Chris Fahl

Chris Fahl. Photo Courtesy of Athens City Council

Athens City Councilmember Chris Fahl, a fourth ward Democrat, is facing a primary challenger for the first time in her 12-year career as a member of the body.

The Athens County Board of Elections confirmed Wednesday after the 4 p.m. filing deadline for the May Democratic primary that longtime Athens resident and former City Council candidate Alan Swank had submitted petitions to get on the ballot.

“Democracy is a participatory sport! It is great that people want to run for office, it strengthens democracy,” said Fahl, who has comfortably sat on council since 2009.

She’s held the seat since Democrat Debbie Phillips left council to serve in the Ohio House of Representatives, and hasn’t faced an opponent of any kind since the 2009 general election when she went up against Republican Randy Morris to claim the fourth ward seat, winning by five points, according to election results.

Swank, who unsuccessfully ran for an at-large City Council seat in the 2015 Democratic primary election earning nearly 14 percent of the vote, cited his experience in local affairs in a statement on his campaign.

“Over the last four or five years, I’ve been very involved with city issues as a member of the Far East Side Neighborhood Association executive committee and as a member of the Athens Arts Parks and Recreation Advisory Board,” he said. “Running for city council seems like the logical next step in my community service and involvement.”

A former Athens High School teacher, coach and retired yearbook representative who also previously pursued a campaign to serve on the school board, Swank was a noted opponent of the controversial 2018 school levy that led to significant renovations of district buildings.

The Board of Elections also verified that both Ben Ziff, a Democrat running at-large to replace Pete Kotses, who announced he wouldn’t seek another term, and Solveig Spjeldnes, a Democrat looking to replace first ward representative Arian Smedely — who also isn’t seeking re-election — both submitted petitions to be placed on the ballot.

All other City Council incumbents also submitted signatures to run for re-election. It will be determined in the coming days whether the signatures of those who filed are approved.

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