Will Gary Leitzell become Mayor by default?

The dangers of carefully laid plans behind closed doors are about to be out in the open. Instead of screening candidates for Mayor and Commission the Montgomery County Democratic Party endorsed and forwarded only one candidate per seat for this year’s race.  This was the same thing they did with Montgomery County Commissioner Debbie Lieberman.

This is done to dissuade others from running against the machine.  In fact, when they do screen, inevitably the question comes up:  “If you’re not endorsed will you withdraw from the race.”  All this serves to do is take choice away from voters- to concentrate power within the party.

It could have backfired with Ms. Lieberman last fall, had her DUI been closer to the election- propelling the only challenger, Mark Anthony Newberry, into office.

Primaries are supposed to be held to let the people decide who they want to run, then the party should endorse and back the leading candidate.  It’s what happens in presidential elections.

I spoke with James Greene III after it was announced that he didn’t make it on the ballot. He told me he had a plan and still had a hand in the process.  I’m pretty sure he had expected to have valid petitions though, and was hoping to be able to knock McLin out on the technicality, as we learn from today’s paper:

Two protests were filed late in the day Friday, March 13, at the Montgomery County Board of Elections regarding the Dayton mayoral race, board chairman Greg Gantt said.

The first was from Alvin Freeman who claimed that he was listed as a nominator for incumbent Mayor Rhine McLin, but said that he didn’t give the mayor permission to use his name and that he was instead a nominator for James Greene, who unsuccessfully sought a spot on the mayoral ballot. Candidate filings to run for Dayton offices were due last week.

Greene followed with a protest at the same time saying that McLin should be disqualified because she has no nominating committee, referencing the Freeman protest.

via Protests filed with elections board over McLin candidacy.

Rev. Freeman is a founding member of Concerned Christian Men, a group he and James Greene III co-founded years back. 

The charter calls for a nominating committee of five registered voters, whose only duty is to replace a candidate if he or she dies before the election.

(C) Each petition shall contain the names of five registered electors of the City who shall constitute the candidate’s nominating committee.  In the event of the death or withdrawal of the candidate prior to the primary election, the committee may, by vote of at least three of its members, nominate a registered elector to replace such candidate provided such nomination and acceptance thereof is made at least 45 days prior to the primary election.  In the event that a candidate dies or withdraws after a primary election has been held, he shall be replaced on the general ballot by the person who received the highest number of votes among those who failed to receive nomination at such primary.  If no primary election has been held and a candidate dies or withdraws, the Committee may, by vote of at least three of its members, nominate a registered elector of the City to replace such candidate on the general election ballot.  Such nomination and acceptance must be made no later than 45 days before the general election or special election to fill a vacancy pursuant to Section 5 of the Charter.

There doesn’t seem to be any language that suggests that a member of the committee couldn’t serve on both nominating committees, however, the charter does prescribe against signing more petitions than seats available in the general election. If Mr. Freeman signed both petitions, the typical process is to disqualify the one turned in second. Since Mr. Greene turned in his petition after Mayor McLin, the same rationale should apply.

The closest thing to a ruling on this is the actual petition language:

and we individually certify that we have signed no other Mayor’s petition and no petition for Commissioner greater in number than the number of Commissioners to be chosen at the next. . . . . . municipal election.  We name as the nominating committee the five registered electors of the City of Dayton whose names and addresses appear below who shall have authority, as provided by the Charter to the City of Dayton, to nominate a candidate to replace the person named herein in the event that such person dies or withdraws his candidacy.

So apparently, Mr. Freeman’s position on both nominating petitions as a nominator isn’t invalid unless he signed both petitions.  If he only signed one, it’s not an issue.

I’m not a lawyer, or a legal scholar, but, I find it odd that the issue will first be debated by the Board of Elections, which is partisan and not even acknowledged in the charter.  Should the split be 2-2, it may go to the Secretary of State, who is again partisan, before possibly getting referred to a court.

If McLin is disqualified, and since no other candidate submitted enough signatures, Leitzell would be the sole candidate.  There is no provision in the charter for a write-in candidate.

Maybe the Montgomery County Democratic Party will learn a lesson from this, but it’s highly unlikely.  There are some chess-like end games with McLin resigning so other members of Commission could be named Mayor, but none would be able to run again in the fall, leaving them out in the cold- but giving McLin a chance to get back on the Commission in a Special Election.

Of course, she’ll have to get used to saying “Mayor Leitzell.”

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