April 24, 2014

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Republican party chair resigning over law director ballot dispute

LORAIN — Lorain Area Republican Party Chairman David Graves said Thursday he will resign his post next week because he doesn’t like how his party handled a missing document that could keep Democrat Pat Riley’s name off the November ballot in the race for Lorain law director.

“The more I’ve thought about it, it doesn’t sit right with me,” said Graves, who also serves as Sheffield Lake law director, a job he’ll keep.

Graves said he believes Republicans working at the Lorain County Board of Elections had a “moral obligation” to tell Democrats that a form naming Riley his party’s candidate in the Lorain law director race was missing.

At an April 30 meeting, Democrats named Riley to serve as interim law director after Mark Provenza resigned the post in March because he was sent to jail for violating his probation in a DUI case. At the same meeting, Democrats also voted to make Riley their candidate in the November election.

The paperwork was given to elections board Director Jose Candelario, a Democrat, that night, and he has said he gave it to Allyson Hurst, a Republican elections board worker, on May 1 or May 4. Hurst also is the daughter of Lorain County Republican Party Chairwoman Helen Hurst.

But Democrats were told after the 4 p.m. deadline on Aug. 19 that the form declaring Riley a candidate wasn’t on file at the elections board. Former Lorain Law Director Michael Scherach filed at 3:19 p.m. that day as the Republican candidate.

Assistant Lorain Law Director R.J. Budway, a Democrat, has filed to run as a write-in candidate in the race but has said he will withdraw if the Ohio Supreme Court rules that Riley can remain on the ballot.

Graves said that while he supports Scherach, and accompanied him to two elections board meetings where Scherach protested Riley remaining on the ballot, Republican elections board workers should have made it clear that they didn’t have Riley’s paperwork.

“The Board of Elections is supposed to be nonpartisan,” he said.

Elections board Chairman Bob Rousseau, a Republican, said Allyson Hurst tried to tell Candelario that she didn’t have all of Riley’s paperwork but Candelario disregarded her. Hurst said during an elections board hearing in August that Candelario told her she had everything and walked away.

Candelario has said he doesn’t recall that conversation.

“Allyson Hurst told Jose she didn’t have the document,” Rousseau said. “I don’t know how many times Jose needs to be told.”

Rousseau and Helen Hurst also said they felt that Graves was forced to resign as Lorain’s chief Republican.

“All I can tell you is that David called me and said he would have to resign because of extreme pressure,” Helen Hurst said.

Graves denied that he was pressured to leave by anyone, but Rousseau said Democrats could have brought pressure to bear on Graves because he was appointed to his job in Sheffield Lake by Mayor John Piskura.

Although Sheffield Lake is a nonpartisan city, Piskura is a Democrat.

“I always felt he was in jeopardy of losing his job by taking that position,” Rousseau said.

Graves defeated David Arredondo in April 2008 to take over the Lorain Area Republican Party, which also includes Sheffield, Sheffield Lake and Sheffield Township.

Piskura denied pushing Graves to step down.

“I didn’t have any hand in him pulling out, but I’m proud of him,” Piskura said.

Lorain Democratic Party Chairman Anthony Giardini said he never liked that Piskura hired a Republican to serve as Sheffield Lake’s law director, but he had nothing to do with Graves’ decision.

“He’s a Republican; how could we lean on him?” Giardini said. “I have no idea what motivated David Graves.”

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.