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Published: Monday, 5/12/2014


Former top Dem official known for his activism


TIFFIN — James Patrick Leahy, a former top official with the Ohio Democratic Party and chief of staff to former Auditor Thomas E. Ferguson, died May 4 in Kobacker House in Columbus. He was 76.

Mr. Leahy, who went by Pat, was the executive director of the state Democratic Party from 1970 to 1983, an era when the party controlled every elected state office except governor, a majority of the state Supreme Court, and both U.S. Senate seats.

Paul Tipps, who was state party chairman during the same time, said Mr. Leahy was instrumental in getting candidates elected because of the relationships he established with the leaders at the county level.

“He was a great people person. What he accomplished in the party was outstanding in the sense he knew every chairman of all 88 counties,” Mr. Tipps said. “The big change in the party came when Pat got there.

“He came to the conclusion that state races are not won in Columbus. He got out and went to the county chairmen, encouraging them to work with the state party.”

Retired Judge James Sherck of Fremont, a Democrat who served on the 6th District Court of Appeals and Sandusky County Common Pleas Court, said Mr. Leahy remembered the name of everyone he met.

“Pat knew people all over the state,” he said.

“He had contacts all over, and he used them to help out people. He was a real party activist.”

Mr. Leahy later joined the office of state Auditor Thomas Ferguson and was his chief of staff, a position he held until 1995.

He later became a political consult and won several awards for political advertising.

Mr. Leahy, of Dublin, Ohio, in Franklin County, had a respiratory illness, said his nephew, Kevin Leahy.

He did not know the cause of death.

Born on Oct. 26, 1937, in Tiffin, he was the oldest of 10 children born to James and Elizabeth Kelley Leahy. He graduated in 1955 from Calvert High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1960 from Heidelberg College.

Mr. Leahy took a position with state Auditor Joseph T. Ferguson in 1960. He later became administrative assistant in the state personnel department.

In 1971, he was appointed chief of the personnel and employee division of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, and later served as deputy director of that department.

Surviving are his brother, Timothy Leahy, and sisters, Susan Aller, Colleen Leahy, Shannon Leahy, Terri Kline, and Molly Rogan.

Visitation will be from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. today in the Traunero Funeral Home, followed by services at 11:30 a.m.

The family suggests tributes to Heidelberg University’s athletic department.

Contact Mark Reiter at: markreiter@theblade.com or 419-724-6199.

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