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  • Writer's pictureBryn Dippold

CityBeat: Ohio's District 56 Voters Unsure About Statehouse Candidates

CityBeat visited the Deerfield Farmers Market in October to learn what locals think about the 2022 election.

By Bryn Dippold

Editor's note: This story is featured in the Nov. 2 print edition of CityBeat.

Saturday mornings in Cincinnati’s northeastern suburbs can be busy yet routine. Many residents opt for a morning coffee run or maybe a workout class. Some may gather their families for another Kings Island visit or two before the end of the season.

But on a chilly October day, the Deerfield Farmers Market did not see the typical busy, suburban crowd. Located about a mile off Mason Montgomery Road and held under the Kingswood Park Pavilion, market visitors were in no rush. They spoke with vendors like old friends and took their time to pick out their ideal pumpkin.

CityBeat visited the market to get a better idea about locals’ feelings toward the upcoming election, specifically the race between Democrat Joy Bennett and Republican Adam Mathews for the Ohio House of Representatives District 56. This district includes the cities of Mason and Lebanon within its boundaries.

Mathews currently serves as the vice mayor of Lebanon, and according to his campaign website, is “pro-life,” “pro-liberty” and “pro-pursuit of happiness.” He advocates for low taxes, less government interference at a local level and pro-gun ownership and concealed carry. Mathews recently testified in favor of a pro-life bill to prepare Ohio for a post-Roe v. Wade world.

Bennett has not held public office. She ran for Mason City Council in 2019 but did not win a seat. She is running a campaign based partly on bringing “public service” back to the office of state representative, according to campaign materials. Some of Bennett’s other plans include adopting the Fair School Funding Plan for education, cleaning up corruption in Ohio politics and fighting for parental rights to make decisions on “medical treatment, education, and the environment for their own children.”

The candidates both bring useful qualities to the position, but the region tends to lean red. In 2020, Warren County, which takes up the majority of the newly redrawn 56th district, voted 64.5% for Republican Donald Trump during the presidential election. In 2018, the county voted 66.5% for Republican Mike DeWine in the gubernatorial election.

But things may change. The current makeup of the Ohio House of Representatives is 35 Democrats and 64 Republicans. All 99 House seats are up for election this year, meaning a shake-up is possible.

Near the farmers market, it’s hard to miss the number of political candidate signs along the roads and in front of homes. While the county has had high voter turnout and seeming political awareness in the past, just one of the 15 or so people CityBeat spoke to said they were aware of the upcoming election or of the two candidates vying for District 56.

Pete Fox, who owns and operates Fox and Boar Farm in Pleasant Plain, said he hasn’t been paying attention to the election this year as he had in previous years.

“All that I want is for people to work together to make progress on anything, as opposed to getting nothing done,” Fox told CityBeat.

Fox isn’t originally from Ohio but said he has lived in the area for about 15 years. He wasn’t sure how he’d be voting on Election Day on Nov. 8.

Andy Gorman — or “Farmer Andy,” as he largely is known — said that he wasn’t aware of either Bennett or Mathews in the upcoming race. He’s run the Deerfield Farmers Market for about eight years. He also founded and owns Cincy Urban Farm in Sharonville as a first-generation farmer. Sylvia Shelton, who owns Glory Farms in Morrow, said she hasn’t been keeping track of the race but would “probably” be voting for Mathews as statehouse district representative. Her son, Ted Shelton, has his own farm near his mother’s, and they sell produce and canned and baked goods at the farmers market together. “I usually do my research about two days before the election,” Ted Shelton said. Ted Shelton’s brother, Mark, is a Harlan Township Trustee in Morrow and usually gives the family the “inside scoop” on what’s going on, he said. “There’s always the public persona — what the [candidate] wants you to see. But knowing people personally, I think, makes a big difference,” Shelton said. “You can have somebody that seems to be the nicest, greatest person ever and you find out they don’t act that way in real life. I’d rather have someone who’s maybe rough but at least honest.” While almost everyone that CityBeat spoke to said they were unsure how they would be voting in District 56, past election results could hint at what’s to come. Paul Zeltwanger currently is serving his final term as the Ohio House Representative for the majority of Warren County (his District 54 has been redrawn for 2022), having been in his position since 2015. During his previous election in 2020, the Republican won 61.7% of the vote.

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