Jake Richards, left, and Toledo mayoral candidate Tom Waniewski pass out flags while stumping for votes.
The political director for Toledo mayoral candidate Tom Waniewski’s campaign said he was just trying to let Oregon police know he wasn’t a criminal when an officer approached his parked car back in May.
“Do you even know who I work for?” Jake Richards, 25, reportedly told police May 2, adding that he was a “campaign manager.”
Mr. Richards, who at the time was working on the campaign of Toledo Municipal Court judicial candidate Nicole Khoury, said Friday his statements were taken out of context by the officer who wrote the report.
“The guy had me get out of the car,” he said. “I said, ‘Listen, man, you don’t know who I am. I’m not a criminal. I’m a campaign manager for a local candidate. I work really hard. I don’t appreciate being treated this way. This is nonsensical. I’m not doing anything wrong.’”
While Mr. Richards said he had pulled over to finish a phone call before visiting a friend, he was cited for four minor misdemeanors: possession of a controlled substance — police said they found two marijuana “roaches” in the passenger door; possession of drug paraphernalia — rolling papers also were reportedly found in the car; driving with an expired license, and driving an unsafe vehicle.
Mr. Richards said his license had expired on his birthday in March when he was working on a campaign in Omaha, Neb., and he has since renewed it.
The car, which had two cracks in the windshield, was not his, he said, but belonged to a relative.
He has pleaded not guilty to the charges in Oregon Municipal Court where a pretrial hearing is set for Sept. 1.
Mr. Waniewski learned of the incident Friday but said it doesn’t change his mind about Mr. Richards.
“Jake works hard. He’s done a great job for me. He puts in a lot of hours,” Mr. Waniewski said. “He’s a dedicated, wonderful person to work with. I have no intention of getting rid of him.”
Ms. Khoury said Mr. Richards worked for her campaign for six weeks or so in the spring to help her with her “ground game” and implement an app that identifies voters to reach out to in door-to-door campaigning.
She said she parted ways with Mr. Richards when Mr. Waniewski contacted her in early May saying he wanted to bring Mr. Richards on board.
Neither Ms. Khoury or Mr. Waniewski said they check the criminal backgrounds of volunteers or campaign workers.
“I’m a criminal defense attorney, and I believe very firmly that everyone deserves a second chance,” Ms. Khoury said. “That’s what I do.
“It’s the whole goal of the criminal system to punish and rehabilitate,” she added. “It would be real hypocritical of me to turn my back on someone and say, ‘You have a minor misdemeanor on your record. You can’t work for me.’”
Lucas County GOP Chairman Jon Stainbrook called Mr. Richards’ run-in with police “a peripheral issue” to an important campaign.
“This has nothing to do with the actual race for mayor,” he said. “People need to stick to the issues at hand, and the issues are who would be the best candidate to be the next of mayor of Toledo.”
Staff writer David Yaffe-Bellany contributed to this report.
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