Willis Blackshear announced he’s running for state representative. Photo by Jim Otte.

Blackshear Jr. announces run for Dayton-area statehouse seat

Willis Blackshear Jr, an outreach specialist with the Montgomery County Auditor’s office and son of former County Recorder Willis Blackshear Sr., announced his candidacy for state representative for the 39th House District.

He will run as a Democrat in the March 17, 2020 primary election. The district, which is overwhelmingly Democratic, includes most of the city of Dayton and Jefferson Twp. Current state Rep. Fred Strahorn, could not run again due to term limits.

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Surrounded by family and supporters, Blackshear, 26, made his announcement in the parking lot of the Wright Dunbar Event Center.

While there has not been a party endorsement, prominent county Democratic leaders stood behind Blackshear during his announcement, signaling local party support.

Blackshear said he wants to continue to represent the area well and bring some fresh ideas into the political arena.

“I am a young candidate with fresh ideas and I understand the problems facing not only the 39th district, but also districts around the state,” he said. “I think we need a young leader who is going to work tirelessly on behalf of the citizens of the 39th district and for the people around the state.”

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Montgomery County Democratic Party Chair Mark Owens said that Monday’s announcement was the first official one for the party regarding Strahorn’s seat by a Democratic candidate and it is good to see young people come forward to seek leadership positions in Ohio.

“Another candidate, Jo’el Thomas-Jones, has taken out a petition to run,” Owens said. ‘I’ve also heard that Dayton Unit NAACP President Derrick Foward has considered it. I don’t know if he is going forward or not. “

Thomas-Jones ran unsuccessfully for school board two years ago, and Foward said he has not gone forward with any plans for the seat as of Monday.

Republican Party Chair Phil Plummer did not respond to a request to comment on Monday’s announcement or if the party would be putting up any candidates for the 39th district seat.

Strahorn represented the area in the legislature for 16 of the past 18 years and he is the only Democrat in the Miami Valley delegation. Republicans did not run a candidate in the district in 2018 or 2016. The last time there was a competitive race in the district, Strahorn won 77% of the vote in 2014.

Blackshear Jr is the son of former longtime Montgomery County Recorder Willis E. Blackshear, a Montgomery County Democratic Party stalwart who worked to increase black voter participation and protect citizens from predatory lenders. He died in February 2018 following a battle with cancer.

“I know my dad couldn’t be here physically to see me finally run for office but I got a feeling he’s up in Heaven with a big smile on his face,” Blackshear Jr.

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