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Krista Magaw, the Democratic candidate for Ohio House District 71, is shown here at the Emporium — one of several coffee shops she’s scouted as places to meet with potential constituents. (Photo by Lauren "Chuck" Shows)

Yellow Springer Krista Magaw to run for Ohio House

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Yellow Springs voters will see a familiar name on the ballot this November: the village’s own Krista Magaw.

A local resident and former executive director of Tecumseh Land Trust, Magaw is running as the Democratic candidate for representative of Ohio House District 71, which encompasses all of Clinton County, the eastern half of Greene County — including Yellow Springs — and a southern portion of Clark County.

Magaw fills a candidacy vacated by James Duffee, who won an uncontested primary in March. By Ohio law, a primary candidate can withdraw from a race and be replaced with another candidate.

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According to a press release from the Greene County Democratic Party, Magaw’s platform will focus on “environmental issues, unfair funding of public schools, unfairly drawn legislative districts and lack of access to health care in rural areas.“

“[Magaw] has participated in development and implementation of a number of successful policies ranging from Federal Farm Bill conservation programs and State Medicaid services for people with severe mental illness to local land use plans and conservation strategies,” the press release reads.

Magaw spoke with the News last week at the Emporium in downtown Yellow Springs — a kind of de facto public headquarters where she can work and meet with folks as she begins her campaign.

“Well, it’s the living room of Yellow Springs,” Magaw said with a laugh. “I’m looking for coffee shops all through the area, as a matter of fact, so I’ve got some scouted out in Jamestown, South Charleston, a couple of possibilities in Wilmington.”

Magaw, who holds a master’s degree in public policy, has volunteered with the Greene County Democrats for the last several years. She said she has “stumped door-to-door” for presidential candidates and regional levies, but had not considered running for office until recently.

“I decided it was time — especially in Ohio, with our gerrymandered Legislature that keeps on disrespecting the votes of the people, it seems like, and trying to unwind our balanced districts and our reproductive rights,” Magaw said. “So we’ve got to get our bench up at the local level.”

Having grown up in the village of McConnelsville on the Muskingum River in Ohio, and having lived in Yellow Springs for many years, Magaw is well-versed in small-town and rural life. The decline of the rural small town, she said, is another aspect that fuels her candidacy.

“So many of the small counties are not applying for monies that are on the table at the state and federal level right now,” she said. “I think that’s the kind of thing legislation can help with — working with counties and the administration to pull things together.”

Her long career with the nonprofit Tecumseh Land Trust, she added, has both taught her how to “maximize resources” and put her in touch with a lot of folks in rural areas of Greene and Clark counties. Yellow Springs, she said, is an “unusual small town” in that there are active advocates working to secure available state and federal resources to address such issues as affordable housing and preschool programming in the village. Magaw said that, if elected, she would aim to help connect more small and rural communities within Greene, Clark and Clinton counties to the same kinds of resources.

“Most of the small towns in District 71 do not have the level of advocacy and expertise that Yellow Springs does, and there are ways [other towns] could work together and tap into those,” she said. “There’s little effort at coordination, and state and federal agencies, quite honestly, have shrunk and shrunk and shrunk — but often the resources are there, and people just don’t know about them.”

She added that, from her view, helping connect urban and rural areas of the counties within District 71 is also crucial for “the best outcomes” in terms of strengthening communities.

“I think in Ohio, land-use planning has never been a popular cause — but we have excellent soil, and arguably the best water supply in the world,” she said. “Our climate is changing and we need to be able to grow our food — we need to take care of these resources. And we could use some job growth, by the way, so let’s do it in the right places, and let’s do that housing development in the most cost-effective place as well.”

In November, Magaw will run against Republican candidate Levi Dean, son of longtime Republican incumbent Rep. Bill Dean, and a current member of Xenia’s city council. Acknowledging that District 71 has historically voted Republican, at about 68% of voters, Magaw said she hopes her commitment to listen to her constituents, if she’s elected, will appeal to voters of all stripes.

“It’s not that I’m naive about political divisions in America, but I did grow up within a bipartisan household,” she said. “And I think not respecting the voters’ decisions … is not working, so we’ve got to get stronger local voices.”

She pointed to the August 2023 ballot initiative that would have made it harder to amend the Ohio state constitution, raising the threshold for passing future constitutional changes from a simple majority to 60 percent; the initiative was opposed by multipartisan groups and was rejected by voters.

“I was shocked that legislators were asking us to devalue our own vote,” Magaw said. “But I feel like the Libertarians and Democrats really came together on that issue — I didn’t decide right then to run [for office], but it did really motivate me.”

Magaw also pointed to a redistricting reform ballot initiative currently gathering signatures for November’s election. The initiative, led by Citizens Not Politicians, aims to remove politicians and lobbyists from the redistricting process and replace them with a 15-member citizen group that would oversee redistricting in an effort to put a stop to gerrymandering.

“Redistricting is critical — not just passing the amendment, though I think this does look like an even-handed way to form and reform various districts over time, and more promising than what we voted in before,” she said. “But I think a lot of what we need to do with fairer districts is look at what Ohio needs and reprioritize what needs to happen where —  where do we need more rural coalition to strengthen communities? Where does it make sense that resources can be shared or added to benefit especially our smaller communities, and our larger communities, too? … Let’s get together and look at that. We’re better together, right?”

During the course of her News interview at the Emporium, a local resident stopped by to talk to Magaw, saying they had just joined her campaign team. Magaw later said she hopes to interact with folks in all three of the counties represented in District 71 in the same way.

“Finding coffee shops and anyone who will invite me to have just a little coffee event or something like that — I’m trying to make that my priority for the next couple of months,” Magaw said. “This is a time for me to listen.”

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