- Associated Press - Monday, December 15, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Cincinnati lawyer and 2014 attorney general candidate David Pepper appeared poised to become the Ohio Democratic Party’s next chairman, after his last formidable competitor dropped out of the race Monday.

Former Lt. Gov. Sharen Neuhardt said in a letter to supporters that Pepper appeared to have locked up the needed votes on the state executive committee to win Tuesday’s election and she wanted to bring people together.

“Because we need to unite our party, get on with the business of winning the Democratic convention for Columbus, and implementing our shared vision for moving the party forward and winning elections, I want each of you to know that I am withdrawing my name as a candidate for election as our next party Chair,” she wrote.

Neuhardt, who was running mate to gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald, had been U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s choice for the job. Brown is Ohio’s highest ranking Democratic elected official.

Neuhardt had also received the backing of Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman and several other key players in the party, which is seeking to regroup after bad losses this fall and the resignation of current Chairman Chris Redfern.



Pepper and state Sen. Nina Turner, the party’s 2014 secretary of state candidate, released a joint vision statement to supporters on Sunday that Neuhardt called “an extraordinary document.”

It lays out steps Pepper would take, with Turner in an as-yet-undefined role, to carry the party into the future.

They called it “a defining moment in the history of the Ohio Democratic Party,” with the selection of the next chairman setting the course needed to win elections. Aside from a single Ohio Supreme Court justice, Democrats hold no statewide office in Ohio nor power in either legislative chamber.

“We get it. We know how important this decision is and how much work needs to be done in order for us to restore confidence, rebuild our infrastructure and win elections,” Pepper and Turner wrote.

Neuhardt raised issues in her letter with lucrative contracts the party has entered into “between the party and companies owned directly or indirectly by party officials or members of the Executive Committee.” She said the party needs an ethics and conflicts of interest policy.

Redfern plans to speak to the media on Tuesday ahead of the evening vote for his successor.

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