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‘Wife swap’ protest denied

Tom Jackson • Mar 6, 2014 at 12:00 PM

Rhonda Damschroder will be able to continue her quiet “placeholder” candidacy for state representative in the Ohio House District 88 race in Sandusky and Seneca counties.

Sandusky County’s election board voted 4-0 to deny a protest against her campaign after a hearing that lasted less than an hour before a crowd of about 40 in the election board office.

John Brewer, the retired Clyde newspaper editor who filed the protest against Rhonda Damschroder’s candidacy, said after the meeting that he plans to appeal the board’s decision. Brewer walked out early in the hearing and didn’t hear the board’s decision.

Rhonda Damschroder also did not attend the hearing, but her husband, state Rep. Rex Damschroder, R-Fremont, did show up and said the ruling vindicated his opinion that her candidacy was legal.

The unusual District 88 primary election on May 6 will feature four candidates — three Republicans and one Democrat — all of whom are write-ins.

Rep. Damschroder says if his wife wins the Republican primary, she will quit the race so Republican officials can appoint him to run instead.

The lawmaker, who had been expected to coast to an easy re-election, made a mistake in his paperwork and was forced to withdraw. After meeting with GOP lawyers in Columbus, he persuaded his wife to run in his place.

After the hearing began, the board went into executive session to meet with the assistant prosecutor, Norman Solze.

When the board emerged, Brewer was called as the first witness. He asked if Rhonda Damschroder was present and was told she wasn’t.

With that, Brewer declared, “If Mrs. Damschroder does not respect the 90,000 women, men, schoolchildren and infants who are residents in this district to appear and respond, then my presence here is moot”

He walked out, handing the paperwork for his protest to the board as he left. The board chairman, Thomas Younker, asked if he was dropping his protest and Brewer said he was not.

The board then called attorney Donald Brey, who presented Rhonda Damschroder’s case.

Brey said his client’s declaration of intent to be a candidate was perfectly truthful. It lists her correct name and address, and all of the other information is correct, he said.

Brey said Brewer also lacks standing to bring a protest. Under the law, only a Republican can file a protest, and election records show Brewer has voted three times as a Democrat in the last two years, Brey said.

Brewer contends he has left the Democratic Party and is an Independent.

Brey said Rhonda Damschroder wasn’t required to show up and that Brewer failed to exercise his right to subpoena her.

Brewer “ran away” rather than answer questions about the falsehoods in his protest, Brey contended.

“He ran out the door with his tail between his legs” Brey said.

The board consists of two Democrats, Younker and Sandra Wise, along with Republicans Chris Knight and Justin Smith.

All voted to deny the protest, although Wise expressed some sympathy for Brewer after Brey’s attacks.

“It’s easy to talk about somebody when they’re out of the room,” she said after the hearing.

Brewer said he’s considering his appeals options and should make a decision soon.

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