Podcaster ruled ineligible in race for Ohio elections chief

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Podcaster Terpsehore “Tore” Maras, left, exits a hearing protesting her independent candidacy for Ohio secretary of state with other witnesses on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022, in Columbus, Ohio. The Secretary of State’s Office says a conservative podcaster who embraces former President Donald Trump’s discredited claims of a stolen 2020 election isn’t eligible to run this November as an independent candidate vying to challenge Ohio’s Republican elections chief. (AP Photo/Julie Carr Smyth) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A conservative podcaster who embraces former President Donald Trump’s discredited claims of a stolen 2020 election isn’t eligible to appear on the November ballot as an independent candidate vying to challenge Ohio's Republican elections chief, according to an assistant secretary of state's letter decertifying her candidacy.

Terpsehore “Tore” Maras had vowed to appeal if incumbent GOP Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s office rejected her candidacy after a state Republican official challenged it in his capacity as an Ohio voter.

In a letter Tuesday, an assistant secretary of state handling the matter upheld the recommendation of a judge who reviewed the protest brought by Ohio Republican Party Executive Director Justin Bis.

Retired Ohio Supreme Court Justice Terrence O’Donnell heard the challenge to dozens of the signatures that initially had qualified Maras for the ballot. O'Donnell determined some were invalid, leaving Maras several names short of the required 5,000. He recommended she be tossed from the ballot.

The final ruling was up to LaRose's office, but because LaRose is Maras' would-be opponent, O’Donnell was selected to hear the matter and a LaRose deputy handled the decision.

An attorney for Maras said Wednesday that they would quickly ask the Ohio Supreme Court to validate more of the signatures, including nine that they say boards of election determined are valid. Maras is “a controversial figure for a lot of people” but has a right to appear on the ballot, attorney Warner Mendenhall said.

“No matter what you think of a candidate, it's really important that these candidates that really are qualified not face undue hurdles and burdens to get on the ballot,” Mendenhall said. “We need to have them on there, because it does give expression to the conflicts that are going on in our country.”

Maras questions the legitimacy of the 2020 election and has promoted the QAnon conspiracy theory on her podcast, “Tore Says.” Her platform for secretary of state includes scrapping all voting machines and returning to exclusively paper ballots, according to her website.

The Democratic nominee for secretary of state is small business owner and city councilperson Chelsea Clark.