COLUMBUS - The Ohio Democratic Party machine last night refused to sit out the May 2 primary election, officially endorsing select candidates despite arguments by some that the party was dividing itself even before the campaign has begun.
The decision was easy in some cases.
The State Executive Committee endorsed U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland for governor, U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown for U.S. Senate, and state Rep. Barbara Sykes for auditor, whose primary opponents put up little if any fight. Secretary of state candidate Jennifer Brunner has no primary competition.
But despite protests from their opponents and some committee members, the party went on to throw its official backing behind:
●State Sen. Marc Dann for attorney general over former Cleveland law director Subodh Chandra.
●Franklin County Treasurer Richard Cordray for state treasurer over Montgomery County Treasurer Hugh Quill.
●Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge A.J. Wagner and former state Sen. Ben Espy for two Ohio Supreme Court seats over Warren-based appellate Judge William O'Neill and Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Peter Sikora respectively.
Ohio House Minority Leader Joyce Beatty (D., Columbus) said the party can't appear to be indecisive at a time when it hopes to take advantage of Republican scandals in Columbus.
"We cannot be afraid to make a decision and stand by a candidate," she said.
The endorsement of the official party machine has its advantages, particularly when it comes to fund-raising and winning county party endorsements.
But the party nod is not insurmountable. In 2004, the party picked Canton-based appellate Judge Scott Gwin for Supreme Court over Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Nancy Fuerst. Ignoring the snub, Judge Fuerst embarrassed the party by largely self-financing a statewide TV ad campaign to grab the nomination. She went on to lose the general election to Republican Judith Lanzinger.
"The scars that started with that ill-advised moment is something that lives with us today. Let the primary process run its course," said Judge O'Neill shortly before the committee endorsed his opponent.
Ms. Sykes said she knows part of the reason she is on the ballot is because she is African American, as the party has fretted over the fact that Republicans have two African Americans on their ticket: gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell and Treasurer Jennette Bradley.
That was also one of the reasons cited for endorsing Mr. Espy.
Contact Jim Provance at: