Putting Pugh On St. C Ballot

We cannot speak for Bill Brooks, Tim Porter and Kathryn Thalman, who are seeking election as mayor of St. Clairsville. Still, we suspect they share incumbent Mayor Terry Pugh’s opinion of the Belmont County Board of Elections: Picky, picky, picky.

Pugh plans to run for re-election, but he has hit a snag in that regard. On Monday, the elections board certified Thalman, Porter and Brooks as candidates for mayor in the November election. They rejected Pugh’s filing as a candidate, however.

Elections board Director Kelly McCabe explained that Pugh’s petition to be on the ballot was rejected because “the statement of candidacy had a date in it that was incorrect.”

It seems that in a space where Pugh entered the date his current term as mayor ends, he entered Jan. 1. Elections board officials maintain the term actually ends Dec. 31.

In filling out paperwork for offices he has sought in the past, “I filled it out the same,” Pugh said. “They changed the rules … and what’s it amount to? One second. Dec. 31 or Jan. 1,” he added.

For the record, St. Clairsville’s municipal charter specifies that mayors “assume office on the first day of January” after they are elected.

Technically, then, the elections board may be correct. But Pugh is correct that, literally speaking, his Jan. 1 entry is incorrect by one second — or some fraction thereof.

Of course, the elections board has to follow both state law and St. Clairsville’s rules in regard to balloting for mayor. Any discretion in interpreting the rules could be viewed as improperly helping or hampering a candidate.

Still, this situation seems to be going overboard in finding fault.

Pugh plans to refile his petition and seek a hearing on reconsideration of it. Barring some other problem, elections board members should certify him as a candidate for mayor.

We feel certain Porter, Thalman and Brooks would agree that the election in November should be about issues facing St. Clairsville, not whether any candidate dotted every “i” and crossed every “t” on his or her petition to be on the ballot.

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