Three local candidates running for office in next week’s primary election have filed for bankruptcy in the past — Magistrate Charlita Anderson White, Kelly Kraus Mencke and Ryan Sawyer.
Anderson White, who is running for domestic relations judge against incumbent Lisa Swenski and defense attorneys Jack Bradley and Michael Duff, filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in 2004, according to court records.
“That was filed in 2004, so it’s been almost 15 years ago,” Anderson White said. “I did that as a result of having owned a restaurant in downtown Lorain. I tried to support the growth in downtown Lorain. It failed. I expended a great deal of money, and that’s why we had to file, because of the loss.”
Kraus Mencke, who is running unopposed in the Democratic primary next week for Ohio House District 55, filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2009.
“It was years ago, and you learn lessons from that,” she said. “Unfortunately, in my situation it was from medical bills from an accident. The last time I ran (for office), it helped arm me with a better understanding of where people in our district might find themselves.”
Sawyer is running against Nathan Manning in the Republican primary for the 13th District State Senate seat. Sawyer filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 1999 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy in 2004 and 2012.
“There were three, and those were due to no-pays,” Sawyer said. One of them was filed and then gone within 30 days. What it was, was a contract dispute.
“It’s not anything that I’m broke or something like that. When you’re self-employed, this is the way it works.”
Sawyer said one of the bankruptcies was due to a company he did work for went “belly up.”
“I paid my guys, and in order to protect my home, that’s what I had to do. It wasn’t just like I said, ‘Oh, I’m going to run up all my credit cards and file this.”
The third bankruptcy occurred after he had entered into a lease on a building and filed for incorporation. The incorporation went through two weeks after he signed the lease. The bankruptcy was “a $1,400 cost to me as an extension on a contract,” he said.
After filing for bankruptcy in 2004, Anderson White said she went back to school and acquired her MBA. She said she doesn’t feel having a bankruptcy in her past hinders her ability to be a judge.
“No, because I learned from that,” she said. “I deliberately went back to school. It was a (Chapter) 13, so I paid back every penny. It wasn’t a (Chapter) 7. I didn’t run from the debt. I paid back the money, and then I educated myself to the extent that I got an additional degree in 2010.”
Kraus Mencke said bankruptcy shouldn’t preclude someone from running for office.
“I don’t see it at all as a hindrance,” she said. “I believe it definitely gives me the strength to do it much better and represent people in our district that find themselves, or have found themselves, in tough times. It gives me a better connection. I think I have a much better view after what I learned from it.”
Anderson White said she isn’t ashamed of her past.
“I didn’t run from it, and I paid it back,” she said. “It’s a public record. I didn’t hide from it. I didn’t run from it. I didn’t deny it. I am not ashamed of it. I’m not ashamed of it because I learned from it. Not many people fail at a business and then go back to school to get an MBA.”
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