Secretary of State rejects Democrats’ replacement candidate to challenge Jay Edwards

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — Ohio’s Secretary of State has rejected the Democratic Party’s bid for a replacement candidate to run against Rep. Jay Edwards in November.

In a letter Tuesday to the Athens County Board of Elections, Frank LaRose, a Republican, explained his decision.

What it boils down to is that Tanya Conrath, the Democrats’ intended replacement candidate, was a victim of the state’s messy redistricting process this year.

This caused problems with two critical deadlines.

One is the deadline for a political party to certify a replacement for an official party candidate. That date this year was Aug. 15.

The other important deadline is the official certification of the winners of the state primary. The primary was supposed to be in early May, but because of conflicts over a new map redrawing political districts, it was delayed until Aug. 2.

This meant that county boards of elections could not begin the official vote certification until Aug. 13, and the deadline for the official results was Aug. 23.

Six days after the Aug. 2 primary, Rhyan Goodman, the Democratic nominee for the 94th House District, withdrew from the race, meaning he would not be on the November ballot.

The Athens County Democratic Party certified Conrath as Goodman’s replacement on Aug. 15, meeting the deadline.

But as of that date, the Athens County Board of Elections had not yet completed its official certification of the election results.

LaRose concluded in his letter that because the primary results were not yet certified, Goodman was not yet the official Democratic candidate for the November election and therefore could not be replaced.

This is the same argument raised by the two Republican members of the Athens County Board of Elections in a vote Aug. 17 to reject Conrath’s bid to replace Goodman. The two Democratic board members voted to accept the substitution.

This sent the matter to LaRose to break the tie. His decision means that Edwards, the Republican incumbent, will have no Democratic Party opponent on the November ballot.

LaRose said his hands were tied. He said that on Aug. 9, the day after Goodman withdrew, his office emailed an advisory to all county boards of elections that included the following text:

“Unfortunately, the Ohio General Assembly has not adjusted the deadline for certifying replacement candidates, nor does the Secretary of State have legal authority to modify the deadline. Boards of elections should consider certifying official results by August 15, 2022 if a nominee for State Representative or State Senator is expected to withdraw.”

WOUB reached out to Conrath for comment after receiving LaRose’s letter late Tuesday afternoon but did not receive a response by the time this story was published.

In an interview last month shortly after the election board’s tie vote, Conrath said the late primary created “an impossible situation for me. All I can control is filing on time. I cannot control when the Board of Elections certifies.”

Conrath also noted that because Goodman was the only Democratic primary candidate for the 94th District, he was certain to be certified. So the official certification in this case was really just a formality, she argued, and given the circumstances in this usual year should not be the basis for denying Democrats a candidate in November.