Tanning salons, ghost candidates and party switchers: Nine local primaries to watch next week
What is gerrymandering, and where did the term originate? Ohio Issue 1, on the ballot May 8, is a bipartisan attempt to curb gerrymandering in Ohio. The Enquirer/Mike Nyerges
Ohio's primary is Tuesday, May 8. Here are seven of the most interesting and important Southwest Ohio primaries:
2nd Congressional District, Democratic Primary
Who's running: Janet Everhard, Jill Schiller and William R. Smith
Why it's interesting: Democrats will try to defeat "ghost candidate."
The background: Democrats don't know who he is. But they keep voting for him in Ohio's Second Congressional District, which covers some of eastern Hamilton County and all of Clermont County then moves east along the Ohio River to Scioto County.
Since 2008, William R. "Butch" Smith's name has appeared on the ballot for Congress as a Democrat in the 2nd District. But he doesn't campaign. Democrats in the district say they've never met him. Yet tens of thousands of Democrats have voted for him over the years, and he's won two primaries, much to the consternation of Democrats.
Ronny Richards, who lost the 2016 Democratic primary to Smith called it, "one of the great tragedies in American politics." This year Smith faces gynecologist Janet Everhard, of New Richmond, and former Obama staffer Jill Schiller, of Hyde Park. Winner takes on Rep. Brad Wenstrup, a Republican from Columbia Tusculum, who has easily won re-election in the heavily Republican district since 2013.
1st Congressional District, Republican primary
Who's running: Steve Chabot and Samuel Ronan
Why it's interesting: Veteran GOP congressman is being challenged by young candidate whose platform resembles the Democratic Party's.
Background: The 1st Congressional District race has drawn nationwide interest this year but not for the primary. Republicans don't know Rep. Steve Chabot's primary challenger Samuel Ronan.
Ronan got a cold reception when he showed up at a Republican candidate event earlier this year at Price Hill Chili. Hamilton County Republican Chairman Alex Triantafilou asked Ronan who he was and why he was there.
That's because Ronan up until recently was a Democrat. The 28-year-old Air Force veteran from Springboro switched parties to run against Chabot in the primary. Ronan has said he embodies the "Average Joe" spirit.
His campaign looks more like that ofa Democratic candidate. There's a picture of Ronan holding an "I stand with Planned Parenthood" sign. His platform includes universal healthcare.
Ronan previously ran for state House in Warren County in 2016 as a Democrat.
8th Congressional District, Democratic Primary
Who's running: Bill Ebben, Vanessa Enoch, Matthew Guyette and Ted Jones
Why it's interesting: Democrats in Butler County have said they can't remember the last time four candidates have sought the Congressional nomination in the Republican stronghold of the 8th Congressional District, where President Trump won with 62 percent of the vote.
Background: Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Troy, replaced Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner in a special election in 2016. Davidson doesn't have a Republican challenger in the district, which includes Butler County. The Democrats have a four-way primary: Bill Ebben of West Chester who, in his biography on his campaign page, lists a variety of jobs including foundry worker, teamster, teacher and salesman; Vanessa Enoch, of West Chester, who describes herself as a community organizer and owns a business consulting firm; Matthew Guyette of Greenville; and Ted Jones, a retired factory worker from Piqua.
Ohio House District 33, Democratic Primary
Who's running: Sedrick Denson and Kathy Goodwin-Williams.
Why it's interesting: The winner will succeed a veteran House member Alecia Reece in a district dominated by Democrats.
Background: Term limits prevent Rep. Alicia Reece from running again. The Democratic lawmaker for eight years has represented the district which encompasses Cincinnati neighborhoods of Avondale and Bond Hill and goes north to cover Wyoming, Woodlawn and Springdale.
No Republicans are on the ballot in the primary.
That means the Democratic primary will decide Reece's successor. The primary pits Sedrick Denson, a former aide to Cincinnati City Councilman Wendell Young, against Kathy Goodwin-Williams, a member of the Lincoln Heights Village Council. The Hamilton County Democratic Party has endorsed Denson.
Editor's note: A Republican candidate, Judith Boyce, is running as a write-in for the primary; while her name won't appear on the primary ballot, if she wins her name will appear on the November ballot. An earlier version of this story misstated the status of Republican candidates in the general election.
Ohio House District 65, Republican primary
Who's running: Rep. John Becker and Erin Neace
Why it's interesting: Supporters of the incumbent Republican candidate are attacking a political newcomer who owns a mall tanning salon.
The background: Erin Neace is running against incumbent John Becker in this Clermont County district. She is the owner of Lady of Sun, a retail shop that also offers airbrush tanning, in Eastgate Mall. Neace was not amused earlier this month when an unflattering mailer began showing up in mailboxes featuring what appears to be a Photoshopped image of her with a sunburn holding a sign that included the message, ‘Don’t get burned.’
The ads were paid for by the Lexington, Kentucky- based Growth & Opportunity PAC that, according to its website, advocates for the election of candidates to public office who support free enterprise and limited government. Neace pushed back on her Facebook campaign page encouraging voters to call Becker to say that they “believe small business owners work hard and contribute to our economy. And while you are talking to him, ask him to name one thing he has done to benefit your life.”
For his part, Becker is working to distance himself from the mailer. On his Facebook page, he demanded an end to the attacks against his opponent. Of the Growth & Opportunity PAC he wrote. “I don’t know who they are, why they have engaged, or who is behind it. I’m unsure of their intent, but they are not helping me.”
Ohio House District 51, Republican primary
Who's running: Incumbent Rep. Wes Retherford, philanthropist Sara Carruthers and former state Rep. Greg Jolivette
Why it’s interesting: The incumbent faced a scandal in the middle of his term. The race also could be a microcosm of a fight between two Republicans to replace Ohio Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, who resigned amid an FBI inquiry.
Background: Incumbent Republican Wes Retherford has weathered his share of scandals during his last term. Retherford, 34, of Hamilton, was found passed out in his truck in a McDonald’s drive-thru after drinking in March 2017. Retherford ultimately was convicted of a misdemeanor and did not lose his House seat. He admitted the whole night was a mistake and told reporters that he hasn’t had a drink since then.
Philanthropist Sara Carruthers, 55, and former state Rep. Greg Jolivette, 67, both of Hamilton, are challenging Retherford in the GOP primary. The winner will face Democrat Susan Vaughn in November, but the seat is considered safe for Republicans.
Carruthers was endorsed by the Butler County Republican Party and Ohio Right to Life. Carruthers, whose maiden name is Procter and is a descendant of the Procter & Gamble founders, has spent $176,000 on the race so far on advertisements and other expenses. She has loaned her campaign $180,000.
In comparison, Retherford has spent $13,000 and Jolivette has spent less than $4,000 in 2018.
Carruthers' treasurer is a former top aide of Rep. Larry Householder, who is waging a nasty battle with Rep. Ryan Smith to replace former speaker Cliff Rosenberger. Householder and Smith are supporting candidates that will vote for them to ascend to the top spot.
Unlike Retherford’s 2016 challenge, this primary race hasn’t descended into Twitter wars and slams on social media.
Ohio’s 51st House district comprises portions of Butler County, including the cities of Hamilton and Fairfield, Ross Township, and portions of Fairfield, Hanover and St. Clair townships.
Ohio Senate District 9, Democratic primary
Who's running: Incumbent Sen. Cecil Thomas, former state Rep. Dale Mallory
Why it’s interesting: A Mallory tries to return to Columbus.
Background: Incumbent Sen. Cecil Thomas, 65, of North Avondale, has the endorsement of the Hamilton County Democratic Party and Senate Democrats, where he is a member of the leadership team.
Former state Rep. Dale Mallory, 53, of the West End, is seeking a return to Columbus. In 2014, he paid $600 in fines and spent a year on probation for breaking ethics laws when he took Bengals tickets from two Cincinnati lobbyists. Mallory also had the worst attendance record among healthy lawmakers.
Still, the Mallory name is well-known in Cincinnati politics. Republican Tom Chandler is a write-in candidate for the seat, which is considered safe for Democrats.
Thomas has spent $30,000 on his re-election campaign this year. Mallory's expenses were not immediately available from the Ohio Secretary of State.
Ohio’s 9th Senate district comprises central Hamilton County, including neighborhoods like Downtown, Bond Hill, Roselawn and Clifton, as well as suburbs like Norwood and Wyoming.
Butler County Commissioner, Republican Primary
Who's running: Incumbent Cindy Carpenter and West Chester Township Trustee Lee Wong
Why it's interesting: She's never lost an election. Neither has he.
Background: Lee Wong is a perennial top-vote getter in the county’s biggest township, where he has served as trustee for more than a decade. Cindy Carpenter is a two-term incumbent commissioner who has fought off fierce challengers – and controversy – before.
In mailers, Wong has positioned himself as a Donald Trump-like Republican. Butler County was a hotbed for Trump during his run for president.
Whether anyone buys Wong's characterization of himself could determine his fate. Typically, the 65-year-old has been viewed more like a John Kasich moderate.
Carpenter, the former Butler County clerk of courts, has a little bit of Trump in her too.
She has been a controversial figure since she first became a commissioner in 2011, fighting public battles with the county prosecutor and others over children services. She once put up a billboard congratulating herself on winning an election before the election even happened.
The Oxford Township resident is seeking her third term as commissioner.
The winner of the May GOP primary will face former Middletown vice mayor Dora Bronston, the lone Democrat seeking the office, in November.
Warren County Commissioner, Republican Primary
Who's running: Incumbent Tom Grossmann and former state Rep. Ron Maag
Why it's interesting: Big names in Warren County politics go head-to-head. Can Mason keep control of commission?
Background: Ron Maag was term-limited out of state government.
He considered running for Warren County commissioner two years ago, but backed out, hoping to be appointed to another candidate’s suddenly vacant senate seat. He wasn’t.
Now, he’s back and running for a seat against incumbent Tom Grossman, the former mayor of Mason and an assistant prosecutor in Hamilton County. His wife is now on Mason City Council.
Grossman won his seat in 2014 by defeating long-time sheriff and then-commissioner Tom Ariss in a GOP primary. At the time, it was viewed as a snapshot of the increasing influence of Mason on countywide politics.
Maag, of Salem Township, is hoping to change that.
There is no Democratic candidate for the commission seat, so the primary will determine who takes the seat.