Former State Sen. Kevin Coughlin has taken his bid to be the clerk of court for Stow Municipal Court to the Ohio Supreme Court.
Coughlin filed Aug. 8 with the state's high court to compel the Summit County Board of Elections to certify his nominating petitions for the November general election.
Elections board chair Tim Gorbach did not return a phone call by press time.
Coughlin had filed his petitions by the May 6 deadline. At its meeting July 15, the board of elections voted to reject the petitions for the non-partisan post, saying Coughlin's history as a Republican disqualified him from running as a non-partisan.
Cuyahoga Falls resident Don Nelsch had challenged the filing, claiming Coughlin's history as a Republican meant his "'independent' or 'non-partisan' status (which he made through filing independent/non-partisan nominating petitions, rather than participating in the Republican party's primary election) was not made in good faith and is inconsistent with established standards for independent and non-partisan candidates."
Nelsch, who was represented by attorney James Simon of Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs LLP, stated in his challenge to the board of elections that Coughlin is a former Republican elected official and has affiliated himself with the Republican Party "in numerous ways." These included serving as a Republican member of the state Senate and the House of Representatives, as well as his intent to seek the Republican nominations for governor and U.S. Senate.
Nelsch also claimed in his challenge that Coughlin had voted Republican in five Republican primaries since 2007 and had not taken any action to "disaffiliate from the Republican Party."
However, Coughlin has countered with his belief that "Ohio law, however, authorizes non-partisan candidacies for municipal judges and clerks of court. Candidates who seek to be nominated as non-partisans are not required to be unaffiliated with a political party."
Coughlin had told the board of elections that he was not planning to make a change in affiliation.
In a statement released Aug. 8, Coughlin said, "Ohio law gives clear instructions regarding the nomination of municipal clerks of court. The board of elections blatantly disregarded the law and abused its power to reject my candidacy. To make matters worse, they certified the petitions of another non-partisan candidate whose nomination is governed by the same law. I feel very strongly that the members of the Board are using their positions to target and harass me. . . They may not like that I'm running, but they cannot deny my legal right to run."
Coughlin said the petition was filed as an expedited election item. He expects it would be heard before the ballots need to be printed for the November election.
In considering the petition, Coughlin said the justices could render their decision based on his briefs and any the board of elections would submit or they could require oral arguments.
Coughlin added he believes this issue of not certifying his petitions could "set a dangerous precedent in our state."
"The board's rejection of my candidacy was outrageous. Luckily we live in a country with the rule of law and I have faith that my petitions will be certified," he said.
Munroe Falls Mayor Frank Larson is the Republican candidate for clerk of courts; current clerk of courts Diana Colavecchio is running on the Democratic ticket. She had been appointed to the post earlier this year.