Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Elections board deadlocks over sheriff candidate

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer contributor

HAMILTON - Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell will decide whether retired Ohio State Highway Patrol Trooper Robert Patton will be a candidate for Butler County sheriff this fall.

In a 2-2 vote along party lines, the Butler County Board of Elections couldn't agree whether Patton met the qualifications for office.

Ohio law requires a candidate for sheriff to have served at the rank of sergeant if the candidate worked for the state patrol.

Patton retired last October after nearly 26 years of service - as a trooper.

But he argued that several times he has served as officer in charge, the equivalent to the rank of sergeant, when there was no sergeant on duty.

"Once Mr. Blackwell sees my letters of verification and statute he will rule in my favor," Patton said after the hearing.

"From everything I've heard he's a fair and honest man and he'll agree with me."

Patton is seeking to run as an independent candidate in the Nov. 2 election, replacing Sheriff Harold Gabbard, who is retiring. If allowed to run, Patton would face Republican Richard Jones, Gabbard's chief deputy; and Democrat Dale Richter, an officer with the Springboro Police Department.

In voting against putting Patton on the ballot, Republican Judy Shelton said she was relying on an April opinion from the prosecutor's office. Joe Schwarz, also a Republican, said that under state law, Patton doesn't qualify for the office.

"My job is not to legislate but to enforce the laws that legislators enact," Schwarz said.

Democrats Dan Gattermeyer and John Holcomb Jr. disagreed with the Republicans and voted in favor of Patton's candidacy.

"There's no case law on this particular situation," Gattermeyer said.

"By all accounts he had an outstanding career. I want to give voters the widest possible choice," Holcomb added.

In Warren County, Morrow Police Chief Richard H. Kilburn, cousin of County Commissioner Mike Kilburn, will challenge incumbent Warren County Sheriff Tom Ariss.

Meanwhile, Jack Chrisman of Lebanon, who was eyeing the county commissioner seat Larry Crisenbery is vacating, did not have enough signatures to put his name on the ballot, according to the Warren County Board of Elections.

Deerfield Township businessman Dave Young, who won the four-way Republican primary in March, now has no opponent.

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