Meet the six candidates vying for leadership of the Ohio Democrats at Statehouse News Bureau

Ohio Democratic Party leader David Pepper resigned in late 2020 and the race is set to replace him.

Six candidates applied as successors. Whoever ends up in the chair will lead a party that has been largely in the minority in the statehouse for the past 20 years and has not won a nationwide race in the past decade, save for three seats on the Ohio Supreme Court.

Antoinette Wilson, who led the campaign for new Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Brunner. Wilson, who owns a marketing firm, ran for the chair in 2014, the year Pepper was selected.

“I’ve been very, very adamant about the need for an 88 county strategy that is built from the ground up. It includes the strengths of what each county has, but more importantly, understanding where their challenges have been and figuring out how to do it differently, “said Wilson.

Craig Swartz is based in Upper Sandusky. He recently ran an unsuccessful campaign for the Senate. He says he has an economic blueprint for Ohio.

“And I have a feeling that Ohio, especially in rural Ohio, doesn’t get our message and don’t hear what we can do for it,” said Swartz.

Meryl Neiman is a director of the Ohio Progressive Action Leaders (OPAL) and said she will focus on long-term work in building a voter base.

“We have to expand the electorate to win, which means a different approach than a campaign cycle, that we have to do the harder, slower job of connecting with people all year round, registering people and knocking on doors” so Neiman said.

Gary Josephson is now retired but led a union that went on strike against Ohio State University two decades ago. He lost in a Democratic elementary school for the Ohio House last year.

“Ohio is like a bombed-out country that doesn’t have what it did when I was young,” said Josephson. “Now we’re talking about what we can build, what we can do together.”

Vanessa Enoch has a PhD in Politics and Social Change and experience in Political Strategy. She is a two-time Congressional candidate from Butler County.

“I’m a nontraditional candidate. I’ve worked mostly outside the system for change to improve communities across the state,” said Enoch.

David Niven, professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati, said whoever gets the top job for Ohio’s Dems will have their work cut out for them.

“Ohio is whiter than the nation. It is older than the nation. It is less educated than the nation. This is not the formula the Democrats are good at right now, “said Niven.

Another candidate, Summit County Councilor Liz Walters, was previously the State Party Executive Director. At this point, she declined a recent interview.

The State Democratic Party will elect its new leader on January 14th.

Comments are closed.