Ohio2006 Blog

News, analysis, and comments on Ohio elections.

Monday, August 7

Cong. OH-18: Padgett May be Barred from Special Primary; Harris (R) to Jump In

The announcement today that embattled incumbent Rep. Bob Ney (R-Heath) will withdraw from the 18th Ohio Congressional District race has generated a slew of speculation about a possible special primary election and who might participate in it. The Columbus Dispatch quotes James Lee, a spokesman for Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell's office, as saying that Ney must withdraw in writing to the Tuscarawas County Board of Elections, the most populous county in Ney's congressional district. If Ney submits that written notice of withdrawal before August 19, which is 80 days before the November 7 general election, a special election must be held in each of the counties in the district to replace Ney as the GOP nominee. However, if Ney waits until after August 19 but before August 23, the GOP chairmen and central committee secretaries in the counties will meet to name a replacement for the ballot. Lee also said that it's not clear yet what happens if Ney waits until after August 23. However, the Democratic nominee, Zack Space (D-Dover), who is a city law director and presumably has looked into the issue, told me last week that if Ney waited until August 24 to withdraw, then he cannot be replaced on the ballot.

It's the prospect of a special election that has people buzzing. Although State Sen. Joy Padgett (R-Coschocton) is Ney's hand-picked successor, it has long been rumored that State Sen. Jay Hottinger (R-Newark) was the Ohio Republican Party's preferred replacement. Readers over at Buckeye State Blog are wondering if Hottinger might enter the special primary to oppose Padgett.

However, the question has been raised whether Padgett is eligible to run at all. In the Dispatch article, Lee says the office of the secretary of state "is researching whether any sore loser provision in the statutes would prevent Padgett, who ran and lost in the Republican primary in May for lieutenant governor on a ticket with Attorney General Jim Petro, from running for Ney's seat." The "sore loser" provision is in Ohio Revised Code ยง 3513.04 and states in relevant part as follows:
No person who seeks party nomination for an office ... at a primary election ... shall be permitted to become a candidate ... at the following general election for any office other than the office of member of the state board of education, office of member of a city, local, or exempted village board of education, office of member of a governing board of an educational service center, or office of township trustee.
The "sore loser" provision was inserted in the statute in order to prevent Rep. Ted Stickland (D-Lisbon) from running for governor and re-election to Congress this year simultaneously (although that did not transpire), which is a different situation than what we have with Padgett, but the wording of the law is clear enough and appears to apply here. Since Padgett ran in the primary for lieutenant governor (as running mate to Attorney General Jim Petro (R-Rocky River)), the statute appears to bar Padgett from running for a different office in the general election.

Meanwhile, it looks like Ney's primary opponent James Brodbelt Harris (R-Zanesville) is determined to jump into the special primary, if one occurs. In an email received today, Harris says:
James Brodbelt Harris stated in an April release that if Ney won and withdrew, then the Harris primary campaign would likely continue. The May nomination will be vacated and the Republican Party will continue its primary campaign in a Special Election with a date to be determined. Although Harris received about a third of the Republican party votes in May, the spring primary has been superseded and the race remains open for a fall special election. Harris may now consider his options in conversations with other candidates and the party leadership, but as of this date has not made any plans to withdraw and looks forward to joining other candidates, party leaders, and voters in a campaign of ideas and a discussion of who best may represent Ohioans in Congress and how best to defeat the Democrats in Ohio statewide.
So, whether the mainline candidate is Padgett or Hottinger (or both), Harris looks to be along for the ride.

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