Iris and Damon

Iris Virjee and Damon Krane await election results at the Smiling Skull Saloon on Tuesday night. Neither succeeded in their bids to unseat current Athens City Council at-large representatives.

About 27% of registered voters in Athens County cast ballots in the November 2 general election, in which most races were uncontested or had no candidates who filed for open seats.

The highest-profile race was for Athens City Council at-large, which pitted a trio of incumbent Democrats against two independent challengers. The sitting council members — Ben Ziff, Micah McCarey and Sarah Grace, who appeared together on yard signs and campaign ads — handily defeated Iris Virjee and Damon Krane.

In unconfirmed final tallies, McCarey edged out Grace for the greatest share of votes counted, with 1,624 votes (26.6%) to Grace’s 1,620 (26.54%). Ziff received 1,596 votes, or 26.14%. Of the two challengers, Virjee had greater support with 685 votes, or 11.22%, compared to Krane’s 580 votes (9.5%).

Nearly 1,260 voters made only one or two selections in the at-large race.

“I’m incredibly excited and grateful that the lovely people of Athens want to see me stay on city council,” Ziff said. “This election cycle has been incredibly stressful, and I am very excited to be able to focus solely on doing my best for the people of Athens.”

Grace expressed gratitude for her support system.

“My thanks go to my family and all the volunteers who worked during this election cycle because running for office wouldn’t be possible without those groups of people,” she said.

McCarey said his election is a win for diversity.

“For me, when I think about facilitating conditions for positive change, this accomplishment feels like an important antiracist step for our community,” he said. “This is a win for all of us.”

Virjee, though, said the council must take a broader view of diversity and inclusion.

“I hope they ask themselves, ‘Who is in the room’ and who is being left out of the conversation,” she said in an emailed statement.

“Sure, I am disappointed — not for myself, but for the many people I’ve talked to over the course of he year that were counting on me to be their voice, for the sake of their families and their beloved community,” she wrote. “For them, this election means another difficult year facing corruption, deceit and disregard from those who are supposed to represent them.”

While Virjee’s remarks about the race were pointed, Krane’s were more blunt.

“Starting tomorrow, I’ll be working to help Ben and Micah prove me wrong about them,” Krane said. “If they’re not just puppets of the establishment, then they’ll make good on their campaign promises by introducing legislation that strengthens code enforcement, tenant rights and racial equity — legislation that increases government transparency and accessibility. They’ll stop voting to eliminate opportunity for public comment. And they’ll introduce legislation that investigates racial equity and accountability in local policing.

“And if Sarah Grace wants to prove me wrong about her, she won’t stand in their way.”

Grace first joined Athens City Council in 2017, after losing to now-Rep. Jay Edwards in the 2016 election for Ohio House District 94. A healthcare specialist, she has campaigned on controlling the coronavirus pandemic and expanding affordable housing.

Ziff and McCarey were each appointed to Athens City Council in 2021 to replace outgoing members Pete Kotses and Beth Clodfelter, both of whom stepped down from their roles for separate reasons. Ziff, a barista at Donkey Coffee, and McCarey, also LGBT Center director, both expressed desire to seek the seat for reelection following the appointment to council. Both candidates have platformed on issues of diversity and inclusion and housing concerns.

Krane, a self-identified democratic socialist, announced his campaign for an at-large position in April. He previously ran for Athens mayor in 2019, but was defeated by wide margins. His campaign focused on housing rights, policing issues and discontent with the current city government.

Virjee, a recent urban planning graduate and bartender at The Smiling Skull Saloon, campaigned on a platform of inclusion for underrepresented segments of Athens’ population when making policy decisions. In a June interview with The Post, Virjee said her campaign was focused on three main issues: parking enforcement, housing issues and policing.

Later in the election season, the at-large Council race was affected by a leaked audio recording of Athens Mayor Steve Patterson’s private meeting with local GOP officials. In the recording, Patterson is heard disparaging progressive candidates and remaining silent as the Republicans labeled McCarey and Ziff as “far liberal.” In the recording, Patterson also referred to Krane as a “clown” and said he did not know Virjee’s name, only referring to her as a “bartender.” He also referred to both of them as revolutionary socialists.

Krane printed campaign materials after the leak that stated a “vote for Sarah Grace was a vote for Mayor Patterson.”

Virjee also spoke to Patterson about the recording during an Ohio University College Democrats meeting, where she questioned why Patterson would conflate her campaign with Damon Krane and a revolutionary socialist agenda,

The Athens Messenger reported. Patterson apologized to Virjee during the meeting for “bundling” her in with Krane, who he did not refer to by name.

Both Krane and Virjee referenced Patterson in their statements.

“Maybe this time the mayor and his associates succeeded in using his behind-the-scenes connections to yet again quiet the citizens he views as annoyances,” Virjee wrote, “but at least now he knows who I am.”

Krane took credit for tarnishing the mayor’s public persona.

“The establishment won the battle, but they’re still losing the war,” Krane said. “By running again this year, I got Mayor Patterson to reveal his true colors, and there’s no putting that genie back in the bottle. Now the mayor and his Democrat-In-Name-Only allies are weaker than ever. Their only chance of rebuilding credibility will be to make more policy concessions to progressives.”

Incumbent City Council members Jeffery Risner, D-Ward 2, and Sam Crowl, D-Ward 3, both won reelection Tuesday, along with current council President Chris Knisely. First-time candidates Solveig Spjeldnes for Ward 1 and Alan Swank, both Democrats, ran unchallenged to represent Ward 1 and Ward 4, respectively. They replace Arian Smedley and Christine Fahl, who declined to run again.

Municipal Judge Todd Grace was re-elected to his post; no one ran against him.

Nelsonville

The City of Nelsonville had four Council at Large seats open with five candidates in the race. Incumbents Justin Booth, Elizabeth Pidcock Jones and Cory Taylor were challenged by Greg Clement, who previously served on Nelsonville City Council from 2004 to 2005, and Opha L. Lawson. Booth, Clement, Jones, and Taylor won with 22.3, 18.34, 22.30, and 23.19 percent of the vote respectively. Lawson lost with 13.87% of the vote.

Dan Sherman and Greg Smith won reelection for unexpired Nelsonville City Council seats, and Michael Milane won reelection for city treasurer.

Smith has been removed from Nelsonville City Council three times this year, returning after the first two removals amid legal wrangling. Each time, Smith was removed from council after other members of council determined he did not reside in Nelsonville, but rather in neighboring Washington County.

Despite his most recent removal in September, Smith remained on the ballot after the Athens County Board of Elections denied a protest by the council to have his name removed.

Villages

Six people competed for four open seats on Glouster Village Council which included multiple incumbents — Peggy Gatchel, Nathan Simons and Jimmy Holbert — who ran for reelection. Robert J. Grimm, Gary D. Conley and Randy Lambert are also in the running. Holbert, Simons, Gatchel and Grimm won. Holbert received the lion’s share of votes with 24.01%. Simons finished not far behind with 21.94% and Gatchel totaled 20.18%. Grimm won the last remaining seat with 13.84%

Village councils in Albany, Amesville, Buchtel, Chauncey and Jacksonville had fewer candidates than seats.

Wining re-election to their seats were Debra Andrews, Larry Payne and Neal Reynolds on Albany Village Council; Jerry Jay Kline and Ed Matheny in Buchtel; and Butch Chapman and Jay Chapman in Jacksonville. David Arrington returns to Amesville Village Council, joined by newcomer Michael Ford. Newcomer Tamara Hawk was elected to Chauncey Village Council.

No candidates ran for village councils in Trimble and Coolville.

Townships

Carthage Township had two open trustee seats with three candidates battling for positions. Both Christopher L. Nutter and Robert V. Pullins were in the race for reelection. In the end, Pullins and newcomer William L. Willie Guess were victorious, winning 30.27% and 49.38% of the vote, respectively. Nutter won 20.35% of the vote but did not win a trustees seat.

Two trustee spots are open in Dover Township. Both Stuart Neal and Harold Sycks, who had previously flirted with retirement, ran for reelection. Weston Lombard, Mark C. Sanders, John C. Snyder and Danny Brown ran against the two incumbents. Neal will remain on the board, winning 20.04% but Sycks was unseated by Brown, who won 21.89% of the vote.

Paul “Smoke” Barrett and Samuel Kamento ran for reelection for their two Trimble Township Trustees positions. Also running was Kevin Moore. Barrett and Kamento won back their seats, with both 40.37% and 32.14%.

Troy Township had five candidates in their race with two seats available as the terms of Brandon Russell and Mike Putnam expired. Both ran for reelection alongside Charles Glenn Lantz. Sr., Harold Causey and Leroy Guess. No changes will come to the board as Russell and Putnam won with 23.63% and 27.19%. Nutter received only 20.35% of the vote.

Only three candidates ran for York Township Trustees, including both incumbents Timothy R. Warren and Bill Mellinger. Mike Freer hoped to take one of the positions. Freer did not unseat either Warren or Mellinger, who will remain on council. Warren received 39.28% of the vote with Mellinger winning 33.86%.

Elsewhere, however, trustees coasted to victory unchallenged. Returning trustees are Brian Baker and Steven Pierson in Athens Township; Brian Grubbs and Dave Perry in Alexander Township; Alan Gilchrist and Danny Wayne Simons for Bern Township; Charles Kincade and Randall George Wolfe, Canaan Township; James Bub Turner and Kenny Waggoner, Lee Township; Larry Baringer and Albert Shorty Hawk, Lodi Township; Aaron McVey and Donald Poston, Rome Township; and Gregg Andrews and Cory Russell, Waterloo Township.

Brent Kasler was reelected and Andrew Sayers was elected as Ames Township trustees.

In other uncontested township races, Anita Kay Weed was reelected as Ames Township fiscal officer and William G. Russel was reelected as Dover Township fiscal officer.

Boards of education

Incumbents Paul Grippa and Sean Parsons and newcomer Charity Wilhelm were elected for three uncontested spots on the Athens City School District Board of Education.

John Depoy and Connie Talbert Dugan were reelected to the Athens-Meigs Educational Service Center. Depoy is the at-large representative; Dugan represents Trimble Local Schools.

In the Federal Hocking Local School District, Michael Lucas was reelected to an unexpired school board seat, and Sara Brumfield, Lester Green and Kerry Sheridan-Boyd were reelected as well.

In the Trimble Local School District, Gary Arnold and John Standley were reelected to the school board.

Nelsonville-York City School District had two open seats as the terms of candidates Micah J. Covert and Gary Ray Edwards expired. David K. Loge ran to replace one of the incumbents on the board. Both incumbents will remain on the board with Covert raking in 37.56% and Edwards winning with 33.4%.

Jay Barnes, Josh Collins and Fred Davis had terms expire on board positions in the Alexander Local School District. All ran for reelection with Aaron Ramsey running to unseat one. Davis was unseated by Ramsey, who won 25.43% of the vote. Collins and Barnes held on to their seats, winning 25.22% and 27.28% of votes respectively.

Ballot issues

Property taxes

Voters approved all three county-wide tax renewals: one to support emergency medical services; one for senior services and facilities; and one for the Athens-Hocking-Vinton Alcohol, Drug Addiction, and Mental Health Services District to support mental health and recovery services and facilities. The levies passed with 75.56%, 76.95%, and 69.63% of the vote respectively.

Albany Village voters approved a tax renewal to support streets, roads and bridges with 67.96% of the vote.

Voters in Ames Township (excluding Village of Amesville) approved tax renewals to support fire protection and support road maintenance with 90.94 and 84.73 percent of the vote respectively.

Amesville Village voters approved a tax renewal to support current village expenses with 84.62% of the vote, as well as an additional tax for fire protection with 86.54% of the vote.

Bern Township voters approved a tax renewal to support current expenses with 73.53% of the vote.

Chauncey Village voters approved a tax renewal to support current expenses with 66.67% of the vote.

Coolville Village voters approved a replacement of a tax to support streets, roads and bridges with 54.88% of the vote.

Glouster Village voters approved tax renewals to support fire fighting facilities, equipment, and personnel, including paramedics and other emergency medical services; to support current expenses; to support parks and recreation facilities; and to support streets, roads and bridges. The levies passed with 69.96, 57.14, 66.67, and 64.96 percent of the vote respectively.

Voters in Lee Township (excluding Albany Village) approved a replacement of a tax to support road maintenance with 71.01% of the vote.

Voters in Lodi Township approved a replacement of a tax to support fire protection with 71.39% of the vote.

Voters in Troy Township (including Coolville Village) approved a replacement of a tax to maintain and operate cemeteries with 53.06% of the vote.

Voters in York Township (including the City of Nelsonville and Village of Buchtel) approved a tax renewal to support the operation of cemeteries with 74.97% of the vote.

Alcohol sales

Amesville Village voters approved a measure to allow the sale of beer, wine and mixed beverages by Park’s Place Kitchen with 83.33% of the vote. Voters also approved a measure to allow the establishment to sell wine and mixed beverages on Sundays between 11 a.m. and midnight with 83.33% of the vote.

Jacksonville Village voters approved a measure to allow Muddy Creek Tavern to sell wine, mixed beverages and spirituous liquor on Sundays between 10 a.m. and midnight, with 61.18% of the vote.

Troy Township East Precinct voters approved a measure to allow sale of beer, wine, mixed beverages and spirituous liquor by Doug’s Port with 56.28% of the vote. Voters also narrowly approved a measure to allow Doug’s Port to sell beer, wine, mixed beverages and spirituous liquor on Sundays between 10 a.m. and midnight with 51.15% of the vote.

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