‘I really do want you to win,’ Middletown judge candidate told opponent

The Butler County Democratic Party’s endorsed candidate for Middletown Municipal Court judge initially supported one of her Republican opponents for the seat.

A few days after the February death of Middletown Judge Mark Wall, attorney Elizabeth Yauch left a voicemail on Melynda Cook Howard’s phone saying she was going to take out petitions for election to the remaining years on Wall’s unexpired term “not because I want to go up against you, but I’m afraid of what the governor is going to do” in terms of appointment.

In that same voicemail obtained by the Journal-News, Yauch also told Cook Howard, “I really do want you to win Melynda.”

MORE: Middletown Municipal Court candidates talk opioid epidemic, jail space

Ohio Gov. John Kasich appointed Cook Howard to Wall’s seat in May, and her first day on the bench was in June.

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“At the time I had made that statement, I was not aware who all was running but I knew she was,” Yauch told the Journal-News.

Yauch, Cook Howard and attorney James Sherron all pulled petitions on Feb. 14, just three days after the death of Wall, though Yauch pulled anonymously.

Middletown area attorneys Terri King and Jeff Milbauer also later pulled petitions to run for the seat, but eventually withdrew from the race.

Yauch wouldn’t say who she was referencing in her voicemail.

MORE: Middletown judge accused of campaigning in city newsletter

When questioned about her apparent early support for her opponent, Yauch told the Journal-News she is now “all in” and wants to win on Nov. 7 to serve the remaining two years of Wall’s unexpired term.

She defended her earlier statements, saying at the time she wasn’t certain she wanted to leave her practice and run for judge. In hindsight, she said she should not have left that voicemail.

“I put my name in because if you did not hit that 10-day period you were forever barred for this election (from running),” Yauch said.

Yauch said she did some “soul searching” during a vacation in March and determined she wanted to win election to the judgeship seat.

State law requires petitions be filed within 10 days of a judicial vacancy being created. Anyone seeking to run for the unexpired term in November had to file petitions by Feb. 21.

MORE: What’s on your ballot Nov. 7? Get complete information on the issues and races with our online Voters Guide

It’s difficult to beat an incumbent judge in Butler County, based on historical election data. Most judges in Butler County have been in their seat for multiple terms, except for the few that were appointed because of a judicial retirement due to age or death.

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