Athens Mayor Steve Patterson is considering a run for outgoing U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers seat, Patterson told The Athens Messenger.
“I’ve been giving a lot of serious thought to running for the 15th district,” Patterson told The Athens Messenger on Tuesday.
Stivers’ U.S. House of Representatives seat will be vacated on May 16, after Stivers announced Monday he would be resigning from that position to accept a position as CEO at the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.
The Ohio 15th congressional district runs from Columbus, including areas of Upper Arlington, through southeast Ohio, and includes the northern part of Athens County.
A special election date to fill Stivers’ seat has not been announced yet.
Patterson told The Messenger he was “surprised” to hear of Stivers’ resignation, and was doing the “calculus” on a potential run for seat; weighing competition, timetable, and viability.
“Part of your calculus should always be: ‘who else is running in the southeastern portion of this district,’” Patterson said. “At this point, there isn’t anybody who’s thrown their hat in the ring.”
Patterson said he believes he would be a strong candidate for the seat considering his leadership roles in numerous intra-body governmental organizations, such as the Ohio Mayor’s Alliance, and The Mayor’s Partnership for Progress.
Through organizations like these, Patterson said, he has become “no stranger to Washington D.C.” because of lobbying efforts.
He also said networking connections forged through governmental organizations would help him connect with Columbus-area constituents and get his message out, were he to announce a primary bid.
“Through the Mayor’s Partnership for Progress, I’m engaging with a lot of communities within that particular district,” Patterson said.
Patterson also discussed another factor in the calculation: the pandemic. He said the pandemic and associated restrictions on gathering would be another wrinkle in the planning.
“We’re still under a pandemic — that certainly adds a level of challenge,” Patterson said.
He said the timetable of a special election also presents unique challenges to consider.
Athens Democratic Chair John Haseley confirmed he had been speaking with Patterson regarding a potential run for the seat.
“Mayor Patterson could be a viable candidate, we are in Athens County, blessed with extraordinary public servants,” Haseley said.
Haseley said the special election could favor a southeast Ohioan in an election because if multiple Columbus-area politicians announce bids, it could lead to vote-splitting in that area.
“A lot of those people are in Columbus, there could be an opportunity for a candidate from the southern part of the district to emerge and consolidate the rural areas,” Haseley said.
One Columbus-area Democrat, State Sen. Tina Maharath, D-Canal Winchester, said she is seriously considering running for the seat, The Columbus Dispatch reported. Upper Arlington City Council member John J. Kulewicz, Franklin County Auditor Michael Stinziano and State Rep. Allison Russo, D-Upper Arlington are all said to be considering a run in the Democratic primary as well.
Haseley said he envisions a bottom-up approach to determining the candidate for the special election, formed by consensus-building.
“There’s not going to be any kingmaker who’s going to name a candidate,” Haseley said.
Haseley also said courting Democratic votes in Athens County will be valuable for any Democratic challenger for the special primary.
“There are a significant amount of Democratic votes in Athens County that could be a deciding factor in a special election,” Haseley said. “I think any candidate should, whether they are from Columbus or another part of the district, know that it’s important to engage with Athens County voters.”
Patterson said while he is considering the run — his decision needs to be fast due to the speed of a special election. He said a formal announcement may come sometime this week.
“I’m going to continue to kind of weigh things out and make some calls to the party between now and the end of the week but it will likely be soon,” Patterson said.