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Published: 3/29/2012

Redfern gets backing of committee majority in chairmanship fight

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern has won a show of support from a majority of the 66-member Ohio Democratic Party central committee, according to a letter distributed among the committee members and obtained by The Blade.

Forty-eight members signed the letter dated Wednesday promising their backing for Mr. Redfern against a challenge being brought by Lorain County Democratic official Anthony Giardini.

“Chairman Redfern has been an outstanding leader for the Ohio Democratic Party and his work has been recognized here in Ohio and across the country. Our Party is the strongest and largest in the nation. Chairman Redfern has worked tirelessly on behalf of all Ohio Democrats: fundraising, recruiting candidates and speaking with a clear voice for our Democratic values,” the letter said.

It went on to say, “Now is not the time for a change in leadership – too much is at stake. It is up to us to re-elect Chris Redfern as State Chairman during this critical Presidential and Senatorial election year.”

The Ohio Democratic Party is expected to meet for the biennial reorganization in April, but the date has not yet been set, said Bill DeMora, the outgoing secretary of the state Democratic executive committee. He said each of the people on the letter was reached and said they would sign it. He said there were another four or five committee members who could not be reached.

He said the meeting would be called after all the counties are finished certifying the March 6 election results, in which state central committee members were elected.

Mr. Giardini, the Democratic Party chairman for the city of Lorain and the incoming chairman of the county party, has written to the party’s 66 central committee members asking for their votes when the committee meets to reorganize for another two years.

Mr. Giardini, a lawyer, said Wednesday he decided to run after starting to become more active in the state party’s county chairmen’s organization. He said he talked to many people who believed that Mr. Redfern had let down the party in 2010, when Democrats lost every statewide race. And he said Mr. Redfern’s decision to run for the General Assembly would distract him from the party’s needs and create potential conflicts of interest for him.

“I’m not blaming him for everything that happened in 2010; that’d be unreasonable,” Mr. Giardini said. He said Mr. Redfern deserves the same fate as that which would await a football coach who finishes the season 0-16.

“They typically don’t fire the whole team. More often than not the head coach is gone,” Mr. Giardini said.

Local supporters of Mr. Redfern said they’re confident he has the votes to be re-elected.

“I don’t think this is going to have near the drama that the Republican Party fight did. This one I think will turn out to be much ado about nothing,” said Wade Kapszukiewicz, Lucas County treasurer and a member of the state party’s executive committee.

Mike Friedman, a member of the state central committee from the Toledo area, said he plans to put Mr. Redfern’s name in nomination.

Mr. Redfern, of Catawba Island Township, who has led the state’s Democratic Party since December, 2005, is running for the 89th House District, which includes Ottawa and Erie counties. Mr. Redfern previously was a state representative who was barred from running again in 2008 because of term limits.

The Ohio Republican Party is embroiled in a hotly contested struggle between the incumbent chairman, Kevin DeWine, and Republican Gov. John Kasich, over leadership, with Mr. Kasich supporting Republican central committee members who will vote for Mr. DeWine’s ouster at the upcoming April 13 reorganization meeting.

Some of Mr. Giardini’s support is coming from Ohio’s labor unions.

The Ohio State Building and Construction Trades Council is considering supporting him, after having already voted not to support Mr. Redfern’s bid for another term, according to Dennis Duffey, the secretary treasurer of the organization based in Columbus.

Contact Tom Troy at tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.



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