The Athens County Board of Elections certified the petitions Wednesday of two independent candidates for Athens City Council, spelling a competitive at-large council position race this fall.
Damon Krane and Iris Virjee, both independent candidates for at-large seats on Athens City Council, had their petition signatures certified in a unanimous vote by the BoE.
Krane, 2019 independent mayoral candidate and frequent critic of Athens City Council, said he was running because he was sick of the status quo he said is upheld by the Democratic establishment.
Krane 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.
Since the last City Council election in 2019, two Council Members, Peter Kotses and Beth Clodfelter resigned from their roles. 1st Ward Member Arian Smedley announced she was not seeking reelection.
In May, Ward 4 Council Member Chris Fahl lost a primary election by wide margins to Alan Swank, who campaigned on housing issues as well as criticisms of the current City Council.
Krane said this environment could lead to success for independent candidates.
“Athenians are ready for a change, and we’ve got the opportunity to make that change,” Krane said.
Krane also advocates for increased protections for renters, and said the city has been negligent in enforcement for years.
Virjee, who could not be reached for comment, is also a renter, and has previously told media she supports housing reforms.
Virjee, a bartender at the West Side’s Smiling Skull Saloon who grew up in Mount Sterling, Ohio, graduated from Ohio University with a degree in urban planning and a certificate in wealth and poverty in spring 2020, just as the pandemic hit.
Virijee said she believes Athens’ static, non-student and working-class population have little opportunity for economic mobility and often lack the resources needed to pursue office and advocate for the needs of their families and neighbors.
“It’s hard enough for me with a formal education, and so I figured that if I can as just a regular person use that bit of privilege to uplift and give a voice to people like me, then it was something I needed to do,” Virjee said previously to The Athens Messenger.
Krane and Virjee will be facing Democrats Sarah Grace and Micah McCarey, who is the director of the LGBTQ+ Center at Ohio University, and Ben Ziff.
McCarey was appointed to City Council to replace Clodfelter, who accepted a job with the U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown. Ziff was appointed to council earlier to replace Kotses, who resigned from the position citing frustration with what he said was a uniform council.