Former state and Lucas County Democratic chairman Jim Ruvolo has criticized state party chair David Pepper over his treatment of U.S. Senate candidate P.G. Sittenfeld.
Mr. Ruvolo said in emailed comments and in a phone interview today that he was “concerned - and disappointed by some of the things that have occurred under David Pepper’s leadership.”
Mr. Pepper responded today saying his comments are being misconstrued.
Mr. Ruvolo, who has endorsed Mr. Sittenfeld, said his concerns came to a head last week when Mr. Pepper attacked Mr. Sittenfeld, a Cincinnati councilman seeking the Democratic Senate nomination for 2016, at an editorial board meeting of The Cincinnati Enquirer.
Under Mr. Pepper, the Ohio Democratic Party has endorsed former Gov. Ted Strickland in the 2016 primary election. Mr. Ruvolo is supporting Mr. Sittenfeld. the winner would likely face Republican incumbent Sen. Rob Portman who so far is unopposed.
Mr. Ruvolo called Mr. Pepper’s comment “a transparent attempt to drive him out of the U.S. Senate race.”
In the article published July 16, Mr. Pepper appeared to be suggesting that Mr. Sittenfeld was not doing his job as a councilman while crime was growing into a “crisis” in the city.
“I think when you are in local office the best thing you can do is actually put in the time,” Mr. Pepper said in response to questions about Mr. Sittenfeld. “If you do that, you will always have that record of accomplishment.
“The reality is when you’re running statewide and have to worry about the next fund-raising quarter, it’s hard to be all in,” Pepper said, clearly referring to Mr. Sittenfeld. “The most important thing (Mr. Sittenfeld) could do is focus on crime. This city needs leadership.”
Mr. Pepper said in an interview with The Blade that he was not criticizing Mr. Sittenfeld but was making a general point that elected officials should put the office in which they’re serving first.
“I did not say as chair telling P.G. to drop out. P.G. has every right to run. I’ve made that clear. We provided a forum before the endorsement, gave him access to the voter file, he is speaking all around the state at Democratic party dinners. The conversation at that ed board meeting was all about the challenge of serving in office and running for another at the same time,” Mr. Pepper said.
Mr. Sittenfeld, 30, is seeking the U.S. Senate seat after serving just three years as a councilman.
Mr. Sittenfeld responded that he is “absolutely focused on public safety,” and mentioned a block watch meeting he planned to attend the following night.
“As a Senate candidate, I'm energizing voters who often don't participate in our party's primaries – and I'm the only candidate in this race who is giving major policy speeches that address important issues,” Mr. Sittenfeld said.
Mr. Ruvolo was executive director or chairman of the state party from 1982 to 1991. He notes that the party was “pretty successful” during that period.
“Because I fully appreciate the difficulty of the job, I have rarely commented on my successors or their actions,” said Mr. Ruvolo, of Ottawa Hills.
“I was appalled. And it’s just one more reason why I’m concerned about the direction of my party and our continuing inability to get back on a winning track,” Mr. Ruvolo said.
“His job is to build the party and get ready to beat Republicans and he shouldn’t be attacking a Democrat, particularly a young Democrat who can bring new voters to the polls,” Mr. Ruvolo said.
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