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First-timer Tapped To Run For City Council

Thomas Bradley, WOSU News
Columbus political newcomer Elizabeth Brown seeks a vacant city council seat this fall.

Election season is a bad time for politicians to be embroiled in controversy. That’s what Columbus City Hall democrats face as November approaches. 

But city council will get at least one newcomer next year after councilwoman Michelle Mills resigned. Elizabeth Brown, the daughter of Ohio U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, seeks the open seat. WOSU has this profile.

Running a political campaign is arduous for the most-seasoned politicians. Add impending childbirth and a new house to the mix and that’s what Elizabeth Brown is juggling. And the 31-year-old has roughly 80 days to make her case to voters.

“Really what it comes down to is focusing on what needs to get done," she said. 

Brown said that means getting out to every community event she can between now and when her daughter is expected to arrive in October.

“I definitely want to spend the time with her that I need to," Brown said. "But I will also focus on the campaign that needs to happen before November.”

Brown is no stranger to the political arena, though this is her first run for an elected seat. She gets some of her political chops from dad, Democrat U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown.

“But for me, my own personal journey was really rooted in the non-profit work I’ve done. I was a member of AmeriCorps with a program called City Year...where we would work with public school students principally on improving literacy," she said. "My Corps year was spent in Philadelphia, and I really just learned about the intersection between public policy and poverty and job creation and wage issues.”

Brown most recently worked for the city’s Economic Development Office. Her campaign will focus on jobs, poverty and neighborhoods.

“We also have to make sure that we’re rising to meet the challenge of a  growing city. Columbus is growing, and that’s not going to stop anytime soon," she said. "We have new challenges that come with that. And as we prosper overall as a city, we have to make sure that everyone has a shot in sharing in that prosperity.”

Brown gets the opportunity to run because councilwoman Michelle Mills abruptly canceled her campaign and resigned her position on council earlier this week. Mills gave no reason for the move, but she, and three other council members, - Andrew Ginther, Eileen Payley and Shannon Hardin - traveled to the Big Ten Championship Football game with lobbyist John Raphael. Raphael is under federal scrutiny in a bribery investigation. There were questions about how and when Mills paid for her trip.

When asked whether it’s a good time to step into Columbus politics as a democrat, Brown said, "It is a wonderful time to be involved in Columbus politics."

"I understand that there are sort of more complicated issues that people serving in office right now are having to navigate through and talk to the public about. And I expect them to keep having that conversation."

If voters choose Brown, she will be the first council member, since 1997, to be elected to the position without first being appointed. And when asked about the lack of political diversity on the all-democratic council, Brown said that trend reflects the city’s electorate.

“I don’t take issue with that. I’m really excited to wage a campaign and ask for the vote and start my term based on that," Brown said. 

"But at the same time, I know that all of the people on council work really hard right now to earn those votes. And everyone come January will have been elected to it even though they may have been appointed at another time.”

Brown faces competition from seven other candidates, including two incumbents. Four will be elected.

Other candidates include: Zach Klein, Jaiza Page, John Rush, Besmira Sharra, Ibrahima Sow, Dimitrious Stanley, and Michael Stinziano.