T.J. O’Hara has no illusions that he’ll be president of the United States next January.
But that’s not stopping the 60-year-old Cincinnati native and former Reynolds and Reynolds executive from running an independent write-in campaign in hopes of changing the nature of political discourse in America.
O’Hara was working in the financial sector just before the collapse of 2008, and said that crisis had deep political roots. He devoted himself to researching the issue and wrote books about the fracture between political parties, hoping a different type of candidate would step up.
In the end, he did it himself.
“You can never orchestrate change unless somebody’s willing to take that first step,” he said. “So after long months of discussing and looking into what the challenges would be — and it takes a little bit of courage to actually step up and do it — we decided to create a campaign of contrast.”
O’Hara grew up in Cincinnati, graduating from St. Xavier High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree and a law degree from the University of Cincinnati while moonlighting as a tennis club pro, according to his website. He’s married to a Miami Valley native, Kim Sisneros, who graduated from Greenon High School and Ohio State. They now live in California.
O’Hara said he served in several different roles for Reynolds & Reynolds from 1981-90, overseeing acquisitions and divestitures and managing the division that was eventually spun off as Relizon and now exists as Workflow One. He then formed a consulting group that turned around struggling businesses.
He has been speaking at high schools and colleges in southwest Ohio this week. On Wednesday at Wright State University, he addressed Matt Filipic’s American National Government class, telling students that the current system is dominated by two parties that inhibit competition, hinder great individual leadership and do not produce an efficient government that best serves “we the people.”
“We have 310 million people in the United States, and I always like to ask people two questions,” O’Hara said. “Do you seriously believe that there are only two people in the United States at this time that can intelligently lead our country? And do you have any historical point of reference that would remotely suggest that the Democratic or Republicans have any hope of identifying them?”
O’Hara is spending time in his homestate, but Ohioans can’t vote for him this fall. While O’Hara has the backing of the Modern Whig Party and said he is a ballot-qualified write-in candidate in some states, Ohio is not one of them.
Ohioans will see seven presidential candidates on their ballot this fall:
* Socialist Stewart Alexander
* Independent Richard Duncan
* The Constitution Party’s Virgil Goode
* Libertarian Gary Johnson
* Democrat Barack Obama
* Republican Mitt Romney
* The Green Party’s Jill Stein.
Six others — Susan Daniels, Nelson Keyton, Jill Reed, Platt Robertson, Randall Terry and Mike Vargo — are certified write-in candidates, meaning their names will not appear on the ballot, but votes for them will be counted.