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Stark County tries to figure out who truly is independent

The Canton mayoral race hangs on the decision

by WKSU's M.L. SCHULTZE


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M.L. Schultze
 
Tom Bernabei has formally "disaffiliated" from his party. Now it's up to the Stark County Board of Elections to decide it that's enough to make him an independent.
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The Stark County Board of Elections takes its first formal step tomorrow  in determining  whether a long-time Democrat can run as an independent for mayor of Canton. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze reports that a decision could take weeks – and is likely to end up in court.

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Tom Bernabei was elected Stark County commissioner, Canton law director and Canton councilmember – always as a Democrat.  He’s served on the party’s central committee and contributed to Democratic campaigns.

But he set that aside in the days leading up to this spring’s primary and declared himself an independent to run this fall against Bill Healy, the Democratic mayor of Canton.

The first step will be for the board to decide if he technically qualifies for the ballot. Then, on July 6, it will consider a protest filed by Democrats who maintain Bernabei’s “disaffiliation” is a sham. They also say he can’t run because he’s was not a permanent Canton resident when he filed his mayoral petitions.

If the two Democrats and two Republicans on the board split on the decision, it will go to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted – a Republican. And from there, it’s likely to head to the courts to decipher the fuzzy language in state law regarding who truly is an independent.

Republicans have no candidate in the mayoral race.

The Stark elections board will also be deciding a similar case seven miles to the west. Former Democratic Massillon Mayor Frank Cicchinelli also wants to run as an independent in a bid to get back the job he lost four years ago. 

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