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Government/Politics

Former leaders urging Ohio Democratic Party not to endorse candidates for May primary

Redfern 2014.JPG
Karen Kasler
/
Statehouse News Bureau
Former Ohio House Minority Leader Chris Redfern (D-Port Clinton), speaking to reporters in December 2014, not long after he resigned as chair of the Ohio Democratic Party. The party suffered widespread losses in the 2014 election, including Ed FitzGerald's defeat in the second-worst loss for a gubernatorial candidate in Ohio history.

The ODP is set to consider endorsements in the governor, US Senate and Supreme Court races in a virtual meeting on Thursday.

Both of Ohio’s major political parties may issue endorsements this week in the top races on the ticket: governor and US Senate – the Democrats on Thursday and the Republicans on Friday.

And there are those in both parties, including former party chairs, who’ve been urging leaders to not endorse anyone going into the May primary.

Former Ohio Democratic Party chair Chris Redfern said a party endorsement won’t spare either candidate for governor the fate of going up against a well-funded Republican this fall.

“No Democrat will outspend the Republican running for governor, period. It’s not, in this age, a question of who has the most money. It’s who has the better ideas and vision to lead our state. And both John Cranley and Nan Whaley have that ability," Redfern said.

Redfern said the Democrat in the US Senate race will also be outspent. He said Congressman Tim Ryan doesn’t need an endorsement, but that relative newcomer Morgan Harper needs that attention.

Former ODP chairs David Pepper and David Wilhelm have also called for no endorsements, though Wilhelm is a Cranley supporter.

Pepper tweeted about the issue a couple of times in January, with one tweet saying that "an [Ohio Democratic Party] endorsement in an open-seat race for Gov/Lt. Gov among 2 closely-matched tickets would be a major unforced error."

In a letter to the Ohio Democratic Party Executive Committee last month, Wilhelm wrote: "Undecided voters outpoll supporters of either candidate at this point. I say let them run. It is not in the party's compelling interest to try to shut this race down early. Let's see who's got the message and the momentum to run a competitive race in the fall.....My candidate may not win, but if he does win, he'll be better for it. And I would argue, strongly, that this is just as true for his opponent."

On the Republican side, longshot US Senate candidate Mark Pukita has urged the party not to endorse in that race, which includes five higher-profile wealthy candidates - many of whom have sought county party or individual endorsements. Pukita tweeted that he hoped to have a discussion about "how corrupting primary endorsements are to the primary election process."

Meanwhile, the last three chairs of the Ohio Republican Party haven't weighed in on endorsements.

The most recent former Ohio Republican Party chair is Jane Timken, who will likely be hoping to receive the party's nomination in the US Senate race after receiving the endorsement of departing US Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH).

Matt Borges, who was ORP chair from 2012 to 2017, is preparing for his trial in connection with the House Bill 6/FirstEnergy corruption case. And Kevin DeWine, a cousin of incumbent Gov. Mike DeWine and chair of the ORP from 2009 to 2012, hasn't commented on whether the party should endorse in the major races.

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