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No decision on Gamble Nov. ballot challenge

LISBON — The county election board will hold a hearing on Aug. 21 to determine whether the replacement Democratic nominee for county prosecutor can appear on the Nov. 3 ballot.

The board met Friday and after two tie votes and some testy moments they agreed to hold the hearing on a challenge to John Gamble’s candidacy filed by Jim Beardsley, a former Republican member of the board.

Gamble, the chief assistant county prosecutor, was chosen by the county Democratic Party to replace his boss, Robert Herron, on the ballot. Herron had filed to seek re-election but changed his mind and dropped out of the race in May.

Since Herron is a Democrat, it was the Democratic Party’s responsibility to choose a ballot replacement, which the party did when it selected Gamble on July 16. A letter advising the election board of the vote was filed by the party on July 21.

To complete the process, the party also had to file a certification of candidacy with the board. This form bears a date stamp of July 24 only.

Beardsley, in his challenge, said the July 21 filing included the official election board stamp, date it was received and time, but the candidacy certification does not have the official board stamp or time, just the date.

Beardsley contends this lack of official board date-and-time stamp “creates a sufficient basis and presumption against this document actually being tendered timely and properly, if at all, to the board.”

He also has other issues with whether it was the Democratic Party’s central or executive committee that selected Gamble.

Meanwhile, the deadline for filing all of the necessary paperwork was Aug. 10, which came and went without Gamble’s name among candidates listed as running for office in November.

The Gamble dispute was not on the board’s agenda, which was called to take care of routine matters, and vice president Patty Colian tried to get it on the agenda. Colian is one of two Democrats on the board, with the other being Larry Bowersock.

“He (Gamble) is the duly appointed replacement by the Democratic Party to fill the vacancy,” and all the necessary documentation was filed in a timely manner, she said.

“Mr. Gamble has a right for his candidacy to be voted on by this board and not forgotten about as an oversight. I will not, as a board member, stand by and let an election be stolen,” Colian concluded.

The vote to place the Gamble candidacy on the agenda for consideration was 2-2, with Colian and Bowersock in the affirmative. Republican board members David Johnson and Vic Maroscher voted no.

Johnson, who serves as board president, said he did not feel is was proper for them to take up the Gamble issue at this time since the matter is under investigation by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

“Who instigated that?” Bowersock asked.

“It really doesn’t matter,” Johnson replied.

“It makes a difference to me. I’m a board member. I should know,” Bowersock said.

Johnson noted they had an executive session scheduled at the end of the meeting, “and at that time I will share my thoughts.”

When it came time to adopt the meeting agenda, the board could not even agree on that, ending in a 2-2 tie along party lines.

Johnson said without approving the meeting agenda they would be unable to conduct routine business, which included certifying liquor options for placement on the ballot. The deadline for doing so is Monday.

Prior to second tie vote, Alex Pavloff, the regional liaison for Ohio Secretary of State Dave Yost, arrived. After the second tie vote, Johnson asked him if his boss could break the tie. Pavloff checked and was told the board needed to resolve this themselves. After a brief recess, the board agreed to adopt the meeting agenda.

After denying one liquor option (The Foundry in Salem) for placement on the ballot due to insufficient petition signatures, the board went into executive session. When they returned after about half hour or so, the board voted 4-0 to schedule the hearing for Beardsley’s challenge.

They also agreed by a 4-0 vote to ask county commissioners for permission to hire Columbus attorney Donald C. Brey to serve as their legal counsel at the hearing and beyond because the county prosecutor’s office could not due to the obvious conflict of interest. Johnson said one of Brey’s specialties is election law.

Finally, Johnson instructed board director Kim Fusco and deputy director Bryce Miner to “work together on all matters pertaining to the function of this office, including any matters that would come before you involving this protest.”

“We ask that you and Bryce … work hand-in-hand,” he told Fusco, who is a Democrat. Miner is a Republican.

“As we always have, sir,” she replied.

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