West Chester Twp. trustee plans to take on lawmaker for Ohio Senate

West Chester Twp. Trustee Lee Wong will again take his Segway around Butler County asking for votes, but this time it’s for an Ohio Senate bid.

The Ohio 4th Senate District race will be Wong’s third attempt to seek a seat outside of West Chester Twp. The four-term township trustee sought the Republican Party’s recommendation and Ohio Republican Caucus’ nomination in September 2017 for the 52nd Ohio House District. Last year he ran for Butler County Commission but lost to incumbent Cindy Carpenter in the GOP primary.

But Wong believes his luck will change this time because there shouldn’t be an incumbent.

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“I never come into any position with an agenda,” Wong said. “I do what is best for the people.”

Wong, known for door-to-door campaigning on a Segway, believes the 2020 Ohio 4th Senate District race will be "a level playing field" for those seeking to succeed term-limited Sen. Bill Coley, R-Liberty Twp. Many term-limited lawmakers resign early, but Coley — who is seeking a seat on the 12th District Court of Appeals against Butler County Judge Noah Powers II — told the Journal-News he intends to serve his full four-year term.

If Coley resigns, the party would recommend a person to the Ohio Republican Senate Caucus for the appointment. Whoever would be appointed has the advantage of an incumbent.

“I think that’s the best chance for me to win the race,” Wong said of Coley serving out his term, which ends in December 2020. “This opportunity doesn’t come very often, especially in Butler County.”

If elected, Wong said he would be able to spend all of his time concentrating on the job, and that includes looking at how to attract high-paying jobs to the state, improving the “crumbling infrastructure,” and addressing the ubiquitous drug problem.

Butler County Republican Party Executive Chairman Todd Hall said the party is “grateful” to have already conservative candidates ready to run this early for the open Senate seat in 2020.

“No matter how the primary turns out, I believe our nominee will win next November and our county will have solid conservative representation in the Ohio Senate for years to come,” he said.

Butler County Democratic Party Executive Chairman Brian Hester said there are already several Democrats looking to run, especially in the 53rd Ohio House race, which will be open because incumbent Rep. Candice Keller, R-Middletown, will not seek re-election and instead is pushing for an Ohio Senate bid.

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The Democratic Party will not endorse a candidate, Hester said. In April, the party “adopted a strict policy” prohibiting endorsements in contested primaries, he said.

“We believe primary voters should choose our candidates, not party insiders,” Hester said. “Whomever the voters ultimately nominate for our party will be a vast improvement over the current officeholder.”

The Butler County Republican Party offers endorsements for candidates, and party bylaws prohibit Central Committee members from campaigning for a non-endorsed candidate.

Ohio Rep. George Lang, R-West Chester Twp., who served with Wong as West Chester Twp. trustee until his Statehouse appointment in September 2017, has not yet decided if he’ll seek the open Senate seat.

If Lang instead seeks re-election, he’ll likely have an opponent in the March primary.

Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jennifer Gross, who attempted to unseat Hall as Butler County GOP's executive chair last summer, pulled petitions for the 52nd House seat. Gross served as a flight nurse in the Bosnian conflict, was the on-call flight nurse for casualties in the Battle of Mogadishu and served in Operation Desert Storm.

Middletown school board member Michelle Novak has pulled petitions seeking re-election in November 2019 for her school board seat, but has also pulled petitions seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for the 53nd Ohio House seat, which Keller now represents. Novak would likely compete against Trenton City Councilman Ryan Montgomery for the Democratic nomination.

Republican Teresa Diane Mullins pulled petitions seeking the GOP’s nomination for the 53rd House Seat, and likely will face Madison Twp. Trustee Thomas Hall in the March primary.

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