Ohio Democratic activists, still angry about the state party’s anti-choice, anti-gay-marriage candidate for secretary of state, are trying to recruit former congressional candidate Sharen Neuhardt to enter the race.

Since Franklin County (Columbus) commissioner Marilyn Brown bowed out in the fall, the only candidate has been state legislator Jennifer Garrison from Marietta. But she won her seat in the legislature in a campaign in which she ran to the right of her Republican opponent on gay marriage, and she has taken fringe right-wing positions on reproductive freedom, like banning virtually all abortions, lack of support for pregnancy planning and passage of a “fetal personhood” amendment. She even opposes stem-cell research. Many Democrats feel that, at a time when the far right has been energized and motivated by the so-called “teabag” movement, the party can’t afford not to present a clear alternative and motivate its own base by advocating strongly for its core positions — including reproductive choice and LGBT rights.

Cleveland Marshall law professor and noted elections expert Candice Hoke briefly considered running before the holidays, but decided against it. Neuhardt’s name, which had been bandied about in the fall, came up again last week, and it turns out she is seriously considering entering the race. She’s spending this week gauging the support for her run. Neuhardt, from central Ohio’s seventh congressional district, ran for the congressional seat in 2008 but lost to Republican Steve Austria. She’s an attorney with Thompson Hine, based in the firm’s Columbus and Dayton office.

Because she doesn’t have an official campaign treasurer and can’t accept donations yet, Ohio Daily Blog is asking people to pledge to her campaign, promising to give the list of supporters to her if she decides to run. So far, it’s gotten $6,555 in pledges from 40 people. In addition, there’s the Draft Sharen Neuhardt page on Facebook, and a Twitter feed at #runsharenrun. — Anastasia Pantsios

UPDATE: Apparently, the response was good. Neuhardt, who had said she would spend this week assessing the level of support for her to enter the race to become the Democratic candidate for Ohio secretary of state and come to a decision by the end of the week, made up her mind early: She’s in. She has pulled petitions and will start gathering signatures immediately to meet the February 18 filing deadline.

The party had challenged members to find another candidate, so they did. The race is on. Visit the Draft Sharen Neuhardt Facebook Group for more information on Neuhardt’s campaign as it develops. — Anastasia Pantsios

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