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Coughlin files legal challenge in quest for ballot spot in Stow clerk race

By Stephanie Warsmith
Beacon Journal staff writer

Former state Sen. Kevin Coughlin hasn’t given up his fight to run for Stow Municipal Court clerk as a nonpartisan candidate.

Coughlin on Thursday followed through on his promise to file a legal challenge to the Summit County Board of Election’s decision to deny him ballot access. He is asking the Ohio Supreme Court to require the board to allow his candidacy.

“Coughlin had a clear legal right to obtain timely acceptance and certification of his nominating petition and to have his name placed on the November 5, 2013 general election ballot,” Akron attorney Don Varian wrote in Coughlin’s complaint.

Varian noted in the complaint that the board permitted Stow Municipal Judge Kim Hoover to run as a nonpartisan. He argues the same law that permits a nonpartisan run for judge should apply to clerk candidates.

“The board of elections abused its discretion and clearly disregarded applicable law,” Varian said in the complaint that totaled more than 100 pages with attachments.

The elections board made a distinction between judicial and clerk candidates and said the same laws and rules don’t apply to the two posts.

Varian was involved with Coughlin in the unsuccessful attempt in 2008 to oust Summit County Republican Party Chairman Alex Arshinkoff, who is also a Republican member of the county elections board. Varian briefly was appointed, then taken off, the elections board during that fight.

“I feel strongly, looking at the law and having been on the board of elections, that you have a duty to follow law,” Varian said in a phone interview. “The law is very clear that Kevin Coughlin should be on the ballot.

“I was disappointed that both the Republicans and Democrats on the board were not following the law. I am hoping the Supreme Court will see that he should be there.”

Arshinkoff declined comment Thursday, except to say this will “all be done in a court of law.” Tim Gorbach, the board’s Democratic chairman, also declined comment. He previously said the issue should be decided in court.

April Wiesner, the spokeswoman for Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh, said her office had not been officially served with the complaint Thursday and did not want to comment until that happened.

Coughlin filed his complaint as an expedited election matter, which accelerates the timetable on the filing of briefs by both sides because of the pending November election. The prosecutor’s office will have five days to respond to Coughlin’s complaint after being served with it.

Coughlin said Thursday he isn’t allowing the pending issue of his ballot access to slow his campaign. If anything, he said, the board’s actions have helped his candidacy by getting his name out much earlier.

“There’s no reason for anyone to be thinking in August about a race for Stow clerk,” he said. “They know it’s going on [now] and know I’m running.”

If Coughlin is permitted in the race, he would face Diana Colavecchio, a Democrat and former Cuyahoga Falls council member appointed to the clerk’s seat, and Munroe Falls Mayor Frank Larson, a Republican.

Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or Follow on Twitter: @swarsmith. Read the Beacon Journal’s political blog at