State Rep. Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville) resoundingly beat his Democratic opponent, Athens attorney and businessperson Tanya Conrath, in tonight’s general election. Conrath won in Athens County, home of both candidates, but lost to Edwards in Meigs and Washington counties. Ballots in Morgan County, which has around 9,000 registered voters, were still being counted at press time.
Conrath’s campaign was hampered by actions of the local Republican party to block Conrath — who was drafted by local Democrats to run for the seat after the Democratic primary winner dropped out — from being listed on the ballot. Republican appointees to the Athens County Board of Elections voted against certifying Conrath’s candidacy, citing technicalities in the timeline for a party to list a replacement candidate. Months before that vote, Edwards was named chair of the Athens County Republican Party.
Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose sided with the local Republicans in breaking the tie, but was overturned by the Ohio Supreme Court, which found that he and the local Republicans on the board of elections had “acted in clear disregard” of existing Supreme Court case law in blocking Conrath’s candidacy.
While Conrath eventually prevailed, the process left her candidacy in limbo for nearly two months. Edwards’s fundraising for the race towered over Conrath’s: $1.1 million to $93,000.
Conrath ran in “stark contrast” to Edwards, whom she said holds “extremist” positions on education and gerrymandering. Edwards has also been linked to the statehouse corruption scandal that led to the indictment of his ally, former Speaker Larry Householder.
Edwards repeatedly declined to comment on Conrath or her candidacy, but cited his work on state investment in Appalachian Ohio and rural industrial parks as part of his pitch to voters.
No debates were held during the campaign.
In an email, Conrath strongly hinted that she would run again in 2024, when Edwards is term-limited out of the seat. “We persisted and ran a strong race because of all of the voters and volunteers who understood this was a campaign about securing our most fundamental rights and freedoms,” she wrote. “I’m not going away. There’s too much to fight for here: the right to make your own decisions about your healthcare, your children’s schools, the books we read, the ideas we share. And we need a fighter who will bring back investment dollars to southeast Ohio so our children can live and thrive here. Tonight is not an ending, it is just the next step.”
In a phone call after results were announced, Edwards said he is “extremely humbled and honored by tonight’s results.”
Support our work to deliver independent local news for Athens County
Like what you are reading?
Additional reporting by Dani Kington, Isabel Nissley and Malaya Tindongan
We are interested about hearing news in our community! Let us know what's happening!
Get in touch and share a story!