Wednesday, August 21, 2013 at 6:21 PM
Another Cuyahoga County Democrat is launching a bid for the Ohio House of Representatives. Sharon Cole hopes to unseat Rep. Bill Patmon in House District 10, which covers downtown Cleveland, such neighborhoods as Glenville and Ohio City and the village of Bratenahl. ideastream’s Nick Castele reports.
Sharon Cole serves as a deputy chief of staff for operations for Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald. Her platform includes pushing for economic development in Cleveland and restoring funding to the local government fund. She says she’ll be a strong advocate for Democratic causes.
“Is there a legislative answer for dealing with the expansion of Medicaid, for example?” she said. “Is there a legislative way to push, so at least that’s on the radar, so at least people back at home know that you’re down there fighting for them.”
She’ll face current state representative Bill Patmon, also a Democrat, in the May 2014 primary. Patmon says his work the last two-and-a-half years has benefited his district.
“I’m very proud of my record in the state legislature, where I brought home lots of opportunities for jobs, funding and all kinds of projects,” Patmon said. “I intend to continue that kind of representation. And I have a 91 percent Democratic voting record, so I’m a proud Democrat.”
The Ohio Republican Party called on FitzGerald to ask for Cole’s resignation, saying she was using her county credentials to seek office.
State law and an executive order by FitzGerald prohibit rank-and-file public employees, known as classified employees, from running for office. But those rules don’t extend to high-level, unclassified employees like Cole.
County Law Director Majeed Makhlouf said unclassified employees typically serve at the discretion of the executive, and aren’t afforded the same protections as classified employees. But unclassified employees seeking elected office are required by FitzGerald’s order to take an unpaid leave of absence 60 days before the election. Makhlouf said that rule is more stringent than the rules laid out by state law for unclassified employees running for office.
A state law setting guidelines for political activity says unclassified employees “are not prohibited from engaging in political activity unless specifically precluded by federal or state constitutional or statutory provisions.”
Matt Carroll, FitzGerald’s chief of staff, said it wasn’t clear if the county could ban unclassified employees from running for office without opening itself up to legal challenges.
Cole says she won’t resign now, but she will step back from her post well in advance of the 60-day window.
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