Three independent candidates showed up to face the winners of today’s Democratic primary for the Ohio House’s 59th district and the Republican primary for the 65th House district.
Pet claims adjuster and political newcomer Jennifer Donnelly of Cortland filed in the 65th, while Poland Township Administrator Eric Ungaro, who delivered petitions last week, and New Springfield’s Greg Beight , a businessman and first-time candidate, filed to run as an Independent for the 59th House District seat.
Independent candidates must have their nomination petitions certified by county election commissions to appear on the November 8 ballot.
In the 59th, four Democrats are vying for the party’s nomination in today’s primary. No Republicans submitted nominations for the position by the filing deadline.
The Mahoning County Democratic Party has retained a law firm “to ensure the petitions are valid” for independents, Chairman Christopher Anderson said.
“We will do our due diligence,” Anderson said.
In an email to Democrats, Anderson wrote, “The party will not support individuals seeking to avoid primaries like this, and we want that message to be clear.”
Ungaro, first elected as Poland’s canton administrator in 2011, said: ‘They will look pretty silly questioning police chiefs, fire chiefs, prison officers, former administrators and current, coaches, doctors, business owners, lawyers, former players, nurses, friends, family, school board members and community activists. They are the ones who circulated our petition. Nuts and silly.
“I know the rules and I followed them,” said Ungaro, who lost a race at Ohio House in 2018 by 375 votes. “Go feed the kids at the summer school program (in Youngstown) instead of wasting money on lawyers.”
Beight, owner of Masternick-Courtney, a Girard-based vending machine company, cast his ballot in the May 3 Republican primary. This could call into question his eligibility as an independent, although that will be decided by the Mahoning County Board of Elections.
“I looked at eligibility, and I think it’s going to be okay,” he said. “It’s out of my hands.”
Beight said having businesses based in Youngstown in the past and living in the rural part of the district “makes me a complete candidate. I know what the district needs.
The new district includes Youngstown, Beloit, Coitsville, Ellsworth, Poland, Sebring, New Middletown, North Lima, Smith, Washingtonville, Goshen, Green, Beaver and Springfield as well as four townships in northwest Columbiana County.
The district favors Democrats by 3% based on statewide partisan voting trends over the past decade.
In the 65th District, if certified for the Nov. 8 ballot, Donnelly would face the winner of today’s Republican primary between State Rep. Mike Loychik of Bazetta and Randy Law of Warren Township, a former state legislator.
No Democrats requested the seat by the filing deadline.
Donnelly said she became interested in the seat after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion decision, and because “you can’t have an effective democracy with one candidate running” in the general election race.
Donnelly received help from various Democrats, including Speaker Mark Alberini, to collect signatures on nomination petitions. The party posted on its Facebook page on Friday that there was an event Saturday to sign Donnelly’s nomination petitions.
Alberini said the Democratic Party would consider approving an independent for the seat at a central committee meeting Aug. 9.
Donnelly is “a great candidate and much more responsive than the other two picks,” Alberini said. “Jennifer Donnelly thinks Trumbull County voters need someone who will work harder for them. His platform will resonate with Democrats, Republicans and independents. I’m glad there’s an opponent” to the winner of the Loychik-Law race.
While Donnelly will be offered the chance to win the Democratic Party’s endorsement next week, she said Monday she would not seek it.
“I don’t want to be tied down to one party’s standards,” she said. “Things have become confrontational between the parties. My voting record has been everywhere. I vote for whoever is the best for the position.
The new district favors Republicans by about 23% based on statewide partisan voting trends over the past decade.
It includes Cortland, Lordstown, Newton Falls, West Farmington, Bazetta, Braceville, Bristol, Brookfield, Champion, Farmington, Fowler, Greene, Gustavus, Hartford, Johnson, Kinsman, Mecca, Mesopotamia, Newton, Southington, Vernon and part of Warren Canton as well as large sections of Ashtabula County.
With the district drawn to Republicans, Donnelly acknowledged that winning “will be difficult and a challenge for sure. But if I can inspire more women and young people to get involved in politics and run for office, I would consider that a pretty massive victory.
The primary for state legislative seats — as well as state central committee members, who run in Senate districts — was scheduled to take place on May 3, but has been postponed to today. This came after the Ohio Supreme Court rejected Ohio Redistricting Commission maps five times because they were unconstitutional because they unfairly favored Republicans.
Even though the state court has rejected the maps five times, a federal panel agreed in May to allow use of the fifth set of maps, with the exact boundaries as the third set, for this election only.
State legislative district boundaries change with this election, as required when a decennial census is taken by the federal government.
Polling stations are open today from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Polling places can be found online at voteohio.gov.