Members of the board of elections in Mahoning County when they meet this week will be asked to determine if two independent candidates for mayor of Youngstown are Democrats.
If the board determines that yes, Jimmy Hughes and DeMaine Kitchen are in fact Democrats, they won't be eligible to be on November's general election ballot.
Cecil Monroe of Youngstown in mid-June filed the protest that the bipartisan board will consider Thursday morning.
Monroe, by the way, filed as an independent candidate for mayor of Youngstown one day before the May 7 primary election and then voted a Democratic ballot the very next day. He later withdrew his candidacy, probably realizing his mistake and knowing he would have been disqualified.
Board chairman Mark Munroe, a Republican, said the burden will be on Monroe to prove his assertion that Hughes and Kitchen are Democrats.
Hughes and Kitchen will have the opportunity to rebut Monroe's claims, and the board that day can either accept, reject or take the matter under advisement.
Kitchen, before taking the role of chief of staff with Mayor Chuck Sammarone, was the city's Democratic 2nd Ward councilman, for which he won the Mahoning County Democrat Party endorsement in 2011.
Hughes ran and lost in the 2012 Democratic primary for county sheriff and this year filed for then withdrew his candidacy in the Democratic primary for mayor. He did so to run as an independent candidate.
Hughes, the city's former police chief, and Kitchen were Democrats and maybe still are at heart, but does that all matter or is what happened after they filed as independent candidates what really matters in their cases?
Former Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner provided guidance to boards of election regarding this issue in 2006.
She concluded that if an independent candidate votes in a party primary election after filing as an independent or if the candidate was a member of the party's executive or central committee when he/she filed as an independent candidate, ''the candidate is not actually unaffiliated'' with a political party.
Brunner also concluded the same applies if at any time during the person's independent candidacy, he/she becomes a committee member.
The advisory also said indications of party affiliation like previous voting history, political advertisements, participation as a party officer or member, and holding public office for which the person was nominated in a primary and elected on a partisan ticket may serve as evidence, though ''not necessarily conclusive evidence,'' of party affiliation to support a protest.
She wrote voting
history alone is ''insufficient'' to disqualify an independent candidate because ''Ohioans are freely entitled to change or revoke their party affiliation at any time.''
''However, voting history, together with other facts tending to indicate party affiliation, may be sufficient grounds to disqualify an independent,'' she wrote.
Neither Hughes nor Kitchen held positions in the Democratic party when they filed for mayor (Kitchen was on the executive committee, but asked and was granted removal and Hughes never held a party position, says Democratic party chairman Dave Betras, who could not recall when Kitchen was removed) and neither voted in the Democratic primary on May 7.