By Kim Palmer
CLEVELAND (Reuters) - The Ohio Libertarian Party will appeal a federal judge's ruling that would effectively strike its candidates for governor and state attorney general from the November ballot, a party spokesman said on Thursday.
Ohio's secretary of state, Republican Jon Husted, booted the candidates from the May primary earlier this month due to errors by the petitioners in gathering signatures, which would also make them ineligible for the general election if the decision stands.
U.S. District Judge Michael Watson on Wednesday upheld Husted's decision to remove Charlie Earl and Steven Linnabary, the Libertarian candidates for governor and attorney general, but criticized the Republican and Democratic parties.
Watson called the man who challenged Earl's petitions a "guileless dupe" and said the Republican Party orchestrated efforts to remove the Libertarian candidate from the governor's race.
The Democratic Party "provided assistance to plaintiffs in their efforts to gather petition signatures to qualify for the Ohio May 2014 primary ballot," Watson said in his decision.
Ohio Democrats hope the Libertarian candidates, if they are allowed on the ballot, will draw more votes from the Republican incumbents - Governor John Kasich and Attorney General Mike DeWine - than from their chosen candidates.
In Ohio, candidates who do not appear on the primary ballot cannot run in the November general election. Early voting for the primary starts on Saturday, and attorneys for the Libertarians have sought a delay in printing the ballots.
The Libertarian Party also has a hearing for Linnabary pending before the Ohio Supreme Court.
(Reporting by Kim Palmer; editing by David Bailey and Matthew Lewis)