MAPLEWOOD – Chris Gibbs, who campaigned as an independent to unseat Republican Jim Jordan from Ohio’s 4th Congressional District, suspended his campaign Sunday after he didn’t have enough valid signatures to qualify for the November election.
Gibbs learned he didn’t have enough valid signatures on Thursday then announced the suspension of his campaign Sunday evening through a Facebook Live video on his Chris Gibbs for Congress page.
“I know I’ve let people down here,” Gibbs said, “my friends, family, supporters, donors and all those folks who I never got a chance to meet but were depending on me to bring some civility and honesty to the House chamber.”
According to Clerk Dave Stambol from the Lorain County Board of Elections, Gibbs’ campaign presented 1,275 valid signatures and 1,790 invalid signatures with his nominating petition. Independent candidates needed 2,458 valid signatures to qualify for the November election.
Gibbs said he, family, friends and other volunteers had gathered approximately 1,300 signatures. In late February, he hired two paid circulators to gather additional signatures prior to the March 16 deadline.
One paid circulator, who initiated contact with the Gibbs campaign, said she had experience working on political campaigns and promised to gather 1,300 signatures. However, she produced none.
The woman also helped the Gibbs campaign hire the second paid circulator, who promised to gather 2,000 signatures. The circulator did deliver the signatures, but approximately 75 percent of them were invalid.
“That tells me that there was at the very least sloppy work,” Gibbs said. “At the very most, possibly something more nefarious. We’re going to get to the bottom of that.”
Gibbs, who spent 12 years on the Shelby County Board of Elections as a Republican, said 70 percent of signatures being accepted is a good standard; approximately 76 percent of the 1,300 signatures he and his volunteers collected were accepted.
Signatures can be rejected for several reasons including signatures not matching what is on file at the local boards of elections, signers’ addresses not matching what is on file or signers living outside of the candidate’s congressional district.
In Lorain County, Stambol said, the most common issue with Gibbs’ signatures was the signers lived outside of the 4th Congressional District. Lorain County is divided among three congressional districts, the 4th, 7th and 9th.
“I want to acknowledge the work each of these county boards of election staff did on these signature verifications,” Gibbs said. “These folks have a thankless job, and with the confusion surrounding the Ohio primary because of the pandemic, these counties were under a lot of pressure and many times didn’t know from minute to minute what procedure was coming at them next. So my hat’s off to them, and I thank them. I’ll be working with each of those county boards of elections and their local prosecutors to get to the bottom of how a contractor fell so short of eligible signatures.”
Although his campaign is suspended, Gibbs will continue his quest to help defeat Jordan and President Donald Trump in November.
“In my view, whatever I can do to defeat Jim Jordan is what I’ll do,” the farmer from Maplewood said. “That will include working to defeat President Trump as well because Jim Jordan’s influence comes directly from the White House. He has a constituency of one. There’s three quarters of a million voters in the 4th Congressional District, but he serves only one, and that’s the president of the United States.”
Gibbs plans to meet with Democrat Shannon Freshour and Libertarian Steve Perkins to decide if he will endorse either candidate running against Jordan.
While it will be tough, polling he financed led Gibbs to believe there is a narrow path to victory.
Unseating Jordan will be difficult, Gibbs said, because of gerrymandering. He called Ohio’s 4th Congressional District, which stretches across 14 counties, one of the most gerrymandered districts in the nation and said it leaves many Ohioans without a voice in Congress.
Gibbs hopes the law Ohio voters approved two years ago to combat gerrymandering will be successful when new districts are drawn prior to the 2022 elections.
“I’m looking forward to the results of the new process, after this census,” Gibbs said. “We’ll find out if what Ohio voters voted for is really going to work. I’m withholding judgment. I don’t know. It sounds good.
“That’s why it’s important for everybody, everybody, to take a moment – it takes less than 10 minutes – to complete and return their census. Because without that data, the new constitutional amendment on district redrawing won’t work effectively.”
Gibbs has no plans to run for office in the future but will remain active on social media, in op-eds and through any other opportunities he receives to speak out about what he sees as political failures.
“We’ll see what develops over time,” he said. “People have to be unafraid to stand up and to put themselves out there. That’s been the problem with this polarized system we have right now.
“It has made people wary of just literally standing up and speaking truth to power and trying to be part of the solution. And that’s what I’ve been trying to do, showing people that you can stand up, you can make a difference, you can be part of the process. Yes, it’s hard. But that’s what it takes.”
Gibbs thanked the people who believed in his campaign and helped him along the way. He said he learned who his real friends are and learned there are really good people who want to make a difference.
“And to my volunteers, friends and family who walked in the snow and rain to knock on doors for signatures,” Gibbs said. “They are stars in my book. I know the signature process wasn’t easy, particularly in this polarized political environment. They are truly my heroes, and I am so very humbled by their gestures of lending to me, their most important possession, and that was their name, on my behalf.”
Reach the writer at [email protected] or 937-538-4824.