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April 23, 2012

State election board rules for Smith

Oklahoma City — The Oklahoma Election Board ruled Monday Republican Fred Smith is eligible to run against incumbent state Sen. Susan Paddack, D-Ada.

Paddack filed papers challenging Smith’s eligibility last Thursday alleging his criminal past would disqualify him from running. Paddack’s attorney, Mark Edwards, argued a misdemeanor conviction against Smith in Texas in 2006 amounted to embezzlement by guidelines set forth by the Oklahoma Election Board. The board disagreed at a hearing Monday at the state capitol.

“Mr. Smith, you’re a candidate,” Oklahoma Election Board Vice Chair Steve Curry said after a unanimous vote by the board to reject Paddack’s petition.

Smith testified he was serving with the Army when the check was written by his then wife, who was listed on his checking account.

“I made the mistake of having someone else on my checking account,” Smith testified.

He said when he came home on leave in 2006, he was arrested for the bad check. He said he just wanted to get it out of the way by pleading no contest and paying court costs and fees.

Smith was happy with Monday’s outcome.

“I’m ecstatic about (the ruling),” Smith said after the hearing. “Hopefully, it will be a long, fair race. I’d like to see how it all plays out now that we’ve gotten all the technicalities out of the way.”

Paddock was not happy with the ruling and spoke about it to The Ada News afterwards.

“I’m disappointed in the decision by the election board,” Paddack said. “Mr. Smith has a decade-long record of theft, violence and at least two (driving under the influence) DUIs. If that is not enough to disqualify someone from running for public office in Oklahoma, perhaps the Legislature should review the criteria for running for office and consider making the laws more stringent. The public deserves candidates that respect and follow the laws, not ones who break the laws.”

Smith told The Ada News last week he believed the petition filed by Paddack amounted to “mudslinging” and “character assassination.” Paddack denies it was mudslinging and said she felt obligated to the residents in her district.

“I honestly believed that I had a moral obligation to the citizens of Senate District 13,” Paddack said. “In all my years of watching races, I’ve never seen someone who has such a disregard for the law. He has two DUIs, he violated a protection order against him ... hot checks, the list goes on and on.”

Brent Wilcox, Paddack’s campaign consultant, said that despite the election board’s disappointing decision the voters should know about Smith’s past.

“I can’t imagine that this is the type of candidate being recruited by the Oklahoma Republican Party,” Wilcox said. “Fred Smith’s thefts, his DUIs, the current victim protection order against him, his violation of that protective order twice — the voters in District 13 will be made aware of all of it. Fred Smith doesn’t even have a driver’s license, so how can he possibly serve the constituents in District 13?”

Edwards also argued a discrepancy with Smith’s address at the time of filing, saying it made his candidacy ineligible. The board determined since Smith resided in District 13 at the time he filed, it was not grounds to reject his candidacy.

“I’ve already revealed that DUI and everything, so that doesn’t bother me at all,” Smith said. “I mean, we’ve all made mistakes in the past, everybody does it. The checks, like I said, I took responsibility for those. That was from my past. I didn’t write the checks personally. However, I paid it off, one of them was thrown out, the other one stuck.”

Smith said he’s running to change some things in the government.

“When I first settled in Ada, I started attending East Central University, I became with the Pontotoc County Republicans,” Smith said. “They pointed out a few issues that could be made different. I didn’t like the out-of-state tuition that is being charged on military veterans."

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