Contested primaries featured for the Ohio House 56th District seat

Contested Democratic primary for statehouse seat is rare in Warren County

The primary races for the Ohio House 56th District which represents Mason and Lebanon as well as Turtlecreek, Union and Deerfield townships have some interesting facets for voters in both the Republican and Democratic parties.

This is the first time since 1992 there is a contested Democratic primary race for a state house seat in Warren County, according to Bethe Goldenfield, county Democratic Party Chair. Except for judicial races, Goldenfield said it’s the first time Warren County Democrats has been able to field a full slate of candidates since 1986.

The Democratic primary features one of the youngest people to ever run for a seat in the Ohio House of Representatives. Sam Cao, a 17-year-old Mason High School senior, is a candidate and will turn 18 in October, about three weeks prior to the Nov. 8 general election when he can legally cast his first vote and hold public office. Cao is running against fellow Mason resident Joy Bennett in the Aug. 2 primary.

The Republican primary pits two well-known and experienced city council members from Lebanon and Mason. Kathy Grossmann, a Mason councilwoman and former mayor, is running against Lebanon Vice Mayor Adam Mathews.

State representatives serve two-year terms and will receive a base salary of $69,876 starting in 2023. State representatives receive higher salaries if they serve in a House leadership position or as a committee chair. Representatives can only serve four consecutive terms before sitting out a term.

The winners of the Aug. 8 primary election will advance to the Nov. 8 general election where voters will decide on the candidate to replace term-limited incumbent GOP state Rep. Paul Zeltwanger.

GOP Primary: Grossmann vs. Mathews

Kathy Grossmann

Kathy Grossmann said she is running for the open Ohio House seat because she “is the most experienced, proven conservative” candidate who will represent Warren County at the Statehouse.

“My record is the best and evidence of my dedication to fiscal and social conservatism,” Grossmann said. “As Mason’s mayor, I welcomed over 4,000 new jobs and $600 million in new capital investments. I led careful public spending, low taxes and lowered debt. Mason has a top bond rating; low taxes; excellent public services, infrastructure, parks and amenities, which benefit all of Warren County.”

A businesswoman, Grossmann said voters should elect her as the GOP nominee because in her more than six years in public office, she has demonstrated her dedication to uphold conservative values that serve the public best.

“As Mason mayor, I got the things done that conservative Republican voters care about most,” she said. “I brought forth economic development and new infrastructure to the region: 4,000 new jobs and $600 million in capital investments. I fought for jobs and businesses during the pandemic with the best local COVID relief programs in the nation. I passed ethics reform, pro-life, pro-family and pro-safety legislation and fully funded Police, Fire & Safety. I am 100% Pro-Life. I support 2nd Amendment rights, law enforcement, expanding school choice, lowering taxes and conservative stewardship over taxpayer funds. Career politicians use local office to build resumes, but I worked to get things done and build skills that ready me for the public’s next challenges in Columbus.”

If elected, Grossmann said her three top priorities at the Statehouse would be to: Advance and protect life by upholding and reinforcing Ohio’s Heartbeat and Human Rights Protection Act; advance ethics reform through transparent government culture in Columbus and local governments; and advance Ohio families through economic development; expanding school choice; medical freedom and right to work; foster care and adoption support and reform.

Adam Mathews

Adam Mathews said he’s seeking the Ohio House District 56 seat because as a city councilman and a small business attorney, he seen the impact that government regulation and overreach can have on hampering the American dream.

“Our city of Lebanon successfully embodies and enacted pro-life, pro-business, and pro-liberty policy, and I believe Ohio would benefit from following our lead,” he said. “I am encouraged by unanimous support from our conservative city council. I will continue to promote and protect the conservative values that make Warren County great and Ohio strong for my children and our communities.”

Mathews is serving as Lebanon’s vice mayor. He said voters should elect him as the GOP nominee because he has successfully enacted and protected conservative victories, as well as given of his time, talent, and treasure to build communities where government shouldn’t operate.

He said he stands with police, helped to pass Lebanon’s pro-life ordinance, and is still able to navigate political factions to serve our community, collaborating and standing firm as needed.

Mathews said, if elected, his top three priorities will be to work on making Ohio the most pro-life state possible, strengthen our education system and workforce, and defend police and 2nd Amendment rights.

Democratic Primary: Bennett vs. Cao

Joy Bennett

Joy Bennett of Mason said she was encouraged to run for the Democratic nomination for the open Ohio House District 56 seat. That got her to thinking about the possibility of running for the open seat.

“I earned a lot of name recognition over the last three years, and my Republican counterparts hold extreme views that don’t reflect the full beautiful diversity - religious, spiritual, cultural, professional, etc. - we have in our district” she said

Bennett, a small business owner, said her background is in communication and facilitating problem-solving that works for as many people as possible.

““I am committed to serving our community – everyone here, whether we see eye to eye on any given issues or not.... This year, we get to choose new elected officials. Elections allows us to hold our government officials accountable.”


If elected, Bennett said her top three priorities will be the well-being and safety of children, particularly in their earliest years; improving the quality of education statewide; and creating more stable jobs that pay a living wage.

“We have had taxation without representation in our district for eight years,” Bennett said. “The current representative (Paul Zeltwanger) didn’t show up, didn’t respond to voter questions or needs, and didn’t even go to Columbus when he was supposed to. He has one of the worst attendance records in the state (legislature).”

Sam Cao

Mason High School senior Sam Cao decided to run for the open Ohio House District 56 seat because he was “tired of all the political and societal divisiveness.”

Cao said in the past few years he’s seen the polarization deteriorate our individual and collective wellbeing. He said his platform will always promote compassion, love and unity and wants to represent the voices of the younger generations in Columbus.

“I would like to contribute my knowledge and life experience to the betterment of Ohio,” he said. “Since the start of the pandemic, the Asian community has been under attack. I want to advance civil rights for the minority communities whose safety have been jeopardized so that we can truly live in a just society.”

“It’s time for the torch to be passed down to a new era of leadership,” Cao said. “All voters, young and old, can relate to the idealism that youth embodies. When the youth is empowered, our community will be empowered.”

If elected, his top three priorities will be to preserve the environment; destigmatizing mental health; and common-sense gun reform.

“I am 17 and I am the youngest ever to run in Ohio and will be to take office in the nation’s entire history,” Cao said. “This campaign will prove that empowering the youth will yield a tremendously positive impact on Ohio and the whole nation. I will inspire and motivate the youth along with all of us to become the best version of ourselves. Many have been indifferent to public service and politics because there is a perception that the current system has failed us. My campaign will prove that we have the capacity to change the system for the better and we can build a better future for all of us based on love, compassion and unity.”

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