State Rep. Dorothy PelandaSubmitted by Pelanda for Ohio
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Dorothy Pelanda, a state representative from Central Ohio, will run for secretary of state next year -- a move that sets up a potentially competitive Republican primary.
The longtime attorney declared her candidacy today.
"The best [piece of] advice that I ever received and one that I often give when speaking before groups is to dream big and take chances," Pelanda says in an introductory video (watch above) that emphasizes her small-town roots on a "farm on the outskirts of Marysville" and as the daughter of a "country lawyer" who accepted sides of beef and venison as payment from clients.
Pelanda, who turns 61 today, said in a telephone interview that she timed her announcement to coincide with her birthday and Ohio's. (Statehood dates to March 1, 1803.)
"I was born to be the custodian of Ohio's democracy," Pelanda said.
The three-term lawmaker's interest in public service was sparked by her parents. Her father served as a judge and her mother was a teacher. She recalled accompanying them to their local polling site on Election Day. "It was as much a holiday in my mind as any special event."
Pelanda is the first to enter the race. Another Republican, State Sen. Frank LaRose of Copley, is seriously considering a run and has a fundraiser planned for this evening in Washington. On the Democratic side, State Rep. Kathleen Clyde of Kent is a likely candidate.
The secretary of state's office -- now held by term-limited Jon Husted, who is likely to seek the GOP nomination for governor -- is known primarily for administering elections. Pelanda has shown an interest in such issues. She has sponsored legislation that would end special primary elections to fill congressional vacancies in districts where only one candidate is running. The measure, intended to save tax dollars, is similar to one LaRose is pushing in the Senate.
"The office of secretary of state is such a critical one," Pelanda said. "As the chief elections officer, I think my mission would be to ensure every Ohioan that is a registered voter ... that their vote would be counted accurately and to instill in them that their vote matters."
Pelanda also intends to speak out against voter fraud, which in her introductory video she describes "a threat to our democratic process." Husted, who has said such fraud is rare, this week released a study that found only a tiny number of illegal votes by non-U.S. citizens in recent Ohio elections. Pelanda acknowledged that point in the telephone interview. But the issue has become a rallying cry for President Donald Trump and conservatives -- and it's a concern Pelanda said voters have raised to her during her travels across the state.
"I think they look to me and say, 'What do you think about it?' And already I've assumed the mantle where I assure them that it is a minimum," said Pelanda, who in her video vowed "to do everything in my power to prevent" voter fraud and to seek prosecution where it exists.
A primary between Pelanda and LaRose would be seen in Republican circles as another proxy battle between Trump and Gov. John Kasich, who appeal to different wings of the GOP.
LaRose was loyal to the governor's unsuccessful presidential campaign last year but has been trying to forge a connection with the Trump team. He helped with logistics for the inauguration. And his Wednesday fundraiser initially was to be headlined by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who later backed out of the event. LaRose cited a scheduling conflict, but Politico connected the move to LaRose's criticism of Trump before the election last fall.
Pelanda sidestepped a question about whether Trump allies are encouraging her candidacy.
"My decision to run for secretary of state has been completely my own," she said. "I was supportive of President Trump during his campaign. I did some radio spots, some interviews and did some appearances. As a result, I think I enjoy a good relationship with certain individuals."
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