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Political newcomer defeats incumbent with OVI arrest in statehouse primary

Sara Carruthers (Facebook) Sara Carruthers (Facebook)
Sara Carruthers with her children, Ralph and Elizabeth, and her father, Pat Carruthers. (Facebook) Sara Carruthers with her children, Ralph and Elizabeth, and her father, Pat Carruthers. (Facebook)
State Rep. Wes Retherford in court last year for a preliminary hearing on his OVI charge. (Photo: Cincinnati Enquirer) State Rep. Wes Retherford in court last year for a preliminary hearing on his OVI charge. (Photo: Cincinnati Enquirer)
Sara Carruthers celebrates her victory Tuesday night with Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones and Butler County Commissioner Cindy Carpenter. (Photo: Facebook) Sara Carruthers celebrates her victory Tuesday night with Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones and Butler County Commissioner Cindy Carpenter. (Photo: Facebook)
HAMILTON TWP (Fox19) -

A political newcomer and philanthropist beat out the three-term incumbent with an OVI conviction and a former lawmaker/county commissioner to advance as the Republican candidate for the 51st Ohio House District in the November election.

Sara Carruthers received 46.6 percent of the vote in Tuesdays primary, or 3,168 votes, over State Rep. Wes Retherford of Hamilton, who only mustered 31.8 percent (2,163 votes) and Greg Jolivette's 21.6 percent (1,469 votes), according to unofficial results.

Carruthers, 55, a descendant of the Procter & Gamble founders, said in a Facebook post late Tuesday she was honored to receive the Republican nomination to represent the district that represents Hamilton, Fairfield and Ross Township.

"I think people are ready for a change," she said in an interview Wednesday. "I think not much has been done in that position in quite some time and I think people are tired of the lifelong politicians. And I worked really hard and I had a crew that worked really hard. I think everybody is ready for a fresh face to have a different outlook. I am certainly passionate about this area, so I think it shows."

She said she has several issues: safer schools, reducing taxes "a little bit more," cutting red tape for tax credits to attract businesses, the opioid epidemic: "We have so many good paying jobs, we need people sober enough to do them."

In a recent Facebook video, Carruthers urges voters to get in touch with her about issues that matter the most to them.

"I'm willing to listen to any and all ideas because, ultimately, you will be my boss," she said in the video.

On Wednesday, she elaborated: "I feel that if you are a taxpayer, you are paying me and so I am at your mercy. You have to tell me what you want so I can go in and fight for it."

She comes from family with a long and deep history of helping their community.

The Carruthers family has contributed millions to Fort Hamilton Hospital, The Carruthers Family Center for Arts and Technology (an addition to the Fitton Center), Hamilton Community Foundation Fine Arts Scholarship, Colonial Foundation, YMCA, Greater Hamilton Civic Theatre, Hamilton Police Department, Hamilton Community Foundation Development Fund, TvHAMILTON, American Heart Association, the Fine Arts Wing of Wilson Junior High School, Boys and Girls Club of Hamilton, and the Christ Church of Glendale, as well as many others. 

In media interviews Tuesday night, Retherford blamed his loss on money, saying Carruthers spent $200,000, which included an $180,000 loan she put into her campaign and thousands of which she spent on television ads.

By comparison, he spent $13,000, according to our media partners at Cincinnati Enquirer.

But Retherford made more headlines over the past year when he was charged with suspicion of operating a vehicle while impaired than he did for representing his constituents. 

A loaded handgun also was found in his car on March 12, 2017, according to police. That prompted a second charge, one for improper handling of a firearm in a vehicle, a felony.

A Butler County grand jury declined to indict Retherford for the felony charge. A felony conviction would have ended his career in the Legislature.

Retherford was eventually found guilty on the misdemeanor OVI charge and sentenced to six months in jail. The sentence was suspended as long as he completed three days of an alcohol intervention program.

He has said he has been sober since his arrest.

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