- Associated Press - Sunday, December 14, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Ohio Democrats elect a new party chair this week as they seek to recover from a punishing statewide election that saw campaign missteps, dismal turnout and across-the-board losses.

Here are five things to know ahead of Tuesday’s vote:



State Democratic Chairman Chris Redfern announced his resignation on election night after watching his party lose every statewide race and several seats in the already Republican-dominated Ohio House, including his own.

Redfern is a two-time state representative and former House minority leader from Catawba Island. He instituted an 88-county strategy as chairman that helped Democrats win statewide victories, including for governor, in 2006 and take back the Ohio House majority for the first time in 14 years in 2008.

He took heat this year for fielding Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald to run for governor. FitzGerald’s campaign featured a series of political gaffes and scandals that helped dishearten Democrats, depress turnout and sink the party’s state ticket. Redfern faulted a vetting firm for not doing its due diligence.



Competition for the job has been fierce. Redfern is known for his acerbic oratory and has been the target of an unsuccessful ouster. Many veteran party loyalists speak of Redfern’s departure as a chance to instill fresh perspective and racial and gender diversity in the party’s power structure. Others foresee a full overhaul. Candidates vying to replace him include state Rep. Bob Hagan, of Youngstown; longtime Democratic campaign adviser Antoinette Wilson; Geauga County Democratic Chairwoman Janet Carson; 2014 lieutenant governor candidate Sharen Neuhardt; and 2014 attorney general candidate David Pepper, who says he would work with fellow 2014 candidate Nina Turner. When Redfern ran in 2005, there were two main candidates.



The winner is selected by a majority vote of the party’s 148-member Executive Committee, a group of party insiders. Labor leader Ron Malone is among those known to control blocks of votes on the panel, but the process will ultimately come down to individual votes, Pepper said. “Anyone who approaches this thinking there’s one kingmaker or queenmaker is going to lose, and lose badly,” he said.



Various candidates have gotten important endorsements from elected Democrats in Ohio. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, the state’s highest-ranking sitting Democrat, says he wants Neuhardt to get the job. She’s an attorney and former congressional contender who worked hard as FitzGerald’s running mate this fall. Brown has signaled his interest in seeing someone other than a white man get the job.

Hagan touted his endorsement by his fellow Mahoning Valley Democrat U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan. But last week, Ryan announced he was joining U.S. Reps. Marcia Fudge and Joyce Beatty in backing Pepper. The son of a former Procter & Gamble CEO, Pepper is considered the front-runner headed into Tuesday, if verbal commitments to back him stick.



Insiders say the next party chair needs to rebuild, and perhaps retool, the party’s infrastructure to provide better support of up-and-coming young candidates, including in training and recruitment. Democrats also want to see their next chair do a better job of picking a message and sticking to it. The winner will display many of the characteristics of any politician: strong public speaker, grassroots organizer and fundraiser. Wilson says she is promoting her decades of experience winning local, state and federal campaigns as a Democratic campaign manager and strategist in her bid. Two campaigns she worked on this year - for a Columbus children’s services levy and to elect former Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to a judgeship - were winners amid statewide defeats, she said.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide