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No new candidates in two Ohio races, but election denier makes ballot in Secretary of State race

Karen Kasler
Statehouse News Bureau

The Ohio Secretary of State says there won’t be any independents running against the two major party candidates for U.S. Senator or governor this fall. But there will be an addition in his race.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican, said Kelli Prather, a repeat Democratic local and statewide candidate, turned in 1,058 valid signatures, far short of the required 5,000 signatures to run as an independent for U.S. Senate against Democrat Tim Ryan and Republican J.D. Vance in November. Prather has run for U.S. Senate and mayor of Cincinnati, and was charged last year by federal prosecutors who say she fraudulently applied for COVID-19 relief money several times.

Also failing to turn in the necessary number of valid signatures was Niel Peterson, an evangelical pastor, who wanted to run for governor against incumbent Republican Mike DeWine and Democrat Nan Whaley. LaRose's office said Peterson turned in 4,445 valid signatures. Peterson's campaign seemed to be aimed at running to the right of DeWine. Peterson had selected as his running mate Mike Stewart, also a pastor. On Peterson's website, he said their platform would include opposition to abortion, "election integrity," "religious freedom," and "medical freedom" in opposition to COVID-19 policies implemented by the state.

F. Patrick Cunnane got 6,243 valid signatures to run for governor, but LaRose’s office says Cunnane and his wife — who was Cunnane's announced running mate — voted in the Republican primary in May, so they are not considered independent or unaffiliated.

But there’s a new candidate in LaRose’s race: Terpsehore “Tore” Maras, a pro-Trump podcaster who has promoted the lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

An affidavit that Maras wrote was included in a 2020 case filed by Trump lawyer Sidney Powell that claimed Dominion Voting machines shifted votes to President Joe Biden. Dominion, which makes voting machines used in 16 Ohio counties, has filed defamation lawsuits for billions of dollars in damages against Powell and others for making that claim.

In 2018, a North Dakota judge ruled Maras misspent money she raised for charities for veterans and the homeless, which she has denied. Maras appeared at an event in Canton in February headlined by Trump advisors Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn and My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell, with what she told the audience was "Hunter Biden's laptop." And she has advertised her support for QAnon, including on her campaign Facebook page.

Maras had submitted signatures to run in the Republican primary for secretary of state, but was ruled ineligible because of problems with her petitions and a lack of signatures. She lost an appeal of that decision in the Ohio Supreme Court. This fall, Maras will face LaRose and Democrat Chelsea Clark, according to LaRose, "[s]ubject to protest under the timeline and process permitted by state law." His office said she submitted 5,010 signatures.

Election deniers are running to head up elections in several states. In the May primary, LaRose faced former state Rep. John Adams, who had claimed in speeches that “Everybody knows after the last election, last year, that we got robbed."
Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets. She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.