GALLIPOLIS — Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted recently voted to break a tie and ultimately approve a petition for a Bidwell woman’s bid to run as an independent for Gallia County Treasurer in the November election.
The Gallia County Board of Elections had previously remained deadlocked over the issue until Husted’s involvement.
At a meeting April 25, the board conducted a hearing to determine whether Pam Riley, current Springfield Township fiscal officer, would be allowed to run for the office of Gallia County Treasurer against Republican Steve McGhee. Two members voted to allow her to run and two voted against. The motion was then sent to the state-level to be determined, where Husted submitted the tie-breaking vote.
Husted said in a letter sent to the board of elections, “The record before me shows that Ms. Riley was involved with the Democratic Party in the past. She served as an executive committee member of the Gallia County Democratic Party Central Committee, she was the Democratic Party candidate for Gallia County Treasurer in the 2012 Primary and General Elections, and she cast a Democratic Party ballot in the 2014 Primary Election.”
Husted said that after reviewing minutes from the April 25 board meeting that Riley testified to resigning from her position as a member of the executive committee in February 2016. In statements made by board members Carol Cremeans and Charla Whobrey, they say Riley said she resigned in 2014 but a letter she had sent to the Democratic Party was lost and she was not removed from the roster. Whobrey and Cremeans felt Riley’s claim to circulate an independent candidate petition was not being done in good faith while still being listed as an executive committee member for the Democratic Party.
Husted then went on to say, “The Ohio Supreme Court has noted that ‘disaffiliation by definition presumes a history of support for, or membership in, a political party,’ and if evidence of affiliation ‘standing alone, could trump a declaration of disaffiliation, then disaffiliation would never be possible.’ This past political activity does not constitute clear and convincing evidence that Ms. Riley’s claim of disaffiliation was not made in good faith.”
According to an interpretation of a previous court case stated in a letter written by former Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, “Indications of party affiliation such as past voting history, information submitted on required election-related filings, political advertisements, participation as a political party officer or member, or holding a public office for which the office holder was nominate through a political party’s primary election and election on a partisan ticket may serve as evidence, though not necessarily conclusive evidence, of a party affiliation to support a protest against an independent candidate’s candidacy. For example, voting history, alone is an insufficient basis on which to disqualify an independent candidate because Ohioans are freely entitled to change or revoke their party affiliation at any time. However, voting history, together with other facts tending to indicate party affiliation, may be sufficient grounds to disqualify an independent.”
Dean Wright can be reached at (740) 446-2342, Ext. 2103.