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Patterson declines Krane’s on-campus debate proposal

In June, Democratic Socialist Athens Mayoral candidate Damon Krane proposed a debate between himself and current Athens Mayor Steve Patterson on Ohio University's campus. 

By having the debate on OU’s campus, Krane said he hoped it would boost voter turnout among the younger population in Athens. 

Incumbent Mayor Steve Patterson will face opponent Damon Krane at 7 p.m. Oct. 3 at the Athens Community Center, 701 E. State St., for a candidate forum as he declined to participate in a debate on Ohio University’s campus. 

Patterson participated in a debate against Krane on OU’s campus in 2019, which was held by OU’s Student Senate. This time, he will only participate in the candidate forum at the Athens Community Center, which will be hosted by the League of Women Voters.

“I think that the League of Women Voters, they host a very nonpartisan, fair way of having candidate forums,“ Patterson said. "I believe that for a community of our size and the university and the space that's there, it's not hard to get to the community center."

Krane challenged the relationship between the Athens County League of Women Voters and Mayor Patterson. 

“I think it's wonderful that they do the voter engagement work that they do,” Krane said. “No one else is doing it. His event is the one event he just couldn't get out of and has to do and so my hat's off to them. That's important work that they're doing. At the same time, I think that the League has been too friendly with a local political establishment.” 

He said the forum invitation he received cited the location was decided due to the large turnout that is expected and issues with parking at the OU campus. Reasons were not given in previous invitations he received in 2019 and 2021. The invitations simply stated the location, without giving any explanation as to why it was chosen. 

Krane said he is the only city candidate reaching out to campus organizations to host such debates. 

“The debate in 2019 that Patterson participated in on campus was a result of me contacting Graduate Student Senate and encouraging them to do the invitation,” Krane said. “The debate that almost happened in 2021— same thing — I'd reached out to undergraduate students and they had agreed to do it in response to my outreach. This year, again, (I) reached out to both Student Senates. Unfortunately, the undergraduate Student Senate declined to host the debate." 

According to the Athens County Board of Elections, the city of Athens has seen a decline in voter registration and ballots being cast every year. 

In 2018, records show that 19,091 eligible city residents registered for the congressional midterm with 7,853 ballots cast. There were 12,992 eligible city residents registered in 2022 for the congressional midterm with 5,083 voters from that group. Registration declined by 6,099 voters and there were 2,770 fewer ballots cast between the two midterm elections despite the population of the city remaining the same. 

Seeing this fall in numbers in Athens, Krane said he proposed a debate on OU’s campus to boost engagement from the students. 

As Patterson works on increasing student voter registration, he said he often meets with students who would only like to be registered at their homes since they prioritize their town or city’s mayoral race over the Athens mayoral election. He said he urges them to vote on important statewide issues such as Issue 1, which concerns women’s reproductive health care rights. 

The debate will be streamed on Athens City Council’s Facebook page and YouTube channel, Patterson said.


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