October 25, 2014

Elyria
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Howard departure leaves GOP without ballot spot

ELYRIA — Republicans won’t have a candidate for Elyria mayor on the November ballot.

John Howard Jr., who won the Republican primary in May, dropped out of the race Wednesday, the final day his fellow Republicans could have named a replacement for him.

Howard Jr.

Republicans had planned to meet Thursday to discuss the possibility of naming Ray Noble, the party’s vice chairman in Elyria, to replace Howard and challenge Mayor Bill Grace, a Democrat, and independent candidate Tim Quinn.

Marilyn Jacobcik, deputy director of the county Board of Elections, said that wasn’t possible, even if the party had met Wednesday night, because by law they need to give two days’ notice to the Republican precinct committee members who would have voted on Howard’s replacement.

But Noble isn’t entirely out of the running yet. He has until Sept. 5 to declare himself a write-in candidate, a decision he said he hasn’t made yet, in part because it would be even harder than running as a Republican in the heavily Democratic Elyria.

“I know we don’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell,” Noble said. “But do you know how many people called me and said, ‘If you’re a write-in, we’ll support you?’ ”

Howard didn’t return calls seeking comment, and in the handwritten letter he turned in to the elections board on Wednesday withdrawing his name from the race, he didn’t spell out his reasons for his decision.

“It saddens me deeply that I will not be the servant of the people of Elyria in the capacity of Mayor of Elyria,” he wrote. “But I will continue to be a servant of the people in any way that I can serve.”

Howard has been criticized by his fellow Republicans for failing to account for $500 they gave him in his 2004 bid for county clerk of courts. He is also in hot water with the Ohio Elections Commission for failing to properly file campaign finance paperwork from that race.

But the fines aren’t as bad as the commission had said last week. Howard cut a deal in April that reduced $9,400 in fines to $400, according to the commission’s executive director, Phil Richter.

Howard is still racking up $50 worth of fines per day, which now total about $33,000, and still needs to deal with those before he’s in the clear, Richter said. Those fines will also likely be reduced once Howard completes the paperwork, Richter said.

With Howard out of the race, it now appears that Grace may have only Quinn to contend with in the election. Noble said if he doesn’t run as a write-in, the Republicans could swing their support to Quinn.

“I’d definitely take their support,” Quinn said, adding that he’s not surprised Howard dropped out of the race.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.