CINCINNATI — With voting underway for Ohio’s first primary election, candidates running for legislative offices remain in limbo.
“I think it’s been incredibly demoralizing,” said Dani Isaacsohn, who is running for state representative. “I think everyone can relate to this — if your expectations keep going this way and that way, eventually it’s exhausting and confusing and I think that’s what a lot of candidates are feeling.”
To date, four sets of legislative district maps have been deemed unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court. Races requiring those districts were removed from the May 3 primary.
On Wednesday, federal judges declined to intervene in the legislative map-making process — at least for now.
In a memorandum opinion and order, judges stated they would step in if legal, legislative maps are not approved by May 28. If that’s the case, the court will implement the third set of rejected maps and set a primary election date of August 2.
This gives the Ohio Redistricting Commission time to work on a fifth set of maps, as requested by the Ohio Supreme Court. That court set a May 6 deadline for new maps.
The ongoing delay has led to challenges for candidates.
“When you run for office, you think this is where I’m running, these are who the voters are, this is who I’m going to run against, and this is when the election will be. Then you build a plan around those core pillars,” Isaacsohn said. “In this situation, we don’t know who the voters are, we don’t know who the opponents are and we still don’t know when the election will be.”
If the federal court implements the third set of maps, Isaacsohn would fall in District 24 and face two other democrats in the August primary.
“There are no communities in the city that I am not familiar with, so it shifts the focus for sure, but it doesn’t really shift too much," Isaacsohn said.
If the third set of maps is used, Republican candidate Adam Koehler would also be in house district 24.
"I ran to help my people — I ran to represent people who I grew up around, in my neighborhoods that I still live around, but we don’t know what our district is going to look like," Koehler said. "Every time they redraw these maps you have a new person you’re running against. I don’t know how I can prepare for a race against someone when I don’t know who I’m running against."
Koehler said the back and forth over maps not only affects voters but could affect future candidates from wanting to run.
“Not only is it frustrating and sends a bad message to potential candidates in the future, the ones who are running now are like what am I doing?” he said.
Colleen Reynolds originally announced she’d run for House District 31. Under all four proposed and rejected sets of maps, that district no longer exists in southwest Ohio.
“When you make a decision to run, you think about is this a community I’m best suited to represent?” Reynolds said. “It’s been an emotional rollercoaster every other week thinking about what does this mean for me? Who am I even going to be on the ballot with?”
Under the third set of maps, Reynolds would be in House District 26, which includes Democratic incumbent Sedrick Denson. Reynolds said it's been a real challenge to campaign with so much uncertainty.
“How can I even determine whose door to knock on?” She said. “It’s frustrating, certainly, but also if anything it reiterates how important it is that we send good people to the General Assembly.”
As of Thursday evening, the Ohio Redistricting Commission has no upcoming meetings scheduled.