the account issue was discovered. Joe and Mary Mumper of Stow also questioned Bednar’s candidacy.
Bednar said she plans to run as a write-in candidate to give her constituents a choice.
“I believe their right to have a choice in this election was taken away,” said Bednar, a three-term councilwoman. “By running as a write-in candidate, I’m giving them the choice back.”
Bednar ran as a write-in candidate in 2009 after being disqualified for insufficient signatures on her petitions, and lost. She won her seat back in 2011.
The board also held hearings on three other local candidates in the upcoming election, maintaining its previous decisions on whether those candidates should be allowed on the ballot. These included:
• Mike Adams, a Ward 5 Akron council candidate who was disqualified for insufficient signatures. Adams told the board he circulated his petitions in March when the board didn’t yet have the boundaries for the newly drawn Ward 5.
Board members told him other candidates waited until the new ward lines were settled before circulating.
• Tara Mosley-Samples, another Ward 5 Akron council candidate whose candidacy was questioned by Councilman Ken Jones. Jones presented documents to the board that he said showed Mosley-Samples hadn’t lived in Ward 5 for the required one year prior to the November election.
Mosley-Samples, a bailiff for Judge Kathryn Michael who ran Akron Councilman Mike Williams’ unsuccessful 2011 campaign against Mayor Don Plusquellic, told the board she moved in with her parents in Ward 5 last October to help care for them. Brian O’Donnell, her father, confirmed this to the board.
• Keith Elrod, a Ward 9 Akron council candidate who was denied ballot access because of insufficient signatures. He complained that he was listed in a Beacon Journal story in June as a candidate for the seat, but then told by the board 11 days later that he had been disqualified. (The Beacon Journal story listed the candidates who had filed, but whose petitions hasn’t yet been certified by the board.) He said this resulted in ridicule against him.
“We have to follow particular rules,” Ray Weber, a GOP board member, told him. “The comments people made were not a reflection on you but on the people who made them.”