Abe Alassaf was a Republican voice at Athens City Council meetings long before he decided to run for a seat.
Alassaf, a local realtor, lifelong Athens resident, Ohio University graduate and vice chair of the Athens County Republican Party, has been in contention with city council on many issues in the past.
In 2016, Alassaf publicly campaigned to stop council’s regulations of home sharing companies such as Airbnb and criticized council members for their proposed regulations on plastic bags. Previously, he had campaigned to remove fluoride from the city’s water.
Alassaf said although those issues were part of his reasoning in running for council, he wanted to obtain a seat to foster change in Athens.
“I’m invested in this community,” Alassaf said. “I want to be an agent of change for the future here in Athens, and I think city council will let me do that by being a public servant.”
Alassaf, who will run against incumbent Democrat Jeff Risner in the general election to represent the city’s 2nd ward, said having a Republican on council would allow for more equal representation in the city. City council has one independent councilman, with the rest being Democrat.
“A Republican voice would definitely make the council a more diverse group,” Alassaf said. “There’s a portion of the population that’s Republican that doesn’t have a voice at all.”
Running as a Republican in Athens is no easy task, however. In a previous interview, Pete Couladis, chair of the Athens County Republican Party, said Athens could at times be an intolerant community.
“It’s hard for us to find people to run,” Couladis said. “They’re afraid of repercussions. This is not a very tolerant community, contrary to what all of the liberals say. We’re not tolerant and we’re not diverse.”
David Parkhill, president of the Ohio University College Republicans, echoed Couladis’ sentiment.
“The biggest challenge is the little ‘R’ next to your name on election day,” Parkhill said. “That’s going to be the biggest challenge for Abe.”
Alassaf is not new to campaigning, however. Previously, he ran for City Council in early 2011 when he was a junior at OU, Athens County Treasurer in 2012 and for State Representative in 2016. He also announced an intent to run for Athens County Commissioner after his failed City Council bid, but did not appear on the ballot.
He did not win any of the elections.
In past campaigns, Alassaf has run as a libertarian. He said he still shares many views with libertarians.
“I’m pro-free markets and pro-individual,” He said. "I’ve always been a liberty guy.”
Although he has not won a campaign, Alassaf still works in politics. Currently, he is a Regional Field Coordinator for The Leadership Institute, a conservative nonprofit organization that provides training to campaigns on college campuses.
Alassaf said his work at the organization has nothing to do with his council campaign.
Alassaf said he is hopeful for the Republican Party’s future in Athens.
“I actually think there is a lot of hope for the Republican Party in Athens with the younger generation,” he said. “We’re a new type of Republican.”
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the races in which Alassaf officially ran. The article has been updated with the most accurate information.