The person who will chair the Ohio Democratic Party has a monumental task.
Despite claims by some, Ohio is solid purple in many ways. Since 1990, the Democrats haven’t won statewide executive offices until 2006, and the Republicans have a grip on state law and even take seats in the recent elections.
David Pepper has been Democratic Chairman since January 2015 and will take office after the 2014 national elections – a disaster for the party. He is leaving January 1st.
Pepper was able to clean up the party’s debt and put together a strong list of nationwide candidates in 2018. But in the end, the results matter. Those candidates lost two years ago, and Donald Trump won Ohio this year and four years ago.
The original plan was for the party to select a successor on December 29th. At a meeting on Tuesday, however, it was agreed to postpone it to January 14th to give the six interested candidates more time to speak to members of the party executive. Others can jump into the race too.
Vice-Chair Rhine McLin, a former Mayor of Dayton, will take control until an election is held to fill Pepper’s tenure, which expires in mid-2022.
Despite the delay, the committee heard from the six current candidates on Tuesday, each with three minutes to speak.
Three have no chance of winning and are unlikely to even be nominated. You are Gary Josephson, last in Democratic Elementary School for a seat at Ohio House in Columbus; Will Klatt, a work organizer currently with the Ohio Education Association; and Vanessa Enoch, who runs a consulting firm and has lost two congressional races.
The three most compelling candidates are Lou Gentile, a former Appalachian lawmaker; Liz Walters, a Summit County councilor and former ODP executive and policy director; and Antoinette Wilson, a political adviser to Columbus.
Wilson has an impressive résumé and led Jennifer Brunner’s successful campaign at the Ohio Supreme Court. She has participated in other national democratic victories and served as political director for President Bill Clinton’s re-election campaign in 1996. From 1991 to 1996 she worked for the party, among other things as political director and executive director.
However, an overwhelming part of her success has been confined to Franklin County, which means the Executive Committee doesn’t know her as well as Gentile and Walters do.
Of the six who spoke on Tuesday, Walters gave the best speech.
Walters has been an active member of the party since 2008 and spent approximately four years with the ODP as political director and then executive director before joining Summit County Council in 2016.
“The work that lies ahead is not small. it’s not easy, ”she wrote in her letter to the Executive Committee. “It is not achieved by a single person. We will all need it, and it will take more than one election cycle to permanently strengthen this institution we all love. “
There is talk that Walters would not get into this race if it did not have the support of US Senator Sherrod Brown.
When I asked Brown who he supports, he said, “I’m not supporting anyone yet.” He said he wanted to hear from the candidates and recognized that the party had a lot to do.
Gentile ran and won in Appalachia, an area that was once democratic but is now consistently red.
In his letter to the Executive Committee, he wrote: “As we grow and expand our base in blue counties, we need to bring home Democrats in rural areas, recolor counties and reduce the profit margin for Republicans in traditional red counties. ”
Gentile was the deputy director of the Appalachia State Office, won a seat at the Ohio House in 2010, was appointed to the Senate in 2011 (at the time the district included Columbiana County), won in 2012, and lost 4.8 percent in re-election while she was in 2016 Hillary Clinton, the party’s presidential candidate, outperformed by 17 percent.
He served in leadership while in the Senate, is currently a central committee member and lobbyist for the state, and along with his ties to the ex-government. Ted Strickland, Gentile is well connected across the state.
There can always be a late-arriving candidate, but the race is now between Gentile and Walters.
Skolnick reports on politics for the Tribune Chronicle and The Vindicator.
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