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The City Building spans the Athens’ horizon on Nov. 2, 2021. (FILE)

Ben Ziff, Micah McCarey, Sarah Grace retain Athens City Council At-Large seats

Correction appended.

The Athens City Council At-Large seats went to incumbents Ben Ziff, Micah McCarey and Sarah Grace, who defeated Independent candidates Iris Virjee and Damon Krane. 

Incumbent Councilwoman Sarah Grace will be serving her third term on Council after being reelected with 26.54% of the vote. Grace has spent much of her time since her election to Council in 2017 emphasizing environmental sustainability, city safety and fiscal responsibility, according to a previous Post report

Prior to her election to Council, Grace unsuccessfully ran for Ohio’s 94th House district, losing by 16% to Jay Edwards (R). Afterward, Grace returned to Ohio University to get a master’s degree in public health in an effort to continue to serve her community. 

Grace expressed her thanks to voters for their continued support this election cycle.

“I am honored to serve on Council and look forward to working with my fellow Council members,” Grace said in a message. “Thanks also goes to my family and all of the volunteers this election cycle. I couldn’t do this without them.” 

Current At-Large Councilman Ben Ziff also retained his seat this year, winning 26.14% of the vote. Ziff joined Council after former Councilman Peter Kotses resigned. 

Some of the goals Ziff outlined when he announced his candidacy was to listen to constituents and not go into the election with a set agenda. However, he also believes that as a customer service employee, renter and a candidate in his early 30s, he can continue to bring a fresh perspective to Council. 

Ziff congratulated his fellow incumbents on their reelection and expressed his gratitude to the people of Athens. 

“This election cycle has been incredibly stressful, and I am very excited to be able to focus solely on doing my best for the people of Athens,” Ziff said in a message. 

Athens City Council At-Large incumbent Micah McCarey also retained his recently obtained seat this election with 26.6% of the vote. McCarey was appointed earlier this year after former member Beth Clodfelter resigned from her At-Large seat. 

McCarey graduated from Ohio University with a bachelor’s degree in communication studies and a master’s degree in human development and has served as director of OU’s LGBT Center since 2019. While on Council, McCarey has advocated for issues such as LGBTQ+ rights and racial equity.

He is Council’s only current openly gay and Black council member and is also one of the younger members of Council. To Krane, McCarey and Ziff represent an expansion of diversity in age, sexual orientation, race and living situation that the body historically lacks. 

The Post was unable to reach McCarey for comment before publication. 

Independent candidates Virjee and Krane lost the race by a wide margin with 11.22% and 9.5% of the vote, respectively. Both candidates ran on a progressive platform, emphasizing issues of tenant rights, racial equity and affordable housing. Both Virjee and Krane heavily emphasized the importance of student voices in local politics during their campaigns. 

Despite the political loss, Krane remains optimistic that his campaign had some success in bringing certain progressive issues into the public eye and plans to continue lobbying for change within the Athens community. 

“I can be an ally who helps officeholders advance truly progressive legislation, or I can be one of the people lighting a fire under them to get them to act,” Krane said. “But either way, people like me aren't going away. We're here to stay, and we're going to keep winning change, whoever holds office.”

Virjee was unable to be reached for comment before publication. 

@sophielisey 

sy951319@ohio.edu

Correction appended: A previous version of this article stated that McCarey is the interim director of OU’s LGBT Center, when he has been the permanent director since 2019. This article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information.

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