Athens Township attorney and businessperson Tanya Conrath filed an appeal Friday of Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s decision to side with county Republicans in blocking her candidacy for the state house seat centered in Athens County.
“Frank LaRose picked the wrong woman and the wrong 5th generation Appalachian to tangle with,” she wrote in a statement. “Today, I filed a lawsuit against him in the Ohio Supreme Court to force him to uphold his oath of office and put me on the ballot.”
Democratic Party officials in Athens, Meigs, Morgan and Washington counties nominated Conrath to replace Rhyan Goodman, an Ohio University undergraduate student who ran unopposed in the primary only to drop out a few days after winning the Democratic nomination.
Goodman was to face State Rep. Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville), who ascended to the chairmanship of the Athens County Republican Party shortly before its appointees to the Athens County Board of Elections voted against certifying Conrath to replace Goodman.
In a decision released on Tuesday, LaRose said the state legislature failed to move filing deadlines after the primary election was significantly delayed by redistricting problems. That created timing issues that prevented Democratic officials from adding Conrath to the ballot, LaRose wrote.
LaRose was also a member of the Ohio Redistricting Commission that repeatedly put forward legislative maps that the Ohio Supreme Court found unconstitutional until a federal judge forced the state to use them for this year’s election.
“Frank LaRose created the mess we are trying to clean up—the confusion, the controversies, and a second primary that wasted a minimum of $22 million of taxpayer money,” Conrath wrote.
Election law experts who analyzed LaRose’s decision and the arguments of Republican members of the Athens County Board of Elections at the request of the Independent dismissed them as “thin” and “not particularly meritorious.” Capital University law professor Mark Brown wrote that LaRose’s decision contained “no analysis at all.”
Conrath is the second consecutive Democratic candidate for the 94th District state house seat whose candidacy appears before the state supreme court. In 2020, Katie O’Neill faced a residency challenge. She won at the supreme court, but was easily bested by Edwards.
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“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 wrote.
Spokespeople for LaRose and Attorney General Dave Yost, whose office is representing LaRose, declined to comment. None of the other defendants in the lawsuit—the boards of elections in Athens, Meigs, Morgan and Washington counties—commented by press time.
Additional reporting by Dani Kington
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