MIAMI COUNTY — With the March 17 Primary Election being postponed due to the coronavirus, local candidates responded to this disappointment, but also concern — concern for both residents’ well-being and their right to vote.
“My main concern is about the citizens of Miami County,” Miami County Commissioner Greg Simmons, who is running for re-election, said on Tuesday. “Elections come and go … People die from this virus.” He said that, while he is disappointed, “you have to look at the big picture.”
“I’m praying for this county — for safety and healing,” Simmons said.
“The health and welfare of our citizens is of utmost importance,” Wade Westfall, a Republican candidate for the Board of Miami County Commissioners, said. “I am disappointed, but we cannot take lightly the impact this crisis may have on our community. The majority of our poll workers are of the demographic that is at most risk. I will continue to work to earn the trust of the voters and look forward to all citizens of the county being able to safely cast their ballot.”
W. McGregor “Greg” Dixon, Jr., a Republican candidate for the office of Miami County Commissioner, announced his decision to suspend all campaign activities until further notice in response to the coronavirus crisis.
“While it might seem like a politician’s dream to have an additional period of time in which to conduct campaign activity, the reason for the extension is too serious to ignore and not something to take advantage of,” Dixon said. “I will not be passing out literature, adding political yard signs, or soliciting votes during this health scare emergency.”
He urged all residents to follow the guidelines established by the Center for Disease Control and local health care agencies and to be mindful of the health of those around them.
Mark Williams, a Republican candidate for the office of Miami County Commissioner, said he felt the decision, regardless of whether it was “right or wrong,” was “done in the wrong manner” and “created a lot of confusion.” Williams said he felt the state legislature should have been involved. He said this decision will hurt campaigns like his, such as him being a new candidate and not having access to unlimited resources.
“We’ll regroup. We’ll come up with a plan,” Williams said. “We want to make sure people get a chance to vote.”
“While I am deeply disappointed that the election has been delayed, I appreciate the governor’s desire to keep poll workers, and voters alike as safe as possible,” said Joe Gibson, a Republican candidate running for a Miami County Commissioner seat. “We will make the best of it in our campaign, as all Americans and Ohioans are having to do as well. This delay will simply allow the voters us to get to know one another a little better. Our campaign is complying with the federal and state mandates as to social distancing, and we are taking steps to keep lines of communication open via telephone, social media and other means. We will be relying more on video and mail transmissions to get the message out, and we will be addressing other issues in the race that time had not allowed us to address previously. But make no mistake, the health and safety of everyone — poll workers, voters and our campaign people, as well — is of the utmost importance. We hope this strange time passes soon with minimal injury or effect on Miami County.”
Miami County residents will also have to wait until June 2 to see who will be the county sheriff.
“My concern is for the citizens of Miami County. I am volunteering to assist in any way I can, and I urge others with a needed skill set to likewise,” said Paul Reece.
Reece is challenging incumbent Sheriff Dave Duchak who is currently serving his first term in the office.
“We’ll follow the governor and health director’s advice. It’s about keeping everyone safe and we respect that,” Duchak said.
Candidates for Congress, which includes Republican Edward Meer and incumbent Republican Warren Davidson, along with Democrats Dr. Vanessa Enoch and Matt Guyette also did not respond to a request for comment as of press time.
Communities with local issues on the ballot may have more time to discuss the need behind local levies, but it is unclear if the shutdown of schools and many businesses, as well as the expected economic hardships following those closures, will impact voters’ decisions.
Troy City Schools Superintendent Chris Piper said, “We respect Governor DeWine’s decision to shut down voting today in order to keep Ohio’s residents safer. As a school district, we always put the health and safety of our students first, so we understand his position. That doesn’t change the fact our district needs new elementary school buildings, which average 77 years old. Two of our buildings are more than 100 years old. We still believe this is the right plan at the right time for this district. We thank those who voted early and hope everyone who has not yet voted, regardless of how they plan to vote, will remember to do so on June 2.”
The Pleasant Hill-Newton Township Joint Fire Districts seeking approval for a tax levy for operating funds and a bond issue for providing a new fire/EMS building, equipment, payment of employees and emergency medical services.
JFD President Stan Fessler echoed the sentiment that the health of citizens should be the top priority.
“It’s all about safety,” Fessler said. “I understand DeWine’s decision; there are a lot of elderly folks who work the polls and who try to get out, so that’s the key.”
The levy and bond issue, if approved, would go into effect next year, Fessler said, adding that this delay in voting should not alter when the district would begin to receive the money.
“We put a lot of effort into this, and a lot could change by June, but we’re going to hope for the best,” he said.
City of Piqua Mayor Kris Lee said this postponement will give the city more time to explain to voters the need regarding the renewal of the city’s 0.25 percent, 10-year income tax for street infrastructure that was on the primary ballot. He said the state government is doing what it needs to do to keep people safe.
Sam Wildow, Melanie Yingst, and Aimee Hancock contributed to this story.