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Ohio Headlines

Boat parades, road rallies buoy Trump and his supporters

By JOHN SEEWER Associated Press
TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — When a flotilla of pontoon and fishing boats decked out with “Trump 2020” flags cruised past him this summer, Dale Fullenkamp got an idea.
“I figured I don’t have a boat, but I do have a tractor,” he said.
Soon he was leading nearly 300 combines and tractors pulling hay wagons and manure spreaders through the western Ohio village of Fort Recovery, one of many parades nationwide organized by a swell of grassroots supporters for President Donald Trump.
“I’ve never done anything like this before,” said Fullenkamp, a 19-year-old who graduated from high school just last spring. “I thought it’d be just me and my buddies.”
These Trump parades — whether by boat, pickup truck or tractor — have become a show of strength for the president’s supporters and a way to make themselves visible in a year when the coronavirus pandemic has upended traditional campaigning and put a stop to huge arena rallies and picnic fundraisers.
Thousands of cars, minivans and motorcycles on Saturday jammed the interstate circling Cincinnati and many more road rallies were held around the U.S. Another dozen are on tap for the campaign’s final week in Ohio alone.
Campaign strategists and analysts say the parades are a reflection of the president’s populist appeal, but they have varying thoughts on whether they will help his chances of winning.
Some think they’re revealing an underestimated amount of enthusiasm for the president and buoying his fans in the face of polls showing him trailing in many battleground states, while others dismiss the parades as window dressing.
“They are enthusiastic in ways I haven’t seen,” said Pennsylvania-based Republican political strategist Charles Gerow. “These are people who feel they haven’t been taking seriously, and they want to make a strong and visible statement.”
Trump campaign officials say they’ve had almost no involvement in the parades, but they gleefully point out that their Democratic opponents aren’t seeing the same groundswell when it comes to parades for Joe Biden — much like Trump himself likes to mock and contrast the size of his rallies with Biden’s socially distanced gatherings.
Campaign field offices have seen that the parades are bringing in new volunteers to help with get-out-the-vote efforts, said Daniel Lusheck, a spokesman for the Trump campaign in Ohio.
“It’s very organic in nature, but it’s really driving the enthusiasm on the ground,” he said.
Trump, too, has noticed, saying at a rally in Florida this summer that “nobody has seen anything like it, ever. And we have that in many other states with boaters and bikers and everybody.”
Parades and marches in the streets have had a place in American politics since the nation’s earliest days. Once a staple of campaigning in the 1800s, they eventually gave way to more effective ways of reaching the masses.
But campaigns big and small have been challenged to come up with anything clever this year because of the limitations imposed by the pandemic, said Brandon Scholz, a veteran GOP strategist in Wisconsin.
He thinks the parades are good for keeping Trump’s core supporters engaged but doubts they’re driving votes.
And they do get a lot of attention although it’s not always positive — like the time in September when five boats sank during a Trump rally on a lake near Austin, Texas.
David Niven, a University of Cincinnati political scientist, agreed that the parades aren’t about spreading the message as much as they are reassuring the president’s backers with “a sea of Trump flags whether they’re on the road or the river.”
“If this were a normal election year we would have stadium rallies. There’d be so many different outlets for people to express themselves,” he said. “In the world of COVID, it’s bumper stickers, tweets and boat parades.”
There’s definitely a high school pep rally feel to the Trump parades, with participants flying their colors and chanting in unison.
In eastern Tennessee, spectators in mid-October lined a 4-mile stretch of road through the town of Rutledge to cheer dozens of tractors, antique cars, motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles decorated with flags and banners celebrating the conservative cause.
“It was bigger than any Christmas parade we ever had,” said Mike Cameron, Grainger County’s GOP chairman. “And that’s the biggest thing that happens in Rutledge.”
Biden’s supporters have countered with a few car rallies of their own, but his campaign has stayed away from such events to avoid spreading the virus, running an almost entirely virtual strategy of reaching voters. The difference has been notable to Trump’s fans who are hosting and attending the parades.
“It’s really got to deject the other side,” said Blaise Greco, who organized a Trump parade near Hazleton, Pennsylvania, that drew more than 400 cars and motorcycles in early October. “Where’s their enthusiasm? Where’s their flags? Where’s their cars?”

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Ohio Headlines

13-year-old girl shot, wounded inside vehicle parked at mall

SPRINGDALE, Ohio (AP) — A 13-year-old girl was found shot and wounded in a vehicle parked at a mall in southwestern Ohio, authorities said.
The shooting in Springdale occurred Friday night, but it wasn’t clear if it happened in the Tri-County mall lot or another location. Authorities believe the shooting was a random incident, but said the investigation is ongoing.
The girl was shot at least once in the stomach and was taken to a hospital, where she remained Saturday. Her name and further details on her condition were not disclosed.
Authorities say other people were also in the vehicle when the shooting occurred, but no other injuries were reported. It wasn’t immediately known who owned the vehicle or if they were related to the victim
A motive for the shooting remains under investigation.

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Ohio Headlines

Democrats hope to break Republican hold on Ohio high court

By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Democratic challengers are hoping to upend Republicans’ majority on the Ohio Supreme Court in a pair of races this November that feature familiar debates over the role justices should play in interpreting state law.
A coalition of major business groups have endorsed the two Republican candidates — incumbent justices Sharon Kennedy and Judi French — as the best choices for maintaining “a sense of predictability” in Ohio’s business climate. And in a sign of the court’s expected role in reviewing congressional maps to be redrawn next year, Republican strategist Karl Rove is soliciting donations for French.
The Democratic Party of Ohio, meanwhile, is criticizing those same justices for a 2016 ruling that limited non-economic damages in child rape cases.
Democratic challenger Jennifer Brunner is seeking to unseat French. Brunner, a state appeals court judge in Columbus, is a former county court judge who served as Ohio Secretary of State from 2007 to 2011.
French, a former assistant Attorney General and legal counsel for former Republican Gov. Bob Taft, is running for her second full six-year term on the court. French won election in 2014 after being appointed to the court a year earlier.
In a second race, the incumbent Kennedy faces Democratic challenger John O’Donnell.
Kennedy is a former police officer in the city of Hamilton in southwestern Ohio who later served as a domestic relations judge. She is also running for her second full six-year term after winning election in 2014. She also won election in 2012 to fill an unexpired term.
O’Donnell, a Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court judge, is making his third run for the court. He narrowly lost to current Republican Justice Patrick Fischer in 2016, and lost to French in her 2014 race.
O’Donnell’s 2016 loss was blamed in part to anger by some Black voters over his ruling a year earlier acquitting a white Cleveland police officer involved in the deaths of two Black suspects. The two were each shot more than 20 times at the end of the November 2012 pursuit that included a total of 137 shots, including 49 fired by officer Michael Brelo.
In his ruling, O’Donnell said he would not offer up Brelo to an angry public if the evidence did not merit a conviction.
In June, the state’s biggest business groups, including the Ohio Chamber of Commerce and the Ohio Farm Bureau, endorsed French and Kennedy.
“It is crucial for businesses to have a sense of predictability when it comes to the business climate,” said then Ohio Chamber President Andy Doehrel. French and Kennedy “both have demonstrated records of applying the law as written, not legislating from the bench.”
Republicans often level the “legislating from the bench” charge at Democratic judges, accusing them of trying to make laws instead of interpreting them. Both Kennedy and French used similar phrases in an Oct. 9 candidates’ debate.
“Our role as judges is to serve as independent bodies, to interpret the law as it’s written, not rewrite it or legislate from the bench,” Kennedy said in that forum.
French said keeping her on the bench speaks to “the importance of following the law, of being someone who’s not an activist, someone who exercises judicial restraint and doesn’t take the law into our own hands.”
Brunner said she takes the separation of powers between the three branches of government seriously. But during the Oct. 9 forum, she added: “There are times when the judiciary must fully occupy its lane, and do its job to check the other branches of government.”
For his part, O’Donnell invoked the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that led to school desegregation. If not for those justices’ judicial activism, O’Donnell said, “We’d still have separate and truly unequal systems of education in our country.”
In 2016, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled 4-3 — with Kennedy and French voting in the majority — to reject a request from a woman raped by a pastor when she was 15 to boost the amount of damages paid by the church where the minister worked. The court’s decision reduced a $3.6 million jury award to the woman and her father to about $385,000, out of which she had to pay attorneys’ fees and other costs.
“Ohio needs new Supreme Court justices to protect victims of rape and abuse,” Ohio Democratic Party spokeswoman Kirstin Alvanitakis said in a statement earlier this month.
The upcoming redrawing of legislative and congressional district lines, likely to end up before the state Supreme Court, has attracted national attention to the race including Rove’s plea to donors.
In that message, Rove. former advisor to President George W. Bush, said “well-funded left-wing interest groups from outside Ohio” are vying to unseat French in order to redraw the lines of state legislative and congressional districts to benefit Democrats.
The Republican candidates both lead in fundraising. French had raised about $944,000 as of September, compared to $627,000 for Brunner. Kennedy had raised about $1.2 million compared to $524,000 for O’Donnell.
Three candidates — Brunner, Kennedy and O’Donnell — received “recommended” ratings from the Ohio State Bar Association. Only French received a “highly recommended” rating.

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Chicago adds 5 states — including West Virginia and Ohio — to travel quarantine amid virus spike

By DON BABWIN and JOHN O’CONNOR Associated Press
CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago added five states to its travel quarantine order as rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations prompted Mayor Lori Lightfoot to announce she’s thinking about reimposing strict guidelines on businesses that were put in place earlier this year.
Rising numbers prompted Gov. J.B. Pritzker to impose tighter restrictions on social interaction to parts of the state for the second time in as many days, including on Tuesday to four densely populated counties in suburban Chicago.
On Tuesday, city officials announced that starting on Friday, travelers from Colorado, Ohio, Delaware, West Virginia and Texas will be subject to a two-week quarantine requirement. The city did not remove any states from its quarantine order as it has in past weeks.
The sobering news about an increase in the number of positive tests and a rise in the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Illinois also has officials warning about a so-called second wave of cases. In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot was worried enough about people letting their guard down about the virus that she asked city residents to stop hosting events such as dinner parties and card games.
On Tuesday, state health officials announced 3,714 new known COVID-19 cases and 41 additional fatalities. Those latest figures bring the total number of new infections in the state to 350,875 and the statewide death toll to 9,277 since the pandemic began. Also, the seven-day statewide positivity rate as of Tuesday was 5.5%.
The suburban Chicago counties of DuPage, Kane, Kankakee and Will, which comprise Regions 7 and 8 of Pritzker’s COVID-19 recovery plan, have had unacceptable numbers of consecutive days with increasing test-positivity rates and hospital admissions, so Pritzker imposed “resurgence mitigations” to take effect starting Friday. They’re the same he imposed on Region 1, northwestern Illinois, on Oct. 3, and which start Thursday in Region 5, which comprises far southern Illinois.
The restrictions prohibit indoor bar and restaurant service, and require food and bar service to end at 11 p.m. That’s also when gambling casinos must close. Meetings and gatherings must be limited to 25 people and must be social-distanced.
Pritzker defended restrictions on dining out and gathering at bars, saying the decision is based on research.
“This isn’t about punishing anybody,” Prtizker said. “All the studies that have been done about bars and restaurants show that these are significance spreading locations… so we’re putting mitigations in on a targeted basis to make sure that we bring down our positivity rates, so that those businesses can reopen to indoor dining.”
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O’Connor reported from Springfield, Illinois.

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Ohio Headlines

Vendor says Ohio, Pennsylvania ballot backlogs caught up

By JULIE CARR SMYTH Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The printing and mailing of 2.4 million delayed ballots across Ohio and Pennsylvania is all caught up, the vendor responsible for the backlog announced Tuesday.
Cleveland-based Midwest Direct said in a statement that extra staff, expanded hours and added equipment were required to meet the “staggering volume of mail-in ballot requests for this election.”
Unprecedented demand driven by the coronavirus pandemic combined with equipment challenges at the company led to delays that left county boards of elections and voters in both states scrambling.
CEO Richard Gebbie said 1 million mail-in ballots requested, as well as 1.4 million Election Day ballots, were processed by Midwest and delivered to the Postal Service over the past 14 days.
“We are up-to-date with all ballot orders as of yesterday and we anticipate timely fulfillment as we move through the rest of the vote-by-mail process, which will continue through Saturday, October 31, the last day of mailing,” he said in Tuesday’s statement.
The company initially served as a contractor or subcontractor for 16 Ohio counties, including those where Cleveland, Toledo and Akron are located. Because of the delays, nine of those counties opted out of those business arrangements and are going it on their own, Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose tweeted in a video message Monday.
“It’s really unfortunate and truly unacceptable that this vendor had overpromised and underdelivered as it related to getting ballots out as quickly as they should,” LaRose said.
LaRose stressed, however, that voting by mail in Ohio remains safe and secure.
Gebbie said last week that his firm’s business model for this election anticipated double the number of absentee requests fielded in 2016. Instead, it’s been triple.
Midwest Direct was also the contractor involved in the mailing of 29,000 ballots with wrong contests on them to voters in Pennsylvania’s second-most populous county, Allegheny. Those voters were mailed corrected ballots.

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Ohio Headlines

Democrats ask Supreme Court to rule on elections board seat

By MARK GILLISPIE Associated Press
CLEVELAND (AP) — The Ohio Supreme Court will consider whether Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose was justified in refusing to appoint a Democratic Party official to a county elections board seat, citing a voter fraud accusation from four years ago.
The Ashtabula County Democratic Party filed its complaint with the Supreme Court late last week, asking justices to decide whether LaRose “abused his discretion” in refusing to appoint county Democratic party Chairman Eli Kalil to the vacant board seat.
The court set a Friday deadline for the filing of motions in the complaint. The court has not said when it would rule.
Ashtabula is about 58 miles (93 kilometers) northeast of downtown Cleveland.
The four seats on Ohio county elections boards are split evenly between Republicans and Democrats. The Ashtabula Democratic Party submitted Kalil’s name to LaRose in late August after a Democratic member resigned.
LaRose rejected the appointment, writing that Kalil “has been investigated for encouraging a constituent to forge the signature of another person on a voter registration form, and for altering the dates on voter registration forms.”
In an email Monday, LaRose spokesperson Maggie Sheehan said: “The seriousness of the allegations should give anyone pause about the impact of this nomination for a board seat on Ashtabula County voters’ confidence.”
Kalil in an interview said the allegations made against him in 2016 were “politically motivated” and an investigation showed they were unfounded.
Kalil at the time was working as a field organizer for the Ohio Together campaign housed at county party headquarters. The Supreme Court complaint says a woman came to the headquarters and asked for a voter registration form to update her boyfriend’s address.
The woman returned 10 days later with a signed form dated before she picked up the form, the complaint said. Kalil told the woman she need to have the boyfriend sign and return a new form that day to avoid missing the voter registration deadline. The woman angrily said she did not have time and returned an hour later with the original date whited out and a new date written, the complaint said.
Kalil told the woman she could not forge her boyfriend’s signature, the complaint said, and later gave the elections board the altered form to report the irregularity.
The woman then sent a letter to Ashtabula County Republican Party Chairman Charlie Frye, an elections board member, accusing Kalil of whiting out the date and encouraging her to forge the boyfriend’s signature.
A county Sheriff’s Office investigation found no wrongdoing, according to the complaint, and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation declined Frye’s request to probe the matter.
County Prosecutor Nicholas Iarrocci, a Democrat, in two letters to the elections board wrote there was insufficient evidence to warrant criminal charges.
Asked why county Democrats did not submit another nomination to LaRose to fill the seat, Kalil said: “The party feels we need a representative on the board who will work to make the election process run smoothly, and my board felt I was the right person.”

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Ohio Headlines

Doctor asks court to dismiss murder indictment in 25 deaths

By KANTELE FRANKO Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Lawyers for the Ohio hospital doctor charged with murder in 25 patient deaths accused the prosecutor of misconduct and asked Tuesday that the court dismiss the indictment handed up by a grand jury.
Former intensive care doctor William Husel is accused of ordering excessive painkillers for patients who died shortly thereafter in the Columbus-area Mount Carmel Health System. Prosecutors charged him only in cases involving at least 500 micrograms of fentanyl, saying doses that big in nonsurgical situations pointed to an intent to prematurely snuff out lives.
Husel’s lawyers argue that Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien wrongly influenced the grand jury and prejudiced Husel by excluding information about a patient who received even larger dosages — a total of 2,500 micrograms of fentanyl plus 16 micrograms of hydromorphone in a 37-minute span — and survived for 10 days afterward, eventually dying with no trace of fentanyl in her system.
O’Brien didn’t seek an indictment in that death “because he knew that presenting that evidence to the grand jury would reveal the truth — that 500 micrograms of fentanyl is not a ‘lethal dose,’ and that administering such a dose does not indicate an intent to cause or hasten death,” the defense attorneys wrote in the court filing. They also requested a copy of the transcript of the grand jury proceedings, which are generally secret.
A statement from O’Brien said his office is reviewing the matter and will file a response in court.
Husel, 44, previously pleaded not guilty and maintains he was providing comfort care for dying patients, not trying to kill them. His defense team includes Jose Baez, the Florida-based attorney known for successfully defending high-profile clients such as Casey Anthony and Aaron Hernandez.
The case is one of the biggest of its kind ever brought against an American health care professional.
Mount Carmel’s review concluded Husel ordered excessive painkillers for about three dozen patients who died over several years. Colleagues who administered the medication weren’t criminally charged, but the hospital system said it fired 23 nurses, pharmacists and managers after its internal investigation and referred various employees to their respective state boards for review and possible disciplinary action.
Mount Carmel also has made changes in its operations and reached related settlements totaling more than $16.7 million over the deaths of at least 17 patients. More lawsuits by patients’ families remain pending.
Husel and some of his former colleagues also filed defamation cases that accuse Mount Carmel of spreading a false narrative about what happened. Mount Carmel denies that and has stood by the findings of its review.

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Regents pick Bowling Green official to lead UW-Stevens Point

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — University of Wisconsin System leaders on Tuesday announced they’ve selected a Bowling Green State University administrator to lead UW-Stevens Point.
The Board of Regents announced it unanimously approved hiring Thomas to serve as chancellor at the central Wisconsin university.
Gibson has served as vice president for student affairs and vice provost at Bowling Green since July 2016. His duties included serving as an advocate for student development and advising the president and provost on student issues.
He also has served as associate vice president of student affairs at Ball State University and worked in various roles at York College in New York City.
He will replace UW-Stevens Point Chancellor Bernie Patterson, who announced in March that he plans to retire at the end of the year. Gibson will make $247,500 annually in the position.
Gibson beat out fellow finalists Deborah Bordelon, provost and executive vice president at Columbus State University; Jeanine Gangeness, associate vice president and graduate school dean at Winona State University; and Katy Heyning, provost and vice president for academic affairs at SUNY Brockport.
Gibson is set to start at UW-Stevens Point on Jan. 11.

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Ohio Headlines

Men abused by Ohio State doctor call for NCAA investigation

By KANTELE FRANKO Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Some of the men alleging decades-old sexual abuse by an Ohio State team doctor are asking the NCAA and the Big Ten conference to investigate the university and force changes to protect student-athletes in the future, suggesting that the school face sanctions even harsher than Penn State did in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
Most of the 200-plus plaintiffs who haven’t settled their related lawsuits against Ohio State signed on to the letters being sent to the athletics association and the conference, lawyers involved said Wednesday. The alumni contend university employees enabled and covered up years of abuse by the late Richard Strauss despite students raising concerns with school officials as far back as the late 1970s, near the start of the doctor’s two-decade tenure.
“I think it’s time for them to step up and protect the athletes, both of yesterday and of today,” said Mike Murphy, a former pole vaulter who says he was abused by Strauss in the late 1980s.
Asked for comment about the call for additional investigation and the cover-up allegations, Ohio State spokesman Benjamin Johnson said the school “is not currently under investigation by the NCAA or Big Ten and has not received notification of a future investigation.” Messages seeking comment were left for the NCAA and the Big Ten.
An investigation conducted for Ohio State by a law firm concluded school officials knew of complaints about Strauss but failed to stop him. The university apologized and acknowledged more should have been done back then to investigate complaints, and it has made changes such as giving athletes access to multiple doctors and additional options for reporting misconduct.
The signees on the letters want more.
“Given that the NCAA previously concluded that Penn State’s actions involving former football coach Jerry Sandusky constituted a ‘failure of institutional and individual integrity,’ Ohio State’s repeated and stubborn refusal to stop an athletics team physician known to be a predator should also spur investigation and action,” the men said in the letter to the NCAA.
Penn State agreed to a $60 million fine and other athletics sanctions after a report commissioned by its trustees accused top university officials of burying abuse allegations against Sandusky. The non-monetary sanctions were later lifted.
Unlike Sandusky, Strauss wasn’t criminally charged. He died in 2005, and no one has publicly defended him since an ex-wrestler brought the allegations to light in 2018.
Ohio State already reached settlements with 185 plaintiffs for a total of $46.7 million, or an average of roughly $252,000 per survivor — far less than the average payouts by Penn State in the Sandusky case and by Michigan State for hundreds of victims of imprisoned gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.
Vocal plaintiffs in the unsettled Ohio State cases have argued publicly for higher amounts, saying that they deserve such compensation for what they’ve endured and that the cost to the university should be great enough to ensure such a scenario doesn’t happen again.
Some of their attorneys said the men shouldn’t have even had to ask college athletics organizations to take action.
“When you see a scandal of sex abuse going on for decades like this, they should be jumping out on their own accord,” attorney Stephen Estey said. “We shouldn’t have to solicit assistance from the NCAA and Big Ten.”
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Follow Franko on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/kantele10. See AP’s coverage of the allegations here: https://apnews.com/OhioStateTeamDoctor.

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Ohio Headlines

Ohio voter registration hits near record, led by Dem surge

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Nearly 8.1 million Ohioans are signed up to vote in the November election, a near record, the latest figures from the state elections chief show.
The presidential battleground state has never seen more registered voters, other than in 2008, when Democrat Barack Obama faced Republican John McCain.
Figures released by Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose showed 8,080,050 Ohioans were registered as of Tuesday.
Democratic registrations have risen by over a quarter of a million since 2016, to nearly 1.6 million. The number of registered Republicans fell by 120,000 over the same period, with GOP President Donald Trump in the White House — but the party remains the larger of the two, at 1.9 million people.
Most voters in the state, more than 4.5 million people, remain unaffiliated.