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Candidate questioned in Ward 6 race

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News- City of Lawton News- City of Lawton

LAWTON, Okla._ Just one day after the election, a candidate is facing controversy over his eligibility to run for the Ward 6 seat on the Lawton City Council. If he wins in the November run-off, it is possible Sean Fortenbaugh could have trouble being sworn into the position.

“The people that I’ve talked with out here are smart enough to see kind of what's going on here and know that it's maybe an act of desperation or some kind of dirty politics,” says Fortenbaugh.

He’s been a registered voter in Lawton for 17 years, but just last year he moved into Ward 6.

“I’ve been a registered voter in Ward 6 for over a year,” says Fortenbaugh, who says a mix-up at the Comanche County Election Board had his home listed in Ward 8.

Election officials said Wednesday he’s only been registered to vote since Jan. 28. Three months later, he filed for a seat on the city council.

“The requirements are that they be a registered voter six months prior to filing period,” says Monica Baughman, secretary for the Comanche County Election Board.

No one challenged his candidacy which is what paved the way for him to appear on Tuesday’s ballot, Baughman says.

“It’s not our job to find out if they're qualified or if they're registered.”

Fortenbaugh, the owner of two pizza shops in the city, was the top vote getter in a field of six candidates. He'll face Cherry Phillips in a November run-off for the spot. If he wins, he’ll have to be seated on the city council under city code, which says, much like state code, the candidate must be a registered voter in the ward for at least six months.

“I guess we’ll see what happens,” says Phillips, who has since hired an attorney to look for answers regarding Fortenbaugh’s eligibility. “We follow the rules. I mean I follow the rules. I don't know about the other fellas."

Fortenbaugh is standing his ground, however, adding he has nothing to worry about because he has lived in Ward 6 and has been a registered voter in that ward for more than a year.

“I’m fully compliant with state laws and election laws in Oklahoma,” he says.

The city has yet to comment on this issue, but some city officials have said that if Fortenbaugh wins, and is in fact seated on the council it would be a violation of the charter as it's currently written.

 

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