Summit County’s councilor Liz Walters will lead the Ohio Democratic Party, which seeks to bring the traditional swing state back to life after years of Republican hegemony in state elections.
The Ohio Democratic Party Executive Committee elected Walters as party chair on Thursday evening after former chairman David Pepper resigned in late 2020.
Walters, the party’s former executive director, knocked out Columbus’ political adviser Antoinette Wilson to help prepare the party for the 2022 midterm elections. Wilson was nominated for the post during the committee’s virtual vote Thursday night, but resigned during a speech to the party.
Walters, 37, is the first woman to be elected party leader.
“I know that by working together we will have a really bright future for the party we love,” Walters told the committee on Thursday. “And we will be at an exciting time to develop this party into something.” new, something that addresses the needs of our activists, our voters and our candidates and makes it sustainable in the long run. “
Here are some things you should know about the race to be the party’s new chairman.
1. US Senator Sherrod Brown finally had the choice to head the party
After weeks of jockeying for votes, Walters got a big boost this week when U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown publicly pledged his support for her to lead the party.
Brown’s election for party chairmanship was lost when Pepper was selected in 2015, but the Senator’s vote carries significant weight as the only Democrat to hold a nationally elected office in a partisan seat.
Walters also had the support of organized labor leaders who have significant influence with the party’s executive committee of some 150 members. These leaders also have their own committee seats and were promised to Walters.
In a letter to Executive Committee members last month, Walters outlined plans to develop a strategy for “organizing 88 counties” and building data usage by the party.
2. Black leaders in the party were dissatisfied with the process
Late last week, the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus switched the state party to a chair selection process it referred to as “backroom party picks,” calling for more diversity within the party’s governance structure.
Black leaders said that the candidates’ rhetoric changed after their complaints were heard and they began to talk more about how to win over black voters.
“I was glad that both candidates had been talking about Black America for the past few weeks – it didn’t start that way -” Congresswoman Joyce Beatty said during the virtual meeting on Thursday. ”
Beatty said the party needed faces in leadership positions. “Look the way my face looks, except for the people cleaning the building.”
3. Andre Washington selected as vice chairman
In a move celebrated by some of these black leaders during Thursday’s meeting, the party elected Andre Washington as its vice chairman.
Washington runs the A. Philip Randolph Institute in Ohio, which has repeatedly sued the state for alleged electoral violations. Washington was among those calling for additional Dropboxes to be allowed in the 2020 election.
He is also an officer in the NAACP’s Ohio Conference.
The rules of the Democratic National Committee state that the vice chairman cannot be of the same sex as the chairman of the state party.
4. Ohio Democrats are facing difficult electoral trends
With most statewide elected offices on the ballot, plus the legislative seats of Congress and state in 2022, Democrats will seek to do something that hasn’t happened since 2012: blue Ohio.
You will compete against well-funded Republican incumbents in the two most anticipated races: Governor Mike DeWine and US Senator Rob Portman.
President Donald Trump drove to victory twice at Buckeye State, winning by more than 8 percentage points in 2016 and 2020. DeWine won a closer race against Democratic candidate Rich Cordray in 2018 when Republicans swept state offices again.
The last time Democrats controlled these state offices was after the 2006 elections, when Governor Ted Strickland was elected into his sole term in office.
Ohio hasn’t turned blue since President Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012 in a presidential or gubernatorial election.
“I’m optimistic about 2022 and our governor’s race and the entire state ticket,” Brown said during the meeting on Thursday.
Democratic insiders grumble that the party relies too heavily on urban areas of the state, where they traditionally do well at the expense of other parts of the state.
In the 2020 presidential election, Trump flipped the Mahoning Valley, a region of the state long considered a democratic stronghold and which featured prominently in party’s announcements of the election due to job losses at General Motors’ Lordstown assembly plant.
“We have to throw that old game book away and come up with this new blueprint like Georgia did,” said Alicia Reece, Hamilton County commissioner.