Ryan’s employee can run for state House
Though some questions have been raised about whether Vincent Peterson II, a community liaison for U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan and thus a federal employee, can run for the state House, nothing in the law prohibits it.
Tom Rust, chief counsel and staff director for the U.S. House Committee on Ethics, declined to comment as that is the committee’s policy. He pointed to the committee’s ethics manual.
One issue is: Does Peterson’s candidacy violate the Hatch Act?
But the Hatch Act only restricts those in the executive branch from engaging in partisan political activity.
The U.S. House Committee on Ethics manual states: “Those restrictions do not apply to congressional employees.”
The manual also states: “A staff member considering running for or serving in a local office should first consult with his or her employing member on the matter and should refrain from doing so if the member objects.”
Ryan, D-Howland, said he has no issue with Peterson seeking the Ohio House 64th District seat in next year’s election.
“Tim has been great with that,” Peterson added.
Peterson said he contacted the ethics committee before running. While the committee didn’t provide a formal opinion, he was told to consult the manual and said he isn’t violating any federal rules by seeking the state office.
The ethics manual states: “Employees should be cognizant of restrictions that prohibit performing local elective service or any campaign activity for local office in House office space, including district offices, using House resources or on official time. In addition, both federal statute and regulations of the House Building Commission prohibit any political solicitation — including one for local office — from being conducted in a House office space. It is also unlawful to solicit funds from other federal employees.”
Peterson said he has been careful to separate his job as a community liaison for Ryan and his campaign for the state House.
“It’s a complete separation between my official duties and my campaign,” he said. “We’re very, very clear on that.”
Peterson, of Howland, is seeking the 64th District seat in next year’s election as a Democrat.
He’s been a community liaison for Ryan since May 2017, was a Howland High School varsity assistant coach for five years and spent nearly four years as a state parole officer.
Also, Bria Bennett of Warren, a business operations manager for HireLogic and a former Ohio Democratic Party field organizer, is seeking the Democratic nomination for the seat.
Bennett said she resides in the city of Warren. Her voter registration card with the Trumbull County Board of Elections lists her home address on Lane West Road SW in Warren Township, just outside the district.
Under state law: “A candidate for election to the Ohio House of Representatives must establish residency in a district one year prior to election as a representative or a plan of reapportionment or a provision of the Ohio Constitution is invalidated after the adoption of such plan, thereby giving candidates an additional 30 days to move regardless of the date of the next election.”
Nick Santucci of Howland is the only declared Republican candidate for the position.
Santucci is a senior consultant for workforce and community engagement for VAZA Consulting, based in Pickerington. Before that, he spent about a year as director of government affairs and workforce development at the Educational Service Center of Eastern Ohio. Santucci also worked for more than five years at the Youngstown / Warren Regional Chamber.
The House seat will be open because incumbent Rep. Michael J. O’Brien, D-Warren, cannot run in 2022 due to the state’s term-limits law.
NEW DISTRICT LINES
The district lines for the 64th are seeing some major changes under legislative map changes made by the Ohio Redistricting Commission.
Three lawsuits in front of the Ohio Supreme Court contend the new House and Senate districts approved Sept. 15 by the commission’s five Republicans are unconstitutional as they gerrymander the state to allow the GOP to keep its supermajority in both legislative bodies.
Because the two Democrats on the commission voted against the new districts, they would be in effect for just four years, rather than 10 years, under a 2015 charter amendment approved by voters.
The current 64th District includes Warren and Howland along with the rural parts of Trumbull County and six townships in southern Ashtabula County.
Based on voting trends in partisan statewide elections during the past decade, the existing 64th District is 50.9 percent Republican, 46.62 percent Democratic and the rest for other political parties.
While O’Brien won four two-year terms in the district, he squeaked by in last year’s election by 0.74 percent over Republican Martha Yoder.
The new district keeps Warren and Howland, but removes the rest of the existing district and adds Girard, Niles, Hubbard, McDonald, Liberty, Weathersfield and Vienna that currently are in the 63rd District.
Most of those communities lean Democratic so the new district would be 53.76 percent Democratic, 43.98 percent Republican and the rest other political parties based on voting trends in partisan statewide elections.
By making the change, the new 65th District (the current 63rd with a new number) is now a solid Republican district with Mike Loychik, R-Bazetta, who is serving his first term, as the incumbent.
That district would be 60.15 percent Republican and 37.3 percent Democratic with the rest other political parties. In comparison, the current 63rd is 50.08 percent Republican, 46.62 percent Democratic and the rest other political parties.
Democrat John Moliterno, the executive director of the Western Reserve Port Authority and a Girard at-Large councilman, had given serious consideration to running against Loychik before the lines were redrawn.
Because he would have to run in the 64th and Peterson already had declared his candidacy, Moliterno, who is retiring from the port authority in February, said he won’t seek the state House seat.