A virtual Candidate Forum for the Athens City Council At Large race is being hosted by the League of Women Voters of Athens County on Tuesday, Sept. 21 at 7:00 p.m. Candidates will answer questions from the public.

There are five candidates for the three at-large seats up for election this year: Democrats Ben Ziff, Sarah Grace and Micah McCarey, and independent candidates Damon Krane and Iris Virjee.

Since the last City Council election in 2019, two Council Members, Peter Kotses and Beth Clodfelter resigned from their roles, leaving Grace as the only elected at-large council member.

Kotses and Clodfelter were replaced on council in 2021 by Ziff and McCarey respectively and both are seeking reelection to the seats.

Ziff, who also works at Donkey Coffee, has advocated in the past has stated his priorities in office include advocating for tenants, combating social and economic inequities, and maintaining environmental progressivism in city policy.

McCarey, the director of the Ohio University LGBT Center, said previously he wants to further the work of diversity in the city.

“I am seeking City Council because I would like to make the city’s work around diversity and inclusion, and really other areas, more visible,” McCarey said. “There’s so much magic in Athens and so often folks don’t even recognize that we have so many wonderful things going on.”

McCarey’s new tenure on the Council is notable because he represents identities that have not been seen on Athens City Council in years: he is Black, gay, and a renter.

Grace has been a member of Athens City Council since 2017, after losing the Ohio House race to Republican Jay Edwards. She is running on a platform of increasing the availability of affordable housing and supporting high-paying jobs in Athens.

Most recently, Grace helped spearhead an ordinance in the city to require racial sensitivity training for all city employees, speaking on behalf of legislation that will spend $91,000 toward the effort.

Krane and Virjee, both independents, are running on platforms they say will benefit the renters and workers in Athens.

Virjee, a bartender at the Smiling Skull Saloon, said she wants to serve working class, low-income residents if elected, placing less emphasis on serving more privileged people, using the example of OU administrators in conversation as a voting bloc she has little interest in courting.

“They have their needs met and, historically, continue to — I think they are given an unfair amount of attention and priority in city decisions,” she said in an Athens NEWS interview.

Krane, who previously ran for Athens mayor in 2019 and is a frequent critic of city government, said he is not opposed to working with Democrats, and that he believes his platform will resonate with many Democratic voters.

“Like a lot of folks, I want to see our city turn over a new leaf,” Krane said in a statement.

Krane’s platform focuses on tenants rights and racial justice issues, as well as lodging criticisms of what he says is a revolving door of council members who have no interest in the position.

Questions are being taken in advance, due to the virtual format. Please send your questions to AthensAsks@gmail.com no later than 7:00 p.m. on Sept. 19.

The forum can be viewed live in three places:

  • City of Athens Website, from the “Video” link on the homepage, https://www.ci.athens.oh.us/278/Video.
  • Facebook on either the City of Athens, Ohio — News and Information page or the League of Women Voters of Athens County page.
  • On TV at the Government Channel, Spectrum Cable Channel 1024.
  • Later, the recorded forum can be viewed on the City of Athens Facebook and YouTube channels, at the League’s Facebook page, and will play periodically on Spectrum Cable Channel 1024.

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