COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A 19-year-old Miami University student is running for a seat in the Ohio House of Representatives, campaigning on bipartisanship and an end to extremism.
Sam Lawrence, a second-year political science student, is the Democratic nominee running to unseat two-term Republican Rep. Sara Carruthers in Ohio’s 47th District. The newly redrawn Butler County district includes the cities of Hamilton and Oxford.
Lawrence is facing a difficult path to victory in the heavily Republican district. Carruthers first won in 2018 with 60% of the vote and was reelected in 2020 with 93%. Still, Lawrence is hopeful his candidacy will energize young voters.
“I saw, frankly, a lack of young people in our government,” Lawrence said. “I think it’s important that young people get involved and so [this] opportunity made itself present and I jumped on it.”
The campaign launched in February with a coalition of around 40 Miami University students and Butler County residents that Lawrence said reached “every single corner of this district,” including small towns like Millville and McGonigle. In eight months, Lawrence has amassed nearly 80,000 followers on Twitter and 48,000 followers on TikTok.
Lawrence said he has been embraced by the Ohio Democratic Party and that his age hasn’t hindered the campaign. He said the majority of responses to his candidacy have been positive as voters are eager for a new perspective in government.
“People are so excited to see someone young running, even if they don’t agree with all my politics,” Lawrence said. “They’re excited to see a new generation making its way into government.”
On the campaign trail, Lawrence said he hears from voters concerned about gun violence, women’s reproductive health, and the fate of other rights like same-sex marriage. Still, Lawrence said the most significant issue driving his campaign is corruption.
Allegations that FirstEnergy paid millions of dollars for lawmakers to pass a billion-dollar buyout for nuclear plants have been called the largest bribery scandal in the state’s history by federal attorneys. In addition, Ohio’s congressional districts passed with a party-line, Republican majority vote and have been struck down by the state’s Supreme Court five times.
“I wish for a politics that values common sense over corruption,” Lawrence said. “I’m not going to be loyal to the Democrats or the Republicans; I’m going to be my own legislator [and] represent the needs of Butler County.”
Lawrence said his lack of legislative experience is why he wouldn’t be influenced by outside factors and special interests. Carruthers argues this is why Lawrence is wrong for the district. Manager for the Carruthers campaign, Chris Galloway, said Lawrence’s election “would be a disaster for the people of Butler County.”
“As the recent candidate forum made clear, he admits to not knowing how the legislative process works, he hasn’t closely followed statehouse activities and he would have no ability to have a positive impact on any issue as a member of the minority party,” Galloway said.
Carruthers touts endorsements from the Ohio State Medical Association, the Butler County sheriff, and ACT Ohio. Galloway argues voters are not interested in Lawrence and said he “has no life experience, pays no local taxes and no history with the people of Butler County other than living in a dorm room in Oxford.”
“I’m not using Butler County for Twitter fame and to be a star on TikTok,” Carruthers said. “This is my home and I care what happens here.”
Lawrence is endorsed by Pro-Choice Ohio, Moms Demand Action, and Democratic Ohio Senate candidate Tim Ryan. He said the answers to Ohio’s problems lay in bipartisan, common-sense solutions and in bringing an end to polarizing rhetoric.
“I’m proudly a Democrat running in a red district — that doesn’t mean we can’t win,” Lawrence said. “We are forming that coalition of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents who are done with the extremism.”