Analysis: The election of the next Ohio Democratic Party chairman is complicated

Seldom happens in the Ohio Democratic Party that is as smooth as silk.

Make the election of a new party leader to be held when the party’s executive committee meets in Columbus on January 14th.

The party needs a new leader with the resignation of Cincinnati’s David Pepper. As it is written, there are five candidates to replace him.

I’ve been told that the election of a new party chairman in the 2022 gubernatorial race is in a mess as several potential candidates – including Mayor John Cranley of Cincinnati and Nan Whaley of Dayton – battle for the position to potentially take on GOP incumbent Mike DeWine in the year 2022. No Democrat has officially announced a candidacy; Some sniff the air to see if the time has come.

On Wednesday morning, Whaley announced in a video tweet that she would not run for re-election as Mayor of Dayton, leading to speculation that she will run for governor in 2022 – or possibly for the seat of the US Senate, which is the Republican Incumbent Rob Portman holds.

Today I announce that I will not run for re-election. I think we turned a corner in Dayton. This is the best job I’ve ever had, but I believe our city can only continue to grow if we give space and opportunity to new managers and new ideas.

– Nan Whaley (@nanwhaley) January 6, 2021

Which means that one of the most famous African American leaders of the Ohio Democratic Party, former Mayor of Dayton, Rhine McLin, could be expelled from the party leadership.

This is the deal:

Democratic party sources tell me that Summit County Council member Liz Walters and former executive director of the Ohio Democratic Party is the lead candidate for Pepper.

The others are Antoinette Wilson, who led Jennifer Brunner’s successful campaign for the Ohio Supreme Court last fall. Vanessa Enoch, a Butler County Democrat who took over GOP Congressman Warren Davidson in the last two elections and was badly beaten both times; Will Klatt, a Columbus Party activist; and Gary Josephson, former union organizer and unsuccessful candidate for Ohio House.

But Walters is clearly the front runner.

And Walters is closely linked to Whaley, who is now probably more motivated than ever to face DeWine next year.

Having a party machinery run by someone closely associated with one of the candidates is unlikely to get along very well with other potential candidates like Cranley, who also has a close friendship with Whaley, which could lead to a rivalry the gubernatorial nomination.

On Monday, DeWine may have given Whaley the motivation to make him governor next year.

Whaley has built a reputation for being a tough, competent, and successful mayor. She received high marks for her handling of the mass shootings in the Oregon District of Dayton in August 2019 – shootings that left nine dead and 17 wounded by a lone gunman.

The night after the shootings, DeWine appeared with Whaley at an emotional rally near the Oregon District. The two emerged from the rally as allies, pledging to advance a package of major weapons reforms through a Republican-led general assembly in Ohio in which the pro-gun lobby has tremendous influence.

When Governor DeWine spoke next to Mayor Nan Whaley in Dayton on Sunday, August 4, 2019 during a vigil at the site of a mass shooting, the crowd started chanting DeWine to “do something”!

DeWine gave in to that promise on Monday and signed the Stand Your Ground law.

Whaley was angry.

“I can not express my disappointment,” wrote Whaley in a tweet on Monday afternoon.

My statement on @GovMikeDeWine about signing the dangerous “Stand your Ground” bill.

– Nan Whaley (@nanwhaley) January 4, 2021

“Governor DeWine came to our town and stood on the stage for a vigil for our murdered friends and neighbors and then told us he was fighting gun violence with our community,” said Whaley. DeWine has made it clear that he opposes these dangerous policies, but he has again committed himself to the extreme elements of his own party. “

“Our state needs leaders of principle who stand up for what is right and not for what is politically easy,” she said.

Does that sound like the start of a speech about a campaign stump?

And now, with her announcement Wednesday morning that she won’t run for re-election as Mayor of Dayton, it seems even more likely that she will want to take over DeWine in 2022.

Senator Sherrod Brown, the highest-ranking democratically elected official in Ohio, is a fan of Walters and Whaley. It can’t hurt to have that kind of support – be it in a race for the chairman of the state party or a major contest for the governor.

There would be another, more immediate impact on the party should Walters be elected Chairman of the States Parties.

McLin, the former Mayor of Dayton and the first African American woman elected to the Ohio Senate, was the State Party vice chairman and serves as the State Party interim chairman until a new one is elected.

Former Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory, a member of the state executive committee, did not say who he supports to run the state party, but he did tell me that McLin – or another woman who is elected – McLin her post than lose will deputy chairman.

The party’s bylaws, Mallory said, require the vice chairman to be of a different gender than the state party’s chairman. So Walters would have to have a male vice chairman.

“It would be a shame to lose her, because Rhine has an influence that extends far beyond Ohio into the national party,” said Mallory, who is also a member of the Democratic National Committee.

McLin, acting chairman, sent an email appeal for donations on behalf of the party over the weekend. It’s hard to imagine that she wouldn’t want to play a role in the Ohio Democratic Party.

The next party chair, if it’s Walters or another woman, might be wise to find one for her.

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