Board Rejects Election Protest

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – The Belmont County Board of Elections on Monday rejected a protest of Republican David Lucas’ election as sheriff, noting the protest was filed too late – and not by a member of the Republican Party.

Bellaire resident Gary Landers submitted his initial letter of protest regarding the sheriff’s race last week to the Belmont County Board of Elections. This was followed by a second letter from Mark Landers of Bellaire, said William Shubat, county director of elections.

The letters cited state law that requires candidates for sheriff to have worked in law enforcement within the four years prior to their election, and noted Lucas’ reported date of retirement from the Belmont County Sheriff’s Office was Oct. 31, 2007.

Shubat said Gary Landers also submitted another, more detailed letter to the board Monday prior to the 11 a.m. meeting. That letter questioned Lucas’ residency in the county, and noted he lives much of the time in Florida.

The board rejected both claims, noting neither man had any standing to file a protest.

According to the board, Common Pleas Judge Jennifer Sargus and the Board of Elections approved Lucas’ petition for candidacy prior to the March 6 primary election.

Lucas ran unopposed in the Republican primary for sheriff, then defeated Democrat Richard “Dick” Flanagan in the Nov. 6 general election. He is set to take office in January.

Gary Landers and Flanagan attended Monday’s board meeting, as did county Democrat Party Chairman Gordie Longshaw.

Prosecutor Christopher Berhalter explained the difference between filing a “contest” and a “protest” regarding an election.

Contests are filed after an election when a candidate believes the vote tally is incorrect, and pertains to numbers and procedures, according to Berhalter.

A protest questions a candidate’s qualifications to serve in an elected office. Protests in a race must be filed by a qualified elector of the candidate’s own political party within 74 days of the primary election, he added.

Shubat said Gary Landers is a registered Democrat, and Mark Landers has no political affiliation.

Due to the late filing and the wrong party affiliation, board chairwoman Frankie Lee Carnes declared the protests invalid.

Gary Landers then asked the board whether they investigated Lucas’ qualifications. Members said they did and Lucas was qualified to run for office.

“We accepted Judge Sargus’ information,” board member Carl Lehman said.

Carnes said Sheriff Fred Thompson had filed a protest against Lucas before the primary election, but the board rejected it because Thompson is a Democrat.