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We’ve reported recently on how unhappy many progressives are with the Ohio Democratic Party’s current candidate for secretary of state in next year’s election. State Representative Jennifer Garrison of Marietta has a track record of being anti-gay marriage and anti-choice and no apparent interest in elections issues, the most significant part of the secretary of state’s office.

So many in Cuyahoga County are excited that Candace Hoke, an associate professor at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law at Cleveland State, is exploring the possibility of running in the Democratic primary against Garrison. One of her key specialties is election law, and until recently, she headed the nonpartisan Center for Election Integrity at CSU.

There’s reason to be leery about a Democratic candidate coming out of Cuyahoga County right now, given the rampant corruption investigations. But Hoke is ideally situated to finesse that. As head of the Center, she hasn’t been involved in partisan politics and isn’t affiliated with any party faction that could come back to haunt her in Republican attack ads. In fact, her bio says, “Professor Hoke’s highest commitment in elections reform is complete integrity and transparency. She considers herself a political independent, having worked as a volunteer in both Republican and Democratic campaigns since the 1970s.”

If that makes anyone question her commitment to Democratic principles, it shouldn’t. While Garrison and her supporters have been brushing off her extreme positions on choice and gay marriage, saying that the secretary of state’s office doesn’t address these, Hoke feels differently. She says, “If you don’t believe in equal treatment for everyone, I’d have to wonder if you could be trusted to treat everyone equally in applying election law.”

Hoke’s biggest liabilities are her lack of experience in campaigning and fundraising, and the state party’s apparent strong support for the controversial Garrison. But she could be a stronger general-election candidate. While Garrison would be spending her time trying to keep the Democratic base from deserting, Hoke would be the only candidate able to insightfully discuss the ins and outs of elections. Unlike Garrison, she could make Republican Jon Husted look ignorant. — Anastasia Pantsios

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