Athens Mayor Steve Patterson voiced his interest Tuesday in running for the soon-to-be vacated seat of Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Upper Arlington.
As of yet, Patterson is not formally running for the seat. A formal decision will come at either the end of the week or the beginning of next week, Patterson said.
The district stretches from Upper Arlington to portions of Columbus to the northern portion of Athens County.
Stivers will step down from the position May 16 to become the president and CEO of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, according to a press release.
Patterson said he has considered running for the 15th District before. Stivers stepping down sped up Patterson’s thought process and ideas for moving forward, though he is still heavily discussing the possibilities with his family.
“I think that there needs to be a strong voice in Congress when it comes to Appalachian Ohio, which is certainly a part of the 15th District, but also leadership with experience,” Patterson said.
Patterson’s reasons for possibly running for the 15th District seat are similar to the reasons he ran for his first public office positions: serving in the U.S. Air Force both as an enlisted member and an officer as well as working in academia. However, his experience as a city councilmember and now two-term mayor also contributed.
Patterson could have an advantage over candidates from Columbus in the Democratic primary because of the likelihood of a split vote, Athens County Democratic Party Chair John Haseley said. A candidate who has experience in the region could also fare well among Democrats in the Southeastern part of the district, Haseley said.
“I think that for those that live in our region, there's a recognition that we face unique challenges,” Haseley said. “I think people … would really value a public servant who has successfully taken on those challenges and really understands the issues that we face in our part of Ohio.”
Haseley said Patterson connects with a wide array of voters through work he has done throughout the state and region. Patterson has worked with other mayors throughout the region as the president of the Mayor’s Partnership for Progress and as a member of the Ohio Mayor’s Alliance.
Patterson thinks as mayor, he would have a unique perspective going into the position.
“When I look at the leadership skills that a mayor has had to go through during a global pandemic, it has really shown that mayors are not only connected with their communities, but they know where the needs are, within not only our cities but within the districts,” Patterson said.
If Patterson runs and if he is elected, he would like to focus on an array of issues affecting Southeast Ohio and beyond, including expanded access to broadband, especially in rural areas. Patterson also said he would like to work toward more economic development within the district. There are also regions in the district, like Southeastern Ohio, that Patterson thinks are well-suited for businesses to come in and grow because it is a great place to live and work.
The election will have a quick turnaround, Haseley said. After candidates formally declare their intent to run, they will have a short time to raise money. With COVID-19 restrictions still in place, Haseley said candidates will likely have to rely on paid media to get in contact with voters.
“It's going to be running hard and fast and furious, quite honestly,” Patterson said. “We are still under a pandemic, which has its own set of significant challenges.”