Democrats have heard a lot from Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher and Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner who both announced early last year their intention to vie in the May 4 primary for a shot at Republican Rob Portman for the U.S. Senate seat George Voinovich is vacating. (Portman’s opponent, car dealer Tom Ganley, dropped out and will run for Congress in Oh-13 instead, against Betty Sutton.)
Both Fisher and Brunner have filed their petitions to be on the Democratic ballot — but so have two other candidates: Traci “T.J.” Johnson of the Columbus area and Charlena Renee Bradley of Lyndhurst. Bradley is a complete cipher with no record of political activity on any level or available resume. Johnson reportedly worked for Fisher when he was attorney general from 1991-95, but it’s unclear whether there’s any ongoing relationship between them.
Johnson has a rudimentary website that was last updated in July, featuring a video of the candidate reciting woodenly from a telepromter, and a short message that suggests she may be trying to trump Brunner’s gender advantage: “You have an opportunity to make history in Ohio. With this election, you will be electing the first women and African American to the United States Senate for the State of Ohio. Let's send a message that we are tired of business as usual and that the United States Senate should reflect the richness of cultural diversity that is represented across this Great State of Ohio and the United States of America.”
If Johnson has any credentials for the job beyond being black and female, she’s not sharing them on her website. Still, a poorly reported AP story running in papers across the state refers to Brunner’s campaign as “lagging” and says she is running without the support of the state Democratic party (true, but so is Fisher). The article suggests that Bradley and Johnson could “spell trouble” for Brunner and “divide” the women’s vote. If anything, they’d be more likely to siphon off a bit of it, but since low-information voters tend not to vote in primaries to begin with, even that is mere speculation. And their petitions have yet to be validated. — Anastasia Pantsios