SHEFFIELD TWP. — It took 12 minutes of testimony Thursday for the Lorain County Board of Elections to unanimously reject a protest by an Elyria man over Honey Howard’s candidacy for Elyria law director — a protest focused mainly on whether she was running under the proper name.
The protest was denied without Howard having to testify.
“So much for the speech I had prepared,” she said with a laugh after Thursday’s hearing.
James Slone filed a protest with the board July 29, challenging Howard’s petitions based on the name she used. Slone said Honey Rothschild, not Honey Howard, is her legal name and that her petitions should have been under that name.
Board members quickly rejected Slone’s argument. Board member Anthony Giardini said Howard has been registered to vote under the Howard name since at least 2012 and based on legal counsel and the fact she has voted under that name, the board was denying Slone’s protest.
“As I understand the law as given to us by the special prosecutor, Honey Howard has used the name Honey Howard for seven years now,” Giardini said, pointing to the board’s own records as proof. “She’s Honey Howard, she has voted as Honey Howard, she’s on the petitions that way. Seems pretty clear to me.”
Howard called Slone’s protest “bogus from the beginning” and intended to discredit her and cast her in a false light. That’s not fair, she said, and the protest should not have been allowed because it was not a valid claim.
The Chronicle-Telegram reported on the protest July 31.
“There’s been irreparable harm done to me and my reputation because generally the people who read the first article don’t read the follow-up to see that you’ve been exonerated,” Howard said. “So now it’s like a lot of people are thinking I don’t even known my own name, and for a lawyer that’s pretty hard. I’m running for law director and I don’t even know how to use my own name?”
Howard, a city prosecutor, is running as an independent against current Elyria Law Director Amanda Deery, a Democrat who took over from her predecessor and former boss Scott Serazin after he retired June 30.
Slone told the Board of Elections on Thursday he just wants to know who Howard really is. He previously stated his intention to vote for her opponent.
Slone said Howard’s law license is on file under Honey Rothschild, her married name, and that she is listed as Rothschild on the city’s payroll, in county auditor records and as a plaintiff in legal filings.
“... There is no explanation for the use of the name Honey Howard by Honey Rothschild except that she views it a better name for her candidacy,” Slone wrote in his protest. “However, that is not the name she is known by nor is it the name she uses in her personal and professional life.”
On Thursday, Slone told the board he wasn’t necessarily trying to get Howard thrown off the ballot, but rather just wanted to know who “Honey Howard was because I knew her as Honey Howard Rothschild.”
Slone said he accepted that Howard had all the qualifications to run for the office — having a law license and being an Elyria resident among them — and only sought to ask to the board to decide on whether the ballot should read “Honey Howard” or “Honey Howard Rothschild.”
“As far as those qualifications go, she meets those qualifications. I’m not saying she
doesn’t. I’m saying she’s abandoned the name she has used forever,” Slone said. “I’m asking this board to make a decision on whether she’s eligible to run. If she is, fine. If she’s not, that’s up to you guys.”
Told by Giardini that Howard had been registered to vote as Honey Howard since 2012, Slone said he was not aware of that.
Howard said Slone’s claim he only wanted clarification on her name is “baloney.”
“I was born at night but not last night,” she said. “He’s for the other team, for Deery’s team, I know that.”
Slone’s protest, Howard said, “created havoc with my name and my family.”
Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains was chosen as special prosecutor for the hearing. The Lorain County Prosecutor’s Office, which normally handles legal issues for the Board of Elections, had a conflict of interest because Deery is married to Chris Pyanowski, a Lorain County assistant prosecutor.
Beyond the name, this year’s campaign for Elyria law director has been controversial, with Howard alleging her former boss and current boss kept her from running for law director in the Democratic primary in May.
After being named acting law director by Serazin upon his resignation at the end of June, Deery was sworn in as law director in July and will finish Serazin’s term, which ends Dec. 31.
A prosecutor in the Elyria Law Director’s Office since 1995, Howard has alleged Serazin hand-picked Deery as his successor, an allegation both Serazin and Deery have denied.
In 2008, Howard asked the Board of Elections to change her name on the primary ballot for Lorain County Domestic Relations judge from Honey Rothschild to Honey Howard. The board denied the request.
She also ran as Honey Howard Rothschild for a seat on the Elyria Municipal Court bench in 2009, but lost in the Democratic primary.
Howard previously said she tried to run under that name in her previous elections, but was told because her father was Judge John Howard — the first African American judge in the county who also sat on the Elyria Municipal Court bench — that she would have an advantage over other candidates.