Most of Ohio’s politicos know that Chris Redfern is resigning from his post as Ohio Democratic Party Chairman, even though he was just elected to a new 4 year term earlier this year. In addition to leading Ohio Democrats to a disastrous statewide defeat (again), he also lost his own seat in the Ohio House and is slinking away to focus on the bed and breakfast he named after himself on the Lake Erie shore.
What started out as a crowded field of candidates to replace him is now down to two, with the election only 5 days from now on December 16th. The ODP Executive Committee will meet in Columbus to choose Redfern’s successor.
Pepper is a former Hamilton County Commissioner. He lost a statewide contest for Auditor in 2010 and Attorney General this year. He has formed something of an alliance with State Senator Nina Turner.
Sharen Neuhardt was the running mate for Ed Fitzgerald’s calamity of a campaign, and has twice run for Congress and lost.
Both are working the state and gathering endorsements. Neuhardt has what is seen as the most important endorsement of all, with the backing of Senator Sherrod Brown. Brown is the only non-judicial statewide candidate the Democrats have, going back to 2010 and forward to 2018.
We reported on rumors weeks before the election that Brown was using his influence to force Redfern out and replace him with Denny Wojtanowski. However, after Wojtanowski removed himself from consideration, Brown turned to Neuhardt.
With the stature that Sherrod Brown holds among Ohio Democrats, he has the power to push people towards his choice, and we have heard rumors that he is doing just that.
Take this article from C. Taylor Myers, who is president of the Ohio College Democrats. In determining who to endorse, he spoke with both David Pepper and Sharen Neuhardt. The responses he says he got were a complete contrast.
My final conversations with David and Sharen before making my decision were drastically different. Sharen encouraged me to take a firm stance and endorse her. David attempted to answer my questions and continued to stress his desire to improve the party.
One wanted my vote, the other wanted change.
You may argue David was not sincere, but nevertheless his actions impressed me, while Sharen’s tactics felt like bullying.
Now, being a Republican, I don’t care which one of the two wins. I’m actually going to miss having a character like Chris Redfern to write about.
But look at the different approaches the two candidates are taking in this example. Pepper answered questions and laid out his vision on what needs to change in the party. Neuhardt, with Brown’s backing, just told Myers to take a stand and support her.
Redfern has been widely criticized for his bully tactics while running the ODP. Would Sharen Neuhardt be more of the same? It’s definitely an interesting look behind the scenes of a state party trying to put the pieces back together.
Neauhardt’s bullying appears to have backfired, because Myers ended up endorsing Pepper.
But today the race for the next Ohio Democratic Party Chair is still active. So I am pledging my formal support for David Pepper for Ohio Democratic Party Chair. I pray this is the correct decision, and I ask you stand with me in supporting David moving forward.
I thank all my friends, fellow College Democrats, and the elected officials and county chairs I spoke with who helped me make this decision. I am proud to endorse David Pepper for Chair of the Ohio Democratic Party.
We will know in five days who wins.