Disqualified Ohio governor candidate loses court challenge

By Julie Carr Smyth - Associated Press

COLUMBUS — A disqualified candidate for Ohio governor lost his court case Thursday seeking to get back on the ballot.

In a 6-0 ruling, the Ohio Supreme Court said Democrat Jon Heavey failed to prove enough of his signatures had been improperly thrown out.

Heavey sought to reverse Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted’s decision to remove him from the ballot. His suit alleged dozens of the signatures he submitted were inaccurately tossed for reasons including illegibility, wrong party or not writing in cursive. In court documents, Heavey’s lawyers produced numerous examples of eligible registered voters who they said election boards in Cuyahoga, Hamilton and Franklin counties wrongly declared invalid.

The court’s ruling Thursday said Heavey failed to show a clear legal right to “certification to the ballot.” Some of the responding boards of elections have conceded the validity of some of the disputed signatures, the ruling said. But the court added that Heavey fell 146 signatures short of qualifying for the ballot, and has not presented “clear and convincing evidence” that there were at least 146 erroneously-rejected signatures.

The decision left four candidates to fight out the Democratic gubernatorial primary: former consumer watchdog Richard Cordray; former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich; state Sen. Joe Schiavoni; and former Ohio Supreme Court Justice William O’Neill.

Heavey was a last-minute entrant into the race to succeed Republican Gov. John Kasich, who’s term-limited. He is a Cleveland doctor and venture capitalist who sunk $1.5 million of his own money into his campaign.

Justice Pat DeWine, son of gubernatorial candidate Mike DeWine, Ohio’s Republican attorney general, recused himself from the case. The action was filed against Husted, DeWine’s running mate and the state’s elections chief.

Heavey had said his campaign used professional, experienced organizers to gather and double-check signatures. Because he knew he and his team were underdogs, he contended, he also more than doubled the minimum number of signatures required and verified them signatures against voter databases.

Messages were left with Heavey’s campaign seeking comment.

By Julie Carr Smyth

Associated Press