The Secretary of State says Libertarian candidates won’t be on the primary ballot in two high profile races. But as Statehouse correspondent Karen Kasler reports, Libertarians say the fight isn’t over yet.
Secretary of State Jon Husted announced Friday that Libertarians Charlie Earl and Steven Linnabary won’t be on the May ballot in the races for governor and attorney general, respectively.
The decision comes after hearings last week to protest the signatures that got them there. The ruling was a main topic of the Libertarians’ convention this weekend in Columbus, where Charlie Earl was one of the headline speakers.
“We filed in federal court on Friday night," Earl said. "And we filed it -- this is a First Amendment abridgment of our rights to nominate our candidates. And what we’re talking about is the primary here. They invalidated us for the primary, and we felt Libertarians ought to have a right to choose who their candidates are, despite what has been described by some as an immaterial oversight.”
That “oversight” was the non-disclosure by two people hired to gather signatures that they were in fact being paid to do so. Husted says his decision came from hearing officer Brad Smith’s conclusion that the signatures were invalid because paid circulators needed to disclose who’s paying them.
While Earl acknowledged that this costly mistake can’t happen again if Libertarians want to be contenders in elections, he said voters will suffer if Libertarians stay off the ballot.
“It was an oversight," he said. "It wasn’t an intentional deceit. It was an oversight. Somebody didn’t fill out the back of the petition form. I’ll deal with it. I’m an adult. I’ll go home and work on the farm. But I do believe the people of Ohio need a choice. And it’s not me. It’s the message, not the messenger that counts here.”
Libertarians claim their message is that they’re an alternative to both major political parties – but certainly Republicans and Democrats were watching this situation.
Lawyers for those protesting the Libertarians’ place on the ballot had said circulators were paid by Democrats who wanted a conservative in the race against incumbent Gov. John Kasich.
Libertarians admit they worked with Democrats, but said they also helped Democrat groups with their signature gathering efforts on a same-sex marriage amendment.
Meanwhile, Libertarians claimed the protests were backed by Republicans who feared their candidates -- Earl in particular. Republicans have said they weren’t involved in the protest filings.