ELYRIA — Republican John Howard Jr. dropped out of the race for Elyria mayor Wednesday.
The city’s Republicans plan to meet this morning to ask Ray Noble to replace Howard on the November ballot. But Noble, the vice chairman of the Elyria Republican Party, said he hasn’t made a final decision yet on whether he’ll run.
Dan Graves, the chairman of the party, said Noble has a good shot at beating two-term Mayor Bill Grace, a Democrat, and independent candidate Tim Quinn.
“He’s really involved in the politics,” Graves said. “He really cares about things.”
It was unclear why Howard handed in a letter Wednesday to the county Board of Elections withdrawing from the race. He could not be reached for comment and a copy of the letter was not available.
But Graves said Howard’s decision was good for the party. Republican leaders were undecided on whether they were going to put any money into Howard’s campaign because of questions they have over how he spent $500 they gave him when he ran unsuccessfully for county clerk of courts in 2004.
Howard has been racking up fines of $150 a day from the Ohio Elections Commission for failing to properly complete campaign finance paperwork. Howard had closed his clerk of courts campaign committee in January but never forwarded the paperwork to the Elections Commission. That has led to the fines — now totaling about $54,000 — continuing to accrue.
“It’s a good thing for us just because in the political world you want to only run people who have a positive (reputation),” he said.
If Noble is named as Howard’s replacement on the ballot, Graves said the party will rally behind him financially. Noble’s last run for political office was in the 2005 Republican primary for an at-large City Council seat, a race he ultimately lost.
Noble said he ran only because Republicans needed a fifth candidate in the race to hold a primary, and he never expected to win. Still, Graves said, Noble did fairly well in the polls.
“He didn’t win, but he certainly had a pretty good showing,” he said.
Helen Hurst, chairwoman of the county’s Republican Precinct Committee, said whoever the Republicans pick to run against Grace is going to have a hard time winning in a largely Democratic town.
“Considering the political makeup of Elyria, it would be an uphill battle,” she said. “But in my opinion, there’s always room for a race.”
Grace did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.