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Franklin County Republican Party rescinds endorsement of county prosecutor candidate

Republican John Rutan, candidate for Franklin County Prosecutor
Provided photo
Republican John Rutan, candidate for Franklin County Prosecutor

The Franklin County Republican Party is taking back its endorsement of the candidate who won the party's primary this March to run for county prosecutor.

The county party did a voice vote Thursday to rescind its endorsement of Republican defense attorney John Rutan after the party's screening committee unanimously recommended the action.

The Columbus Dispatch reports party members were upset about comments containing conspiracy theories Rutan allegedly made to the newspaper.

The members alleged Rutan said that Franklin County elections were being "stolen" and that "elites" were responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Rutan also allegedly called former President Donald Trump a "Trojan Horse for the Democratic Party."

Rutan told WOSU that despite the endorsement being rescinded, he still loves his party. Rutan said he is not proud of what he told the newspaper.

"I was really surprised that it came to this, because we're all talking about opinions and diversity. And then all of a sudden, they get up there and say "we need to take this guy's endorsement back because of an opinion."' Rutan said.

Rutan said he apologizes for what he said, but did not elaborate what he was specifically apologizing for.

"I 100% understand why they could be upset, I really do. That's why I apologize, but I'm not trying to defend my actions because that's what makes me different," Rutan said.

Rutan said he doesn't plan to quit and will still run as a Republican in November's general election despite losing his party's support. Rutan will run against Democrat Shayla Favor, a Columbus City Council member.

"Evil wins when the good people give up. They know I'm a good person because I'm not motivated by money, I'm motivated by people. And so they know I won't quit," Rutan said.

Rutan said he believes he is a more qualified candidate than Favor and hopes voters will recognize that. He criticized what he said was Favor's lack of experience prosecuting crimes. Favor was part of what is now Columbus' Property Action Team, prosecuting blight and code violations in environmental court.

"The Democratic Party is divided because of their candidate's experience. She's an environmental lawyer. Trees don't commit crimes. People do. My party is divided over opinion. I'm a criminal justice expert. They should be raising me up instead of bringing me down. This is too important. It's trees versus people," Rutan said.

The Franklin County Republican Party did not respond to WOSU's request for comment.

George Shillcock is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. He joined the WOSU newsroom in April 2023 following three years as a reporter in Iowa with the USA Today Network.