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In Ohio ballot battle, judge nails Akron carpenter as 'guiless dupe'

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Federal District Court Judge Michael H. Watson may have cast the most important vote incumbent Republican Gov. John R. Kasich will get this year as he runs for reelection when he bounced from this May's primary ballot for governor the Libertarian Party of Ohio's candidates for governor and attorney general.

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Ballot box bounce

In a 28-page decision from the Southern District of Ohio Eastern Division, Judge Watson denied reinstating Charlie Earl and Steven R. Linnabary to the ballot after they were disqualified when petitions used to obtain signatures for the candidates' nominating petitions were ruled invalid because name gathers failed to disclose the name and address of their employer, as required by state law.

"The Court DENIES Plaintiff's third motion for a preliminary injunction because ... [Ohio law] places only a minimal burden on political speech and the disclosures it requires are substantially related [to] Ohio's significant interest in deterring and detecting fraud in the candidate petition process," Judge Watson wrote.

Watch Charlie Earl on 60 Seconds Ohio

Aaron Keith Harris, LPO Communications Director and one of the four plaintiffs, issued a statement from Mark Brown, LPO's lead attorney on the judges denial of a temporary restraining order against Ohio's chief elections office, Secretary of State Jon Husted.

"While we respect Judge Watson's decision to deny our request for a temporary restraining order against Husted’s decision, we feel that he may be wrong in this instance. We are accordingly making an emergency appeal to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals for that temporary restraining order, while our larger case goes on," Brown said.

Should Steven Linnabary win his case before the Ohio Supreme Court, Brown opined that Earl could benefit from that holding and still make the ballot.

"We believe we will win both cases," he said.

The judge made another finding that directly challenges testimony given this week by the head of Ohio's Republican Party that the ORP had nothing to do with helping the protest filing process.

ORP Chairman Matt Borges denied in federal court on Monday that his party was behind challenges to Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Charlie Earl. He had previously told reporters that the Ohio GOP did have a role in the challenges.

Matt Borges, who earlier in his political career participated in an influence peddling fundraising scheme he orchestrated while working for a former GOP state treasurer and who Gov. Kasich picked to run the state political machinery.

The 'guileless dupe' carpenter

That protester, Gregory Felsoci, a carpenter who lives in Akron, was so ignorant of "even a basic understanding of the nature of the protest he agreed to sign," Watson said, labeling Felsoci a "guileless dupe" who mistook gathering signatures with gathering votes.

Felsoci, who was asked to file a petition by a Republican friend, was subsequently contacted by a law firm, who ostensibly paid costs since Felsoci testified said he didn't pay for it.

"To state the obvious, Felsoci's testimony, as well as other evidence in the record, supports an inference that operatives or supporters of the Ohio Republican Party orchestrated the protest that Felsoci signed," Judge Watson wrote, calling his inference "color commentary" that was "fair to acknowledge" as he then implicated the Ohio Democratic Party of likewise having a hand in the case, as attorneys for Felsoci brought forth in court.

But while important, Judge Watson said it was not the focus of the issue before the court, constitutionality of Ohio law was.

It's Kasich's election to lose now

Today's ruling is significant since it will clear an election-year spoiler like Earl from becoming a distraction to Gov. Kasich, who wants a second and final term and who has been mentioned as an undervalued GOP candidate for the 2016 president election cycle.

Kasich's Democratic challenger from Cleveland, Ed FitzGerald, is said he can beat the incumbent, one-on-one, but polling shows that FitzGerald is little known outside his home county of Cuyahoga, bordering Lake Erie, and trails Kasich by more than the margin of error if Earl of the LPO is removed from the mix.

With Earl in the race, however, the race tightens up considerably, so much so that Democrats were hoping the long-shot could put a dent in Kasich's GOP voter base, enough that the former FBI special agent and mayor could be the winner in a three-way race.

In an interview with CGE, Earl said internal polling by Rasmussen show he could poach upwards of 8.3 percent of Ohio voters, the majority of whom come out of Kasich's voter base, although Democrats and independents could also find his brand of governance attractive.

But with the LPO no longer able to compete in Ohio this midterm election race, Democrats and FitzGerald will be under tremendous pressure to raise funds, convince young people to again come out and vote and show the accepted narrative that the year belongs to Republicans is erroneous.

With Judge Watson's ruling today, Earl and Linnabary cannot appear on the ballot for the November 2014 Ohio general election.

The LPO was successfully prior to this case in fending off Ohio GOP attempts to keep its candidates off the ballot. The constitutionality of ballot access rules drawn up by the Republican-led general assembly was successfully challenged earlier, when the bill called "John Kasich Re-election Protection Act" was defused by the court.

The news article In Ohio ballot battle, judge nails Akron carpenter as 'guiless dupe' appeared first on Columbus Government Examiner.

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