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Tina Maharath Won A Seat In Ohio's Legislature With No Help From Democrats

Tina Maharath, Ohio Senator-elect

Newly elected to Ohio’s 3rd Senate district seat, Democrat Tina Maharath credits her unexpected win to knocking on a lot of doors.

“I initially started knocking on doors about a year and a half ago when I was initially getting some signatures for my petition, and I just kept going and going until I couldn’t go anymore, just letting everyone know about my race, let everyone know I’m a candidate for the Democratic Party,” Maharath says.

Maharath, a 27-year-old Canal Winchester resident, beat Republican state Rep. Anne Gonzalez of Westerville in an upset for Democrats. Republicans had long held the Senate seat, which covers much of eastern Franklin County and part of Columbus’ West Side.

Maharath, who was born and raised in Ohio, spoke to WOSU while vacationing in Bangkok, Thailand, which is also where she got the news of her victory.

“Friends and family blew up my phone,” Maharath says.

Maharath, a workforce analyst, won her raceby about 705 votes, after Franklin County election officials counted provisional ballots and late absentee ballots this week.

Maharath claims to be the first Asian-American state senator in Ohio, and the first Asian-American woman in the General Assembly.

“Ohio is not up to par in terms of the subject of diversity,” Maharath says.  “Of course politics and money in politics plays a big part of that.  But when it comes down to minorities wanting to step it up, or women wanting to step it up, I feel like both parties in politics in general are not providing a seat at the table for us.”

Maharath also did not receive support from the Ohio Democratic Party for her campaign. 

“Clearly my party didn’t support me, they actually just left me abandoned in my race, although it was a very competitive seat,” Maharath says.

Since her victory, though, Maharath says she's heard from several state Democratic elected leaders coming to her side.

Meanwhile, her Republican opponents spent more than $1 million on attack ads.  They focused on personal issues in her background, such as her involvement in a fatal hit-and-run accident when she was a teenager. Maharath says she actually benefited from those ads.

“Definitely a big waste of money, but yet again, I guess it was also a positive perspective for me because I gained some audience perspective out of it," Maharath says. "They reached out to me to get the real story."

Maharath says as a state senator, she plans to focus on getting money out of politics.  She also wants to work on continuing the expansion of Medicaid and improving charter schools.

Debbie Holmes has worked at WOSU News since 2009. She has hosted All Things Considered, since May 2021. Prior to that she was the host of Morning Edition and a reporter.