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Candidate filings portend interesting match-ups for Hamilton County offices this fall

A voter casts a ballot on the first day of early voting at the Hamilton County Board of Elections, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017, in Cincinnati.
John Minchillo
A voter casts a ballot on the first day of early voting at the Hamilton County Board of Elections, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017, in Cincinnati.

One thing is certain from Wednesday's candidate filing with the Hamilton County Board of Elections — there will be a three-way race this fall for the Hamilton County commissioner's seat held now by Stephanie Summerow Dumas.

Dumas seemingly came out of nowhere in 2018 to defeat incumbent Republican Chris Monzel for a seat on the three-member commission, where she now serves as president.

She may have caught a break with not one but two opponents who are likely to split up the Republican vote in an increasingly Democratic county.

Matt O'Neill, a Republican, has qualified for the ballot. He ran in 2020, but finished 16 percentage points behind Democratic incumbent Denise Driehaus. O'Neill does not have the backing of the Hamilton County Republican Party but he will be the official GOP candidate as he will have no competition in the May 3 primary.

The third candidate will be an Independent, former Cincinnati Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman. County party leaders have tried to talk Smitherman into running as a Republican, but with no success. His attitude apparently is that he won election to Cincinnati City Council as an Independent and can do the same as a candidate for county commissioner.

It is likely that O'Neill and Smitherman will split the Republican vote in the county in the November election, greatly increasing the chances that Dumas will win a second term.

There could be a third Republican in the county commission race — long-time party activist Thomas Chandler, who filed petitions that are still being checked by the board of elections. If he qualifies, Chandler will face O'Neill in the May primary.

In the county auditor's race, State Rep. Brigid Kelly — who is foregoing running for another term in the Ohio House — has qualified for the ballot as a Democratic candidate. She has the backing of the party and also of the current auditor, Dusty Rhodes, who is retiring after 30 years in office.

Her likely Republican opponent is former state representative Tom Brinkman, who ran unsuccessfully for Cincinnati City Council last fall. Brinkman filed petitions just before the 4 p.m. deadline, but they have yet to be checked by election officials.

The only other county administrative office up for election is for the unexpired term of former clerk Aftab Pureval, now Cincinnati's mayor.

Democrat Pavan Parikh was appointed to the job by his party last month and has qualified for the November ballot to fill out the rest of Pureval's term.

Two Republicans are running — former Cincinnati Council Member Steve Goodin and Raj Rajagopal, a former Colerain Township trustee. The winner of the GOP primary in May will face Parikh in November.

The situation for candidates for Ohio House and Senate seats in Hamilton County was a bit unsettled late Wednesday afternoon.

Late Tuesday night, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose issued a directive to Ohio's 88 county boards of elections on how to implement House Bill 93, which made temporary law changes to the 2022 primary election, according to Alex Linser, deputy director of the Hamilton County Board of Elections.

It puts county election officials in something of a pickle, because they don't know for certain yet what the Ohio House and Senate Districts will ultimately look like. The maps passed by the Republicans on the Ohio Redistricting Commission are being challenged before the Ohio Supreme Court, which has yet to rule on their constitutionality.

"Pursuant to that directive, we are supposed to disregard whatever district number appears on a candidate's petitions and determine which district the candidate will run in based on the candidate's residence," Linser said.

And all of that could change if the Ohio Supreme Court strikes down the GOP's latest maps and tells them to start all over again.

WVXU will follow up in days to come with lists of candidates for the new legislative districts and Hamilton County judgeships that are up for election this year.

Howard Wilkinson is in his 50th year of covering politics on the local, state and national levels.