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Ney’s Ohio Replacement May Be Ineligible

August 8, 2006

NEW PHILADELPHIA, Ohio (AP) _ The leading Republican candidate to replace scandal-scarred Rep. Bob Ney on the November ballot may be ineligible, party officials said Tuesday, complicating GOP efforts to assure a smooth transition for the fall campaign.

``As far as I know, I have a green light,″ said state Sen. Joy Padgett, as party lawyers reviewed a state law that bars politicians who lose one primary from entering another one during the same year.

The developments came one day after Ney announced he would abandon his race for re-election, acting under pressure from party officials who feared the loss of his seat. The six-term lawmaker has come under scrutiny for his ties to Jack Abramoff, a lobbyist at the center of a congressional corruption scandal.

Ney has not been charged, and denies all wrongdoing.

In stepping down, Ney threw his support to Padgett, who also said she had been encouraged by House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, to run.

One Republican strategist, speaking on condition of anonymity, said lawyers had concluded Padgett was likely covered by the so-called political sore loser’s law and thus would not be eligible to run.

But Bob Bennett, the state party chairman, said he didn’t believe the law applied to her, and said he would seek a formal ruling from the secretary of state.

One official said the legal controversy arose at least in part because the law as drafted differed from what lawmakers had said they intended _ which was to prevent a primary loser from later filing as a candidate in the same race.

Gov. Bob Taft is expected to set a date for a primary to fill the ballot vacancy.

The Democratic candidate is Zach Space, a lawyer from Dover in the district’s most populous county.

Democrats had already begun to attack Padgett as a political creature of Ney and Taft. The governor has been unpopular since he pleaded no contest last August to failing to report golf outings and other gifts while in office.

``This would just be a continuation of everything that’s going on in Washington,″ Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, said Monday in an opening salvo. ``Whether you’re in Ohio or in Washington, you can put the Republicans in a paper bag and shake them up.″

``I’m sure they’re going to try to saddle me with that baggage. They’re not running against Bob Ney. They’re not running against Bob Taft. They’re running against Joy Padgett. It will be a very clear choice between myself and Mr. Space,″ Padgett said in response to the criticism.

Padgett’s elimination would likely clear the way for a more open primary battle. James Brodbelt Harris, who took 30 percent of the vote in the May primary against Ney, also is considering another run.

Ney has not been charged with any crimes, but court papers from Abramoff’s guilty plea to fraud and corruption charges detailed lavish gifts and contributions that Abramoff says he gave to an unnamed House member in return for official acts, including support of Abramoff’s American Indian tribe clients in Texas. Officials have confirmed that congressman is Ney.

Ohio law requires a primary if a candidate withdraws or dies more than 80 days before a general election. However, the county where Ney would file his official notice of withdrawal, Tuscarawas, had not received Ney’s filing Monday.

If Ney were to wait until after the 80-day cutoff _ which would be Aug. 21 _ there is a four-day window in which county party officials could appoint a replacement, said James Lee, a spokesman for Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell.


Associated Press Writers David Espo in Washington, Lisa Cornwell in Cincinnati and John McCarthy in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this report.

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