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Sen. O’Brien faces challenger in DePizzo

WARREN — Chris DePizzo, a Republican who last year lost to U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan for Congress, has filed paperwork to run in 2020 for the Ohio Senate’s 32nd District seat.

DePizzo of Cuyahoga Falls created a campaign committee with the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office to seek the position currently held by state Sen. Sean J. O’Brien, D-Bazetta, who plans to seek re-election next year to a second four-year term.

The district includes all of Trumbull and Ashtabula counties and a portion of Geauga County.

O’Brien said of a possible DePizzo challenge: “I’m fine with that. I’ve got to get through a primary first. I haven’t looked that far down the road. He might not be the only one.”

O’Brien said he’s heard Republican Sandy O’Brien — a former 12-year Ashtabula County auditor who’s unsuccessfully run for statewide office in 2006, 2010 and 2018 — could also run for the seat. She hadn’t filed paperwork or declared her candidacy as of Wednesday.

Dec. 18 is the filing deadline for Democrats and Republicans to file for the March 17, 2020, primary.

O’Brien, the incumbent Democrat, said, “I’m going to have an opponent. It’s the nature of the beast and we’ll move forward and let the people decide. I will argue that I’m the best candidate.”

He also addressed DePizzo currently not living in the district, saying he doesn’t object to opponents “as long as whoever runs lives in the district. Someone not living in the district is concerning.”

The Ohio Constitution states that a candidate running for the state Senate must be a resident of the district for at least one year immediately before the election. If DePizzo runs, he has to move into the district by Nov. 3 of this year.

Attempts Wednesday to seek comment from DePizzo were unsuccessful.

His website — chrisdepizzo.com — doesn’t indicate he’s running for the state Senate. But it states: “Change is coming to Northeast Ohio. Our families and our communities deserve better. On the ballot or in the community, we are committed to creating a strong and prosperous region.”

On his campaign form, DePizzo listed 4791 Belmont Ave. in Liberty as his committee’s address. That is the location of DePizzo Landscape & Lawn Maintenance.

O’Brien, the Senate assistant minority whip, beat Republican Robert J. Allen in 2016 56.4 percent to 43.6 percent to capture the seat. The position was open because Democrat Capri Cafaro of Liberty couldn’t seek re-election under the state’s term-limits law. That same law would prohibit O’Brien from seeking re-election in 2024 if he wins the 2020 race.

Before being a state senator, O’Brien served three terms in the Ohio House.

DePizzo ran for elected office for the first time last year, losing to Ryan, D-Howland, in the 13th Congressional District race.

Ryan received 61 percent of the vote compared to 39 percent for DePizzo. That district includes portions of Mahoning, Trumbull, Portage, Summit and Stark counties.

DePizzo received 42.2 percent of the vote in Trumbull County, but the northern part of the county, which leans Republican, isn’t included in the 13th District.

dskolnick@tribtoday.com

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