Damon Krane, a longtime area activist and unsuccessful 2019 candidate for Athens mayor, announced last week that he’s running at-large for City Council as an Independent to push city leaders further to the left on issues like housing and racial justice.
Krane, a fourth ward resident who’s been mulling a Council bid for months, settled on entering the at-large race after becoming attracted to its multi-candidate dimension. All three at-large seats are up for grabs this election cycle.
“I just think a multi-candidate race is more conducive to discussion, which means it’s more conducive to city issues getting raised and discussed more thoroughly,” he said.
Of his extensive list of policy priorities, he’s planning to address what he sees as unaccountable policing practices and unjustified city spending on law enforcement. Also on the docket is fighting what he calls “predatory landlords” in attempt to bolster tenants rights while also strengthening the city’s code enforcement office.
He said that Athens, a city with leaders who promulgate upholding left-wing values while also facing little electoral threat from Republicans, is lagging behind other liberal Ohio cities on many of those issues.
“My campaign isn't about me. It’s about the issues. I’m not asking people to simply hand over the keys and trust me to make the right call. I want to tell people exactly what I’m going to do so they can hold me accountable,” Krane said.
The self-proclaimed democratic socialist, an outsider, is poised to contest incumbent Democrats Sarah Grace and Beth Clodfelter, and possibly Democrat Ben Ziff, a favorite to replace recently resigned Pete Kotses. Krane said he will focus on unseating Grace and Clodfelter over Kotses’ eventual replacement since both councilmembers have established records as elected officials that he considers problematic.
When Krane unsuccessfully challenged Mayor Steve Patterson in 2019, many fixated on his brash and confrontational campaigning style. To distance himself from those criticisms, Krane spent much of the winter working to recruit candidates whose personalities could have proved more appealing to voters while still promoting a similar policy platform.
Ultimately, that push failed. All but one of the potential candidates he urged to run declined to pursue office. Krane wouldn’t disclose the lone remaining candidate’s identity, saying he would prefer for them to announce a campaign on their own terms.
Those who declined primarily cited economic insecurity as reason, Krane wrote in a Reader’s Forum. Many couldn’t afford to campaign while also working more than one job, while others reportedly feared their histories in sex work or past battles with addiction could pose electoral hurdles.
Now that he’s among the last vestiges of that group, Krane hopes his agenda will help address the barriers that exist for less privileged candidates with aspirations to enter local politics.
"The way I look at my City Council run is that one of two things needs to happen to change our local status quo. Either the affluent 10 percent of eligible voters that typically vote in city elections needs to have a change of heart and needs to start voting for a more just and equitable community, or the 90 percent of our community that’s screwed over by the status quo and doesn’t vote needs to step up and start voting for their material interests," Krane said.
He continued, "And ultimately I can’t make either of those things happen. I’m just one person. All I can do is push establishment candidates in a better direction and give people a real social change candidate to vote for."
Krane calls that the "local Bernie Sanders effect," or the potential for himself and others with similar policies to push elected officials further to the left by applying pressure, much like Sanders moved national Democrats to adopt once-radical policies as a result of his 2016 and 2020 bids for the party’s nomination.
Krane said city leaders have already taken to adopting policies he's pushed for years, including a measure moving the city to place a ban on landlords denying low-income renters from leasing housing. That ordinance hasn’t been formally introduced, only discussed in committee.