Independents file for state House seats

Three independent candidates filed to face the winners of today’s Democratic primary for the 59th Ohio House District and the Republican primary for the 65th House District.

Jennifer Donnelly of Cortland, a pet health insurance claims adjuster and political newcomer, filed in the 65th, while Poland Township Trustee Eric Ungaro, who turned in petitions last week, and Greg Beight of New Springfield, a businessman and first-time candidate, filed to run as independents for the 59th House District seat.

The independent candidates must have their nominating petitions certified by county boards of elections to appear on the Nov. 8 ballot.

In the 59th, four Democrats are running for the party’s nomination in today’s primary. No Republicans turned in nominating petitions for the position by the filing deadline.

The Mahoning County Democratic Party has retained a law firm “to make sure petitions are valid” for independents, said Chairman Christopher Anderson.

“We’ll do our due diligence,” Anderson said.

In an email sent to Democrats, Anderson wrote: “The party will not support individuals seeking to avoid primaries like this, and we want to make that message clear.”

Ungaro, first elected as a Poland Township trustee in 2011, said, “They will look pretty foolish questioning police chiefs, fire chiefs, corrections officers, former and present trustees, coaches, doctors, business owners, lawyers, ex-players, nurses, friends, family, school board members and community activists. Those are who circulated our petition. Nuts and foolish.

“I know the rules, and I followed them,” said Ungaro, who lost an Ohio House race in 2018 by 375 votes. “Go feed the kids at the summer school program (in Youngstown) instead of wasting money on attorneys.”

Beight, owner of Masternick-Courtney, a Girard-based vending company, voted in the May 3 Republican primary. That could put his eligibility as an independent in question though that will be decided by the Mahoning County Board of Elections.

“I’ve looked into the eligibility, and I think I’m going to be OK,” he said. “It’s out of my hands.”

Beight said having businesses based in Youngstown in the past along with living in the rural part of the district “makes me a well-rounded 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 along with four townships in northwest Columbiana County.

The district favors Democrats by 3 percent based on partisan statewide voting patterns during the past decade.

In the 65th District, if certified to 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 Democrat sought 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 assistance from various Democrats, including Chairman Mark Alberini, in collecting signatures on nominating petitions. The party posted Friday on its Facebook page that there was an event Saturday to sign Donnelly’s nominating petitions.

Alberini said the Democratic Party will consider an endorsement of an independent for this seat at an Aug. 9 central committee meeting.

Donnelly is “a great and much more responsive candidate than the other two choices,” Alberini said. “Jennifer Donnelly believes voters of Trumbull County need someone who’s going to work harder for them. Her platform will resonate with Democrats, Republicans and independents alike. I’m trilled there will be an opponent” to the winner of the Loychik-Law race.

While Donnelly will be offered the opportunity to obtain the Democratic Party’s endorsement next week, she said Monday she won’t seek it.

“I don’t want to be tied to the standards of any one party,” she said. “Things have gotten divisive among the parties. My voting record has been all over the place. I vote for whoever is the best person for the job.”

The new district favors Republicans by about 23 percent based on partisan statewide voting trends during 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 a part of Warren Township as well as large sections of Ashtabula County.

With the district drawn to heavily favor Republicans, Donnelly acknowledged winning “will be hard 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 will consider that to be a pretty massive win.”

The primary for state legislative seats — as well as state central committee members, which run in Senate districts — was supposed to be May 3, but was delayed until today. That happened after the Ohio Supreme Court rejected maps from the Ohio Redistricting Commission five times because they were unconstitutional as they unfairly favored Republicans.

Even though the state court threw out the maps five times, a federal panel agreed in May to permit the use of the fifth set of maps, with the exact boundaries as the third set, for this election only.

State legislative district boundaries are changing with this election as required when a decennial census is done by the federal government.

Polling locations are open today from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Polling locations can be found online at voteohio.gov.



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