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Joe Guillen
By Joe Guillen September 10, 2010

Maryellen O’Shaughnessy overstates number of lawsuits inherited from Ken Blackwell over 2004 presidential election

Maryellen O’Shaughnessy was spot on when she said recently Ohio Secretaries of State are judged on their handling of presidential elections.

O’Shaughnessy, a Democrat running for Secretary of State this November, then slammed Republican Ken Blackwell for mishandling the 2004 presidential election when he held the office. Republican state Sen. Jon Husted, of the Dayton area, is O’Shaughnessy’s opponent.

"It's factually correct to say that Ken Blackwell had at least 18 lawsuits that were even carried over that Jennifer Brunner inherited when she came into the office as a result of his mismanagement of the 2004 election," O’Shaughnessy said in an Aug. 16 interview with WPKO/WBLL in Bellefontaine, a city in west-central Ohio, after a speech to local Democrats.

Brunner, a Democrat, was elected in November 2006 to succeed Blackwell after he lost a gubernatorial bid that year. O’Shaughnessy told the radio station that, if elected, she would maintain the stability Brunner brought to the office.

O’Shaughnessy’s comments put her on a long list of Democrats to criticize Blackwell. We wanted to check out her claim and asked her campaign for information about the lawsuits. A spokeswoman pointed to a letter Brunner wrote The Columbus Dispatch and a separate news story that appeared in The Daily Record, of Wooster.

In a letter to the Dispatch published Feb. 18, 2007, Brunner said 21 lawsuits were pending when she took office. She did not say how many were related to the 2004 presidential election. The Daily Record story, published April 5, 2007, also said 21 lawsuits were pending when Brunner took office. The story made no mention of the 2004 presidential election.

The portion of O’Shaughnessy’s statement that said Brunner inherited "at least 18 lawsuits" seemed solid. But there was no proof, within the evidence O’Shaughnessy’s office provided -- that those lawsuits were related to the 2004 presidential election.

We checked with Brunner’s office, which provided a comprehensive list of all cases that Brunner inherited from Blackwell. It is not specific to the 2004 presidential election, Brunner spokesman Patrick Gallaway said. The list, last updated in January, shows Brunner inherited 18 cases when she took office, including one settled during Blackwell’s term with unpaid fees.

Court documents showed 10 of the 18 cases are related to Blackwell’s administration of the 2004 presidential election. The others dealt with a myriad of issues, including campaign finance law and the use of electronic voting machines.

To their credit, the O’Shaughnessy campaign acknowledged she was incorrect after we shared the records from Brunner’s office with them.

"She misspoke about the ones that relate to 2004," spokeswoman Heidi Hubmann said.

O’Shaughnessy clearly jumped to an inaccurate conclusion about Blackwell’s job performance in the radio interview. Her sources of information, two newspaper articles from 2007, do not support the meat of her claim – that Blackwell’s mismanagement of the 2004 election led to at least 18 lawsuits that landed in Brunner’s lap. Brunner’s records show that’s not true.

We rate the statement False.

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Our Sources

WPKO/WBLL radio interview with O’Shaughnessy

Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, office records showing lawsuits inherited from Ken Blackwell

Interview with O’Shaughnessy spokeswoman Heidi Hubmann

Interview with Brunner spokesman Patrick Gallaway

Brunner’s letter to The Columbus Dispatch, Feb. 18, 2007

The (Wooster) Daily Record, "Secretary of State requests office expense funds," April 5, 2007

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Maryellen O’Shaughnessy overstates number of lawsuits inherited from Ken Blackwell over 2004 presidential election

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