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Lett, Jarrells win central Ohio Statehouse primaries; Householder’s candidates too close to call - News - The Columbus Dispatch


For most of Ohio’s candidates the unusual primary election finally came to an end Tuesday night, but a handful of Ohio House races where an outside group spent a total of more than $1 million things are still too close to call.

Ballots postmarked by Monday, April 27, can arrive as late as May 8 to local boards of election and still be counted — making the primary race up to 42 days longer than candidates expected.

Those could be the deciding factor on whether a pro-House Speaker Larry Householder group called Growth and Opportunity PAC made the right call when it invested heavily in five races.

In Central Ohio, two major primary races came to an end early Wednesday morning when the Franklin County Board of Elections released its results.

Dontavius Jarrells, the 31-year-old spokesman for the Franklin County treasurer’s office, comfortably won his five-way race to replace outgoing Rep. Bernadine Kennedy-Kent, D-Columbus.

Jarrells won 45% of the vote, according to election results posted by the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office. None of the other four men in the race broke 23%.

The urban district is heavily Democratic. Kennedy Kent won with nearly 85% of the vote in 2018, and she won with 71% in 2016 — making it likely Jarrells will become the district’s new state representative.

Democratic candidate Gary Josephson dropped out of the race a few days after the primary was extended, saying he didn’t have the money to move his campaign online. Josephson had largely relied on door knocking and passing out his own literature to his Columbus neighbors.

“I do feel bad for the candidates who thought it was going to be over in March,” said Aryeh Alex, executive director for the Ohio House Democratic Caucus. “The human emotion on that cannot be easy, Democratic or Republican. Being a candidate on the ballot is stressful enough.”

Another multi-way race with a clear primary winner was Senate District 16.

Crystal Lett will be the Democratic candidate who takes on Hilliard Republican Sen. Stephanie Kunze in what both parties believe will be one of the most expensive and competitive Statehouse races this fall.

“It is more important than ever that we have leaders at the Statehouse who will fight for Ohio families. This will continue to be my promise to you: people come first, and are always worth fighting for,” Lett said in a statement. “I am honored and proud to be your Democratic candidate for Ohio Senate District 16.”

The seat sits on the western side of Franklin County and includes parts of Dublin, Upper Arlington and Grove City. Kunze, a moderate Republican who chairs the Senate’s Higher Education Committee, won her seat 59% to 41% in 2016. But the number of registered Democrats in her district has grown each year. The area favored Democrat Richard Cordray for governor in 2018.

The Growth and Opportunity PAC spent most of its money on two races near Cincinnati, and neither one had a clear winner Wednesday morning.

The 65th district, which includes most of Clermont County, was a three-way race between former U.S. Rep Jean Schmidt, who Householder supported, and two political newcomers Joe Dills and Dillon Blevins.

Dills had the endorsement of the Ohio Republican Party until news broke that he had used a dating website for people looking to have extramarital affairs.

Schmidt had a narrow lead over Dills Wednesday morning. Less than 300 votes separated the two candidates, according to the unofficial results.

In the neighboring 66th district, Adam Bird was leading both Nick Owens and Allen Freeman, who had the backing of the Speaker. Bird, a former New Richmond Superintendent, had 36% while Owen and Freeman both had 32%.

In Licking County, the race for House District 71 was too close to call Tuesday night.

Rep. Mark Fraizer, R-Newark, was up by less than 300 votes against Thad Claggett, a contractor, with more than 800 ballots still outstanding.

The super PAC paid for an attack ad against Claggett that accused his company of mismanaging the renovation of the Career and Technology Education Centers of Licking County. Claggett was sued over the contract, but a judge ruled in his favor, saying the architect on the project was to blame.

astaver@dispatch.com

@annastaver

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