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Board of Elections member David Wondolowski faces complaint for comments at campaign event

Board of Elections member David Wondolowski made the comments during an event for former mayoral candidate Kevin Kelley. [Nick Castele / Ideastream Public Media]
David Wondolowski, left, and Kevin Kelley, right, spoke to supporters at an event last week.

Updated: 3:26 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021

A member of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections is facing a formal complaint for comments he made at a campaign event for former Cleveland mayoral candidate Kevin Kelley.

Board member David Wondolowski attended Kelley’s event as the president of the Cleveland Building and Construction Trades Council. During the event  he singled out Ideastream Public Media reporter Nick Castele, who was covering it, and he said that when Kelley won, supporters would “kick the sh--” out of opposing candidate Justin Bibb and the media.

“I’ve never seen the Plain Dealer and other media outlets favor a candidate like I’ve seen here. So when we win this election on Tuesday, we’re going to kick the sh-- out of the media,” Wondolowski said. “We’re going to kick the sh-- out of Justin Bibb, right? We’re going to win.”

Former Ohio Supreme Court Justice William O’Neill has filed a complaint with Secretary of State Frank LaRose arguing those comments undermine public confidence in elections, which the Board of Elections certifies. In the complaint, he emphasized Wondolowski’s use of the word “when” in statements referring to election results.

“At a minimum I would request you immediately suspend this Board member and prohibit him from having any official involvement in the election process of 2021,” O’Neill wrote in his complaint. “I am sure you will agree with me that such clearly partisan conduct undermines public confidence in all elections.”

When asked for comment about the complaint, Wondolowski defended his statements.

“When I signed on to be on the Board of Elections, I didn’t sign on to give my rights up to free speech,” Wondolowski told Ideastream Public Media.

At Kelley's election watch party Tuesday evening, Wondolowski stepped up to the podium to state that he loved the media in response to criticism following the initial comments. 

A spokesperson for LaRose said the office will not be conducting an investigation on this issue.