The Ohio U.S. Senate race on the Democratic side gets more bizarre by the day.

For a year, the only primary candidates were Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher and Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner. Then, at the filing deadline in mid-February, two more candidates materialized out of thin air: Charlena Renee Bradley of Lyndhurst and Traci “TJ” Johnson of the Columbus area. Both filed petitions to run despite no visible campaigns. Bradley did turn up last week at the Wood County endorsement meeting; Johnson has had a rudimentary website up since last year, which she only redesigned and updated in the past few weeks.

Last week, both women were declared ineligible; they’d failed to gather the required 1,000 valid signatures. That wasn’t surprising, considering the high rate of invalid signatures even in a carefully run petition circulation drive. Neither candidate appeared to have any kind of staff or volunteer corps.
Now Johnson is stepping up to make attacks on Brunner — attacks which closely echo those made incessantly by the Republican Party during Brunner’s entire term in office. She claims Brunner’s office is engaging in political gamesmanship and deliberately keeping her off the ballot.

Her reckless charges suggest that Fisher did not try to dilute Brunner’s appeal to female voters by urging two more women into the race, as some had suspected. Johnson’s real backers might be the Ohio Republican Party or the campaign of Republican contender Rob Portman.

For the record, the secretary of state’s office doesn’t validate petitions; that’s the job of the bipartisan local board of election in the county in which it was circulated. So Brunner and her staff had no involvement in deciding who was eligible to be on the ballot. Nice try, Traci, but no dice. — Anastasia Pantsios

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