Franklin County Republican Party votes to rescind John Rutan’s endorsement for county prosecutor

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The Franklin County Republican Party has revoked its endorsement of John Rutan for county prosecutor in the November general election based on emailed comments Rutan made to The Dispatch that party members called “strange” and “inflammatory.”

The vote to rescind Rutan’s party endorsement was taken by voice during a heated meeting of the county GOP Central Committee on Thursday at the Sheraton Columbus Hotel at Capitol Square across from the Ohio Statehouse.

After newly-elected Central Committee Chairman Tim Rankin said, “The ayes have it,” Rutan attempted to object to the voice vote. Rankin told Rutan he was out of order because Rutan is not a member of the county GOP Central Committee.

The decision does not remove Rutan from the Nov. 5 general election ballot, where the defense attorney who ran unopposed in the Republican primary will face Democratic nominee and Columbus City Councilmember Shayla Favor in a battle to replace retiring Prosecutor Gary Tyack.

Before the vote, Frank Reed Jr. of Bexley, speaking for the screening committee that previously recommended Rutan, told the gathered Republicans that the screening committee had unanimously recommended rescinding the endorsement.

Reed said Rutan’s “words dishonor this party” and listed examples of “strange statements” Rutan made in an email to The Dispatch the day after the March primary, including unsubstantiated allegations about Franklin County elections being “stolen” and that “elites” were responsible for the 9/11 attacks.

Reed quoted Rutan calling former President Donald Trump a “Trojan horse for the Democratic Party,” a comment Trump supporters in the crowd appeared to especially take issue with. Rutan reassured the crowd that he’s voting for Trump.

Rutan shared his full emails with The Dispatch with committee members ahead of the meeting. During the meeting, Reed cited parts of Rutan’s lengthy emails that The Dispatch did not previously quote, including:

“I am the only candidate in 100 years with the necessary experience,” and “Why is there video evidence JFK was killed by his driver but the CIA got away with it?”

Given a chance to speak before the committee voted, Rutan again blamed The Dispatch for publishing his comments and said his words were taken out of context.

Rutan said he thought Republicans believed in freedom of speech.

“It was never my intention to make it public. Nor was it my intention to be a detriment to our party. My problem is that I say what I think. I just try to be honest,” Rutan said.

Rutan said he’s the law and order candidate, and unlike Favor, he has the experience as a defense attorney needed to address concerning trends in crime in the county.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m not here to offer you money. I wish I did, because I probably wouldn’t have any problems. But what I have to offer you is something better, and it’s called results,” Rutan said.

After Rutan spoke and before the vote, Franklin County Board of Elections Deputy Director David Payne, a Republican, spoke. Payne said he doesn’t care what Rutan’s thoughts are about 9/11, the JFK assassination, or whether Trump and Rutan have freedom of speech.

“What I do care about is his irresponsible and inflammatory speech and claims that elections are stolen in Franklin County,” Payne said. “His irresponsible and inflammatory rhetoric puts the board of election staff and nearly 5,000 poll workers at risk.”

Payne pointed to threats and violence against election officials in other states and said, “Only by the grace of God have we avoided any violence.”