Wednesday, Oct 24, 2018
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Ohio delegation considers its options for state offices

Party officials look to future of its campaigns

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PHILADELPHIA — While past successes may create a virtual Republican traffic jam for Ohio statewide office two years from now, the lack of success for Democrats has created a dearth of potential candidates with widespread recognition for 2018.

Mostly local officials looking to move up are in Philadelphia at the Democratic National Convention this week, networking and laying the groundwork for 2018 campaigns even as the talk is officially about electing Hillary Clinton president in November.

“Something doesn’t feel that good when you win for the nation but then you lose it in your own state year after year. It’s not right,” Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper told delegates over breakfast on the convention’s second day.

He said that’s particularly true in a purple state like Ohio where Democrats take credit for putting Barack Obama in the White House in 2008 and 2012, winning statewide twice for U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, and killing Republican-passed restrictions on labor on the statewide ballot in 2011.

But Democrats have not won an election for statewide executive office since the party’s banner year in 2006.

“Red states must look at us in Ohio and say, ‘Don’t look at us. You guys are the problem. You guys can do it, and you know how to win, and when you get excited you do win. But then you lose’.”

Among those working Ohio delegates this week are Cleveland’s Steve Dettelbach, former U.S. Attorney for northern Ohio, and Keller Blackburn, Athens County prosecutor, both of whom are reportedly eyeing a run for Ohio attorney general in two years.

Mr. Dettelbach pointed to the arson of the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo four years ago.

“It’s the oldest, largest mosque in this state that was torched by some person who got hopped up on Fox News and cheap beer...,” he said. “It was an act of terrorism, and I have to be honest about it. That guy was an immigrant. He came to our state from Indiana.”

Mr. Blackburn talked about dealing with the scourge of drug addition in his county.

Then there are state Reps. Kathleen Clyde (D., Kent) and Alicia Reece (D., Cincinnati), both of whom have become champions for voting rights legislation in the General Assembly and could be on a collision course for the state’s top elections official post, secretary of state.

“America’s future starts in our backyard,” Ms. Clyde told the delegation. “And, of course, Republicans also know the importance of Ohio. That’s why the legislature they control and their secretary of state have made it harder, not easier, for people to vote, because they know that when more people vote, we win.”

Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is with the state delegation in Philadelphia, apparently not having burned too many bridges by challenging the party’s endorsed candidate, former Gov. Ted Strickland, in this year’s U.S. Senate primary election.

Former state Rep. Connie Pillich (D., Cincinnati), who ran unsuccessfully against Republican state Treasurer Josh Mandel in 2014, is thinking about a run for governor. 

And former northeast Ohio congressman Rep. Betty Sutton is also the subject of some speculation while in Philadelphia.

Not in the City of Brotherly Love this week is Richard Cordray, Mr. Obama’s consumer protection chief, former state attorney general, and often mentioned candidate for governor in 2018. 

There’s also talk every few years about a statewide run by U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, of Youngstown, but he has yet to bite.

Mr. Pepper said he’s banning the use of the term “off-year election” within the party vocabulary.

“Too often we celebrate our election-year victories, and we unfortunately don’t focus going into the next election,” he said. “We can’t do that anymore.”

Not to be outdone, Republicans last week networked in Cleveland, as some prepare for what could be a game of musical chairs.

Attorney General Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Jon Husted, and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor are all considering runs for governor in 2018.

Mr. Mandel and Columbus area U.S. Rep. Pat Tiberi are looking at taking on Senator Brown. Auditor Dave Yost wants to be attorney general. 

Senate President Keith Faber (R., Celina) is in the mix, possibly for auditor or treasurer, and state Rep. Frank LaRose (R., Fairlawn) has been mentioned for secretary of state.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.

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