Democratic candidate from Athens sues secretary of state to get name on November ballot

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — A Democrat who wants to run against Republican Jay Edwards filed a lawsuit Friday against Ohio’s secretary of state over his decision this week to keep her name off the November ballot.

Athens resident Tanya Conrath argues in the lawsuit she filed with the Ohio Supreme Court that Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican, abused his discretion.

She’s asking the court to order that her name be placed on the ballot as the Democratic candidate for the 94th House District, which includes Athens, Meigs and Morgan counties and a portion of Washington County.

“We’re hopeful the Ohio Supreme Court will see this was a partisan play to give Jay Edwards a free pass at reelection, and swiftly certify my candidacy,” Conrath said in a prepared statement.

Conrath v. LaRose lawsuit
LaRose letter to Board of Elections

Time is of the essence for Conrath given that early voting begins next Friday for military and overseas absentee voters. Regular absentee voting and in-person early voting begin Oct. 12.

A spokesman for LaRose said the secretary of state’s office does not comment on pending litigation and that LaRose’s decision speaks for itself.

That decision was in a letter LaRose sent Tuesday to the Athens County Board of Elections. The letter addressed Conrath’s effort to become the Democrats’ replacement candidate in the race.

The only Democratic candidate for the 94th District in the Aug. 2 primary was Rhyan Goodman, who dropped out of the race six days after the election. The Democratic Party chose Conrath as his replacement and she filed the necessary paperwork for her candidacy by the Aug. 15 deadline.

But another deadline became an issue. State boards of elections had until Aug. 23 to officially certify the primary winners. This deadline would have been in May, when the primary was supposed to be held. But it was delayed until August this year because of state’s redistricting battles.

The Athens County Board of Elections did not complete its certification of the election results until Aug. 19, four days after the deadline to file as a replacement candidate.

The two Democrats on the board voted to put Conrath’s name on the November ballot as Goodman’s replacement. But the board’s two Republicans argued Conrath could not replace someone who had not yet been certified as the winner and therefore the party’s official candidate for the Nov. 8 election.

This sent the matter to LaRose to break the tie. He agreed with the Republicans’ argument. His decision meant that Edwards would have no Democratic opponent.

In her lawsuit, Conrath argues there is nothing in state law that prohibits a replacement candidate being named before the official certification when the candidate being replaced was the only candidate in the primary.

Conrath has argued that because Goodman ran unopposed, there was no question he was going to win the primary and certification was a formality. Her lawsuit describes certification as a “ministerial function,” saying that “it does not change results” of the unofficial vote count, “it confirms the results.”

Conrath’s lawsuit was filed under an Ohio Supreme Court rule that provides for expedited review of election cases. LaRose has five days to file his response after he is served with the lawsuit.