COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A federal judge on Tuesday was weighing testimony by Ohio's Republican chairman that his party was not behind recent challenges to a Libertarian candidate trying to run against Republican Gov. John Kasich.
Chairman Matt Borges testified Monday that he misspoke when initially telling reporters the Ohio GOP had a role in challenging Libertarian Charlie Earl's candidacy.
Borges' testimony came in a legal challenge to the March 7 decision by Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted to disqualify Earl from the primary. Husted agreed with a hearing officer who found two Earl petitioners failed to properly disclose their employers.
Being absent from the May 6 primary ballot jeopardizes Earl's chances of appearing on the November ballot against Kasich.
Earl's candidacy has the potential to draw votes from the incumbent governor as he faces likely Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald, the Cuyahoga County executive.
Borges told U.S. District Judge Michael Watson that Republicans neither sought out nor underwrote two voters who filed the Earl challenge, The Plain Dealer of Cleveland reported (http://bit.ly/1cV0jWy ).
"Anyone who's looking for the conspiracy behind it — it's just not there," he said.
Mark Brown, an attorney for the Libertarian Party of Ohio, said he was "not trying to be Oliver Stone." He asked Borges to consider, however, that the statement he made last month came around the time high-priced law firms paid by unknown sources agreed to represent the two voters, Tyler King and Gregory Felsoci.
Lawyers for King and Felsoci asserted during a March 4 hearing that Democrats orchestrated the circulation of Earl's petitions and provided monetary and legal help to the effort.
Libertarians are seeking to reinstate Earl's ballot status on grounds that Husted's ruling violates petition circulators' First Amendment rights and conflicts with previous state rulings allowing them to submit signatures without declaring an employer. Husted also disqualified Steven Linnabary, a Libertarian candidate for attorney general.
Watson expects a decision this week.