MANSFIELD — The Richland County Democratic Party has asked a candidate charged with drug trafficking to withdraw from the race.
Howard Cole, 46, and his wife Kimberly, 44, both of 561 Michigan Ave., were arrested Thursday on two counts of drug trafficking apiece. The arrests were part of a countywide drug sweep by the METRICH Enforcement Unit.
The Coles are accused of selling oxycodone, a controlled substance found in Percocet. Howard Cole is a candidate for county commissioner, running against Republican incumbent Tim Wert.
“We became involved after receiving complaints,” METRICH Commander Lt. Ken Coontz said.
Coontz said the Coles were arrested and served with indictments by U.S. Marshals. They have posted bond.
The indictment alleges Cole sold oxycodone April 24 and April 27. Both of his counts are fourth-degree felonies. If convicted, he could receive three years in prison.
Prosecutors allege Cole’s wife sold oxycodone April 27 and April 30. The second incident took place near a school zone or a juvenile, according to the indictment, which enhances the charge to a third-degree felony.
Joe Mudra, chairman of the local Democratic Party, issued a statement.
“After consulting with party officers, I have informed Howard Cole Sr. that the party will no longer be supporting his candidacy, and we have asked him to withdraw from the race,” he said.
Cole did not return messages from the News Journal.
In voter guide information he previously submitted to the News Journal, Cole listed his occupation as a steelworker truck driver. He has been a past union president, vice president and negotiating leader. The father of four called himself a “normal working man.”
Wert, seeking his third term, called the development disappointing.
“I feel bad for his family and himself and his party,” Wert said. “It’s a shame he’s discrediting himself.”
County Prosecutor James Mayer Jr., a Democrat, asked for a special prosecutor in the case. Delaware County is handling the prosecution.
Assistant Prosecutor Kyle Rohrer said an initial court appearance would take place in a couple of weeks.
“I give Jim Mayer credit for that. I think he did the right thing,” Wert said. “This is too hot a potato.”