By BRIAN BOHNERT
FOR THE COURIER
The push to get state Rep. Rex Damschroder, R-Fremont, back on the ballot this November met more resistance Tuesday.
A formal protest was filed Tuesday challenging the legality of the write-in candidacy of Damschroder’s wife.
Rex Damschroder was forced to withdraw his candidacy for the seat earlier this month after failing to sign one of his re-election petitions.
His wife, Rhonda, filed as a write-in candidate. The plan is that she will serve as a placeholder for her husband in the May Republican primary. If she wins the primary, Rhonda Damschroder plans to withdraw her candidacy, according to a statement Rex Damschroder posted on his Facebook page. If she pulls out of the race, that would allow party officials in the district to name her husband to replace her as a candidate for the November general election.
John Brewer, a Clyde resident, submitted a written objection Tuesday to the candidacy of Rhonda Damschroder with the Sandusky County Board of Elections. He said the Damschroders’ substitution strategy goes against a section of the Ohio Revised Code that pertains to write-in candidates. He said the code makes no mention of allowing a placeholder.
“Falsifying an election form is election fraud, which is a fifth-degree felony,” Brewer said.
He cites multiple reasons for his objection to Rhonda’s candidacy, including the notion that Rex, “a seasoned and experienced politician and candidate,” did not properly complete the “simplest procedure in filing his petition for candidacy.”
Rex officially withdrew his candidacy for re-election Feb. 12 after missing one signature on his petition. The mistake voided his candidacy and made him ineligible to enter the race as a write-in.
“Now he wants a do-over and, because he’s Rex Damschroder, he thinks he can have a do-over,” Brewer said.
“To me, that’s just saying, ‘OK, I screwed up and this is my way around it …’”
The Sandusky County Board of Elections will have a hearing on the protest at 3:30 p.m. March 5 to determine if the candidacy is valid, according to Lisa Hartley, director of the board of elections.
Brewer also expressed concern over a “conflict of interest” within the board of elections, referring to board member and Sandusky County Republican Party Chairman Justin Smith. According to Brewer’s protest, Smith has “already stated for the record he approves this action by Rex and Rhonda Damschroder.”
In a story published in the Fremont News-Messenger, Smith said the representative’s wife “stands a very good chance” of winning the primary election, and he is prepared to substitute Rex into the candidate’s spot when that happens.
Brewer said Smith’s statements supporting the Damschroders negate his ability to have a fair and impartial role in the hearing or subsequent decision.
Hartley said the board of elections plans to contact Secretary of State Jon Husted’s office to seek insight on whether Smith’s dual roles constitute a conflict of interest.
Rhonda Damschroder will have competition in the primary. Bill Reineke Jr., president of Tiffin Ford and a partner in the Reineke Family Dealerships, announced he is also running as a write-in. Reineke is a Republican.
Also running as write-in candidates are Richard Geyer, a Republican from Fremont, and Bill Young, a Democrat from Green Springs.
If he is unsatisfied with the board’s decision on March 5, Brewer said he plans to take the matter to the state level, voicing his concern to Husted and the Ohio Board of Elections.
The 88th House District encompasses all of Sandusky County and a small portion of Seneca County.