No contested elections for Athens County officials in 2016

With less than two months to go before the 2016 primary election, Athens voters will have few contested races on their ballot on March 15.

However, both races for Ohio state legislators appear to be heating up in the cold weather.

State Sen. Lou Gentile, D-Steubenville, will be finishing his first full four-year term representing the 30th Senate District in the Ohio Senate. He announced Dec. 1 he will run for a second term. He was initially appointed in 2011, was re-elected in 2012 and serves as the assistant minority whip.

Gentile will face Republican Frank Hoagland in the general election. Hoagland is the owner of Special Tactics and Rescue Training, LLC, in Mingo Junction. Previously, he served as a U.S. Navy Seal for 17 years.

Three candidates have emerged to run for the open Ohio House seat that Rep. Debbie Phillips, D-Albany, will leave vacant once her fourth and final term finishes this fall.

Eddie Smith, a soon-to-be three-time graduate of Ohio University and president of OU’s Graduate Student Senate,launched his campaign Nov. 23. He will be completing his second graduate degree from OU in public administration this May.

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One day later, Sarah Grace, a local businesswoman and partner of sitting Athens County Municipal Court Judge Todd Grace, declared her candidacy with Phillips in attendance at the announcement.

Smith and Grace will face off in the upcoming Democratic primary election in March. The winner of the primary will then go head-to-head with Republican candidate, Jay Edwards.

Edwards is from Nelsonville and also attended OU.

And for the rest of the candidates hoping to be elected, the next couple months may be a little less stressful. As of yet, no opposing candidates have declared their intent to run.

Two members of the Athens County Board of Commissioners will be running for re-election, but Democrats Charlie Adkins and Chis Chmiel have no opponents. Both were initially elected in 2012.

After former Sheriff Pat Kelly was suspended following a 25-count indictment of criminal charges, Athens County Sheriff Rodney Smith was appointed in March 2014. He will seek his first election to the position in the fall. Smith, a Democrat, has no challengers.

Athens County Common Pleas Judge George P. McCarthy, a Republican, also was first appointed, then elected to his position. McCarthy initially took office in May 2013 and then was elected in full in November 2014. He will be seeking re-election and faces no opposition.

After his appointment to the position, Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn will seek his second term in office in 2016. Blackburn is another public official in Athens County to run unopposed.

Other county positions such as engineer, clerk of courts, recorder, coroner and treasurer will also be uncontested this fall. Those offices will be pursued by Democrats Jeff Maiden, Ann Trout, Jessica Markins, Carl Ortman and Bill Bias, respectively.

John Haseley, chair of the Athens County Democratic Party, said his party was filled with energy for the upcoming elections.

“Our Democratic officeholders in the county and in the city have done a really great job for the residents of our area and have proven to be great public servants,” Haseley said.

Haseley also said it was clear why there were so many unopposed contests.

“I’m sure people explored running against these Democratic office holders and realized they wouldn’t receive much support,” he said.

Pete Couladis, Haseley’s counterpart in the Athens County Republican Party, echoed Haseley’s sentiments.

“We just don’t have that many Republicans left,” Couladis said. “We don’t get that much support from the business community. … They just kind of run and hide when elections come around.”

Despite the large number of uncontested elections that remain in Athens County as of now, the filing deadline for unaffiliated candidates is March 14, the day before the election. Therefore, Athens voters potentially may see more options on their primary ballots in March.