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COLUMBUS -- Two lawmakers announced statewide bids Tuesday to become the Ohio's chief elections official.
State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) launched her campaign for secretary of state during a late-morning press conference, becoming the first Democrat to announce in a down-ticket race in next year's elections.
State Sen. Frank LaRose (R-Hudson) announced his candidacy for secretary of state during an evening conference call with Republican officials, joining state Rep. Dorothy Pelanda (R-Marysville) in that race.
Clyde, a Portage County native, made her announcement at a capital city arts and cultural center and polling location, where she said she would fight to ensure eligible minority and other voters have access to Ohio's polls and work toward improving services for businesses -- the two main roles of the office she is seeking.
"Ohio can and must do more to encourage participation and strengthen our democracy," Clyde said. "Instead of making it simpler to vote, our state leaders have made things more difficult, seemingly by the day. I believe people all across Ohio deserve more than what we are getting from our state leaders."
She added later, "I will ensure registration is simple, you have every opportunity to vote and your vote is counted."
LaRose, a Green Beret who served a decade in the Army, including stints in combat zones in Iraq and Kosovo, said his military service sparked an interest in elections, watching citizens of other countries risking their lives to cast ballots.
"I've been to places where people don't have a right to vote," he said. "And I've been to places where I saw people vote for the first time Those experiences stick with you."
He added, "I've got a passion about elections. It's one of the first things that I started working on when I arrived in the Senate Almost all of the legislation that pertains to elections issues over the last seven years has either been something I've written or worked very personally on."
Clyde and LaRose join a growing list of candidates eyeing the 2018 primary and general elections, with multiple Republicans and Democrats actively campaigning for governor and other races -- or preparing to do so.
Clyde, a Garrettsville native, is serving her fourth term in the Ohio House. She's a licensed attorney who previously served as an elections official at the Franklin County Board of Elections and deputy legal counsel for former House Speaker Armond Budish.
Clyde has focused part of her efforts in the legislature on elections issues, pushing for reforms that would make it easier for eligible voters to cast ballots.
She was a vocal advocate for online voter registration and has called for automatic registration in Ohio. And she has vocally opposed the purge of eligible voters from the rolls, efforts to require photo IDs to cast ballots and other Republican-backed election law changes enacted in recent years.
"Ever since I was elected to the Statehouse in 2010, I've been fighting back against attacks on working families, women's rights and voting rights," she said. "I've seen firsthand when state leaders ignore the voices of so many Ohioans and let political benefit be their only guide."
LaRose is a Summit County native who grew up in the Copley area. As a state senator, he also has focused on election issues, serving as the primary sponsor of the new law that allowed eligible residents to register to vote online. He has pushed for funding for counties to replace aging elections equipment and for redistricting reform, including the statewide issue OK'd by voters several years ago that revamped the way state legislative lines are drawn.
Gerrymandered -- properly pronounced with a hard 'G,' he said -- districts have helped to polarize politics. LaRose said he supports a more "down-the-middle" bipartisan process that is balanced and "compels statesmen and women to sit down and compromise on solution for how these lines should look."
"I want to be a member of a party that wins elections because we have better candidates who work harder and have better ideas for government," he said. "I don't think it is sustainable for our party in the long run to win elections by the creative drawing of district lines."
Marc Kovac covers the Ohio Statehouse for Gatehouse Media. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.