Ohio Dems tap the 1st female chair, the 1st black manager

The Ohio Democratic Party hopes two historic decisions last week can restore the fate of its candidates against the state’s dominant Republicans.

The Ohio Democratic Party hopes two historic decisions made last week – its first female chairman and first black executive director – can restore the fate of its candidates against the state’s dominant Republicans while healing the party’s internal divisions.

The decisions of Summit County Councilor Liz Walters as chairman and Malik Hubbard as interim executive director followed a bitter clash with groups representing the party’s black lawmakers and youth voters.

The Ohio Legislature Black Caucus and Ohio Young Black Democrats accused the party of using the Black Ohioans, as one legislature put it, as “just a link for voting” without giving them a significant role in party decision-making. They insisted on representation within the party leadership.

Walter’s election on Thursday means both major Ohio political parties are now women-led. Republicans elected Jane Timken for a third term as chairwoman Friday.

Under Timken’s leadership, the GOP has retained control of both the state’s legislatures and every statewide executive office, and delivered Ohio’s 18 votes to President Donald Trump, who won the state by 8 percentage points last year.

Akron’s Walters inherits a party that has not claimed a single national executive office since 2006. She manages to retire the Democratic chairman David Pepper. In Friday’s selection of Hubbard, she promised to “hit the ground on the first day and fight for a better, more inclusive Ohio” and to strengthen the party from within.

Andre Washington, a union representative and president of the A. Philip Randolph Institute State Chapter, who is also Black, was elected first vice chairman.

US Senator Sherrod Brown, the state’s best-elected Democrat, described Hubbard as an “impressive attitude” with the knowledge and experience the party needed to begin its “next chapter”. Hubbard worked for Brown during the Senator’s 2019 Dignity of Work listening tour.

Hubbard has been tasked with rapidly pushing a transparent transition process that includes hiring a permanent director, Walters said.

Timken, a loyal ally of outgoing Republican President Donald Trump, also leads a party that is deeply divided. The wedge created by Trump’s actions prior to the siege of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, which led to his second impeachment last week, was evident in a statement announcing Timken’s re-election not even by name of the president was mentioned.

Timken said she didn’t take anything for granted.

“Despite these successes,” she said in a statement, “Ohio is still a battlefield state and there is much to be done.”

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