Ohio lawmaker not allowed to run for House seat after dropping party; didn't act in 'good faith,' LaRose says

News 5 coverage was evidence in Board of Elections case
Ohio lawmaker moves to switch parties to run for House seat after missing deadline; opponents protest
Posted at 9:05 PM, Aug 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-12 10:57:27-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A newly-independent lawmaker who wants to run for her current Ohio House seat is now barred from running, Sec. of State Frank LaRose decided on Friday.

She was facing legal challenges from her opponents, and LaRose sided with them.

First reported by News 5, House Rep. Shayla Davis, a now-independent from Garfield Heights, "did not disaffiliate from the Democratic Party in good faith," according to the secretary.

"Although the Candidate indicates that she submitted written documentation to withdraw from the Democratic Party and did not vote as a Democrat in the August 2, 2022 Primary Election, the evidence presented to the Board and subsequently, my office, indicates that she continued to affiliate with the Democratic Party during the time between signing her Nominating Petition and Statement of Candidacy (Form 3-G) on June 10, 2022 and filing her petitions with the Board on July 29, 2022," the letter stated.

Read our previous story from last week below:

On Monday, the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections heard a case against House Rep. Shayla Davis, who was appointed by the Democratic Party to fill an open House seat in February.

A Democrat, Republican and potentially an independent candidate are running to represent House District 18, which contains Democratic-leaning Garfield Heights, Maple Heights and parts of downtown Cleveland.

"It really goes back to giving the people a viable choice and not being, again, just controlled by the party," said Davis, the new independent.

She said she is running as an independent because she saw how split the legislature is and wanted to make a difference by removing herself from the division.

But that's not how others see it.

"The truth is that she missed the deadline," Republican challenger Shalira Taylor said.

In early June, Davis started getting petitions to run as an independent, documents obtained by News 5 showed.

Democratic opponent Darnell Brewer said the connections and money from the Democratic caucus are not helping her case.

"I was always in this race from the beginning," Brewer said. "I didn't have to change party affiliations to challenge this seat."

Davis withdrew from the Democratic Party on July 29, an email obtained by News 5 showed, but she didn’t announce her candidacy as an independent until August.

"She's just trying to do this so she can run instead of doing it right by collecting signatures as a Democrat in February — because she didn't want to go against Sandra Williams," Taylor said. "Well, that's not our problem. She snooze, she lose."

Williams was a former state senator from that same area who had planned to run in the district before resigning and taking a job in the private sector.

One of the biggest arguments against Davis is her interview with News 5 in late June.

Taylor said in the meeting: "After (News 5's) Morgan Trau, a reporter, tweeted, 'A bipartisan bill in the Ohio House would eliminate the sales tax for child and adult diapers,' ... [it] was retweeted by Ms. Davis and also @'ed the Ohio House."

The act of @'ing someone on Twitter is when the post writer uses the @ symbol and types a username, making the post pop up in the notifications for the tagged user. For example, Trau @'ed WEWS (News 5 Cleveland's handle).

Although the quote tweet is now deleted, a screenshot is included in the legal document of the lawmaker, where she tags the Ohio Democrats.

The work of News 5 was mentioned and used as lines of questioning during the three-hour hearing.

The story that is used as evidence is from June 21, 2022. In the piece, Davis is referred to as a Democrat.

RELATED: To combat ‘rash’ inflation, Ohio considers eliminating diaper tax

At first, Davis and her lawyer Sam Thomas denied knowing about news articles in general until one of the board members asked directly.

"It's interesting that (Taylor) focused most of her attention on this article," Thomas said. "I've never seen this before, and I don't think my client has seen it either."

"I assume she knew those interviews were given," one of the board members said.

The lawyer suggested talking to Davis.

"I guess what I would ask is, did you ever contact any of these media outlets in writing to correct any of this if you felt you were an independent?" a board member asked.

"Unfortunately, I don't see everything that media puts out, most of which Ms. Taylor introduced," Davis responded.

She did state she was aware of News 5's piece.

"My Zoom interview that I did with Morgan Trau, there was no conversation or discussion of me being a Democrat,” Davis said. "So what is played and showed, I have no idea."

In fact, News 5 was never told that Davis was an independent and asked Davis about her role in the Democratic Party numerous times.

Below are a few instances.

News 5: "Do you think that people need to be seeing that the Democrats are trying to fix this?"

Davis: "So absolutely, I think that people need to see who's actually working for them, who's considering them, because without the voters, without the constituency, we don't exist. Right? And we're there to serve the people."

When News 5 asked her initial thoughts on the bill she cosponsored, House Bill 695, this was her response.

Davis: "It's a joint bill, but it also shows that the representatives on the Democratic side are really listening to the constituency. We understand what the needs are, and the needs are far greater than, you know, a lot of the bigger things that we're in discussion about."

Davis hinted at potential "news" coming down the pipeline.

Davis: "I may have some juicy news coming up in the next week or two."

News 5: "Do you want to tell me a little bit, or are we just going to wait?"

Davis: "We'll wait, we'll wait. I'll keep that under the vest right now — but just know it's coming, and you will be one of the first people that will hear about it."

If Davis was referring to her switch to become independent, which is possible, News 5 was not the first to hear about it. If that was the case, it means that Davis was not identifying herself to News 5 as an independent.

Flash forward To Wednesday, Aug. 24, two months after the initial interview.

News 5: "Was there anything in our interview that made you think that it wasn't done accurately?"

Davis: "Oh, no, not at all."

When asked by the board why she still posted the story on her social media, tagging the Democratic Party, Davis said it wasn’t her.

"She decided to blame everything on her staff and say that she has no clue about anything that was posted on her social media," Taylor said.

Davis says she has removed all affiliation from the Democratic party and followed all the right policies to get the signatures she needed to run as an independent.

"All I'm asking for is a fair shot," she said. "I'm not asking to be given the seat. I'm not asking for any of that. I'm just asking for a fair and equitable chance to run."

When asked which of her policies align with independent lawmakers, she replied she wants a small government like the Republican Party is supposed to want, but she also wants bodily autonomy.

"This isn't anything new, and it isn't extreme — it's just me showing up to serve," she said. "And we can speak about Bernie Sanders all day, right? He's the quintessential independent who fights for people every single day. And those are the things that I want to continue to do."

She just wants to work hard for her constituents without having to deal with the extremism, she said.

The board meeting ended in a tie vote from the members, which means the case heads to Secretary of State Frank LaRose to decide. His decision will come out in the next two weeks.

Follow WEWS statehouse reporter Morgan Trau on Twitter and Facebook.