COLUMBUS, Ohio – A Democratic candidate for a state House seat in Ohio has been forced to leave because of her official address, even though her property is in the district.
Abby Kovas, a non-profit around the world with a master’s degree in political science, was cut short from her district.
She was poised to take on state House Rep. Sarah Fuller Arthur, a Republican from Ashtabula, for the 99th District seat this November.
“I was like, ‘Wow, it really happened!’ Kovacs talked about winning her first stage. “And you know, that’s the takeaway — I couldn’t really give him the chance he deserved.”
There was some interest from other Ashtabula County residents to run for the seat, but Kovacs ended up unopposed in the Aug. 2 primary.
But the candidate’s mailbox was 20 feet in the wrong direction.
Her family’s home is historically in the 99th district. He is now on his 65th.
Even if you mention how cut she is at 20 feet, that’s not entirely accurate. Her property spans acres across the line, while her official mailing address disqualifies her from the competition.
“I told the party leadership about it, and they were like, ‘Don’t worry, it’s not a big deal, we’ll look into it,'” she said.
She was able to run in the primary, trusting that information and traveling until August, but realized she didn’t have enough money to continue. And eight days after her victory, she announced her resignation.
Ashtabula teacher Stephen Michael Kelat said she is another victim of the Ohio Corrections Commission.
“In the process of drawing Map 3, they will use all the names and addresses of the candidates that were filed in February,” Kelat said. “This gave the map drivers a huge advantage.”
The Democrat filed a lawsuit in the 99th, the first two maps put her, in February.
She tried to reach out to Ashtabula County to grant her a stay, but John Mead, a Democrat and director of the board of elections, was told the schedule was nearly impossible to get everything done.
“Then she has to go and jump all the way to get the trailer or tent or whatever recognized as occupancy,” Mead said. “It’s too bad for Abby because she’s so close. So close but so far – as they say.”
Map 1 and 2 with Map 3
Map 1 and 2 with Map 3
Map 1 and 2 with Map 3
To make the situation even more complicated, her rival’s husband is the chairman of the Ashtabula County Board of Elections.
“It looks like it’s meant to cut like 20 feet,” she said.
Mead made sure everything was ethical.
“I could see where Abby was feeling it, but honestly it wasn’t,” he said. “[Isaac Arthur] He always abstains from anything related to his wife.”
Kovacs didn’t believe it — citing that she knew she was a threat to Fowler’s Arthur seat.
“To hear a state representative come out and say things like, ‘We support teaching the Holocaust from the perspective of the Nazis,’ it shows how out of touch she is and how ill-equipped to be a leader,” the Democrat said.
Special News 5 Fowler said that after Arthur’s comments on the Holocaust went international, Kovacs watched the backlash. She even sent her own tweet about it.
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If someone has no problem saying that children should learn “both sides” of the Holocaust, Fowler added, Arthur or the GOP group did so on purpose.
Also, the overwhelming Republican opposition may have caused mapmakers to try to avoid the race, the Democrat speculated.
To be clear, this is all just thinking from Kovacs and other Democrats. There is no evidence that Fowler Arthur or the Ohio GOP intentionally sabotaged Covas’ chances. Fowler Arthur was not in the ORC, nor did she make any rough maps.
“We all know the unconstitutional issues and the problems with the map,” Meade said. “I understand they basically start in Columbus and that’s the way they go to the center circles. And when you get to Northeast Ohio, in the farthest corner of the state, there’s not a lot of wiggle room for lines moving around.”
News 5 reached out to Fowler Arthur for comment, but she did not respond.
Fortunately for the Democrats, since Kovacs was in the primary, they began to nominate a new candidate. Conneaut Public Library Executive Director Cathy Zapitello is taking her place.
Kovacs is very happy for Zapitello and says she’s doing a great job, but she can’t help but be worried about the situation.
“It’s a shame I didn’t even get the chance,” she says.
Kovacs said she could have tried to fight him, but that would have cost money she didn’t have.
She and Maad said that they had reached Sec. State Frank LaRose will try to find a way to make this work because her property is legally in the district.
Unfortunately, the reality is that it will be a legal battle to fight it,” she said. “And the Democrats in my area don’t have the funding to fight that war. So all we have to do is, I don’t know, fold.”
She tried to find a hole, but she kept getting stuck.
LaRose’s group says Ashtubula needs to deal with this threat, not them.
LaRose spokesman Rob Nichols told News 5, “The end result of redistricting changed the boundaries of the district. It still all has to be decided at the local level.”
However, Ashtabula says they must follow him and his instructions.
“We have a very strong centralized Foreign Office and they are very strict on a lot of things as they should be,” Mead said. “And one of those strictest things is the idea of eligible voters based on the address associated with your residence.”
Ashtabula’s auditor technically could have given her a new address code, Nichols confirmed, but by that point, it was too late. She has already stepped down.
“The Reform Commission will prepare the districts,” he said. “Such matters are decided at the local level.”
It’s a shame that more people don’t pay attention to redistricting and this whole problem, Kovas said.
“This is just as crazy as what they put me through and the party,” she sighed.
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