Organizing for Ohio — And Against Kasich

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** Chairman Redfern Takes a Question **

Taxin’ John Kasich’s new budget proposal — especially his plan to slap a sales tax on virtually everything that happens in Ohio — has garnered widespread blowback. And among activist Democrats, it’s done nothing but stir up their energy and resolve to eject this incompetent blowhard from office next year.

Thursday night, Ohio Democratic Party chairman Chris Redfern came up to Cleveland to talk to Cuyahoga Democrats and share the party’s plans going forward.

The overflow crowd at the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Community Center in Shaker Heights, which included House minority leader Armond Budish, state senator Nina Turner, and many local municipal elected officials, indicated how determined Democrats are to see change in Columbus next year.

The mood was decided different from a similar meeting in the same room two years ago — and not just because the previous November’s results were decidedly different. At that meeting, ODP officials Doug Kelly and Lauren Groh-Vargo did a presentation that was greeted coolly. It focused on numbers — how many calls were made, how many doors were knocked on. The gist of it was “Look at all the wonderful work we did!” Given the loss of every state office the previous November, this tack irritated and angered many.

Kelly and Groh-Vargo are gone. And Redfern didn’t spend any time talking about the wonderful things we did last year, when we DID enjoy considerable success, but about what to do now. He talked about the importance of the 2013 races — mayoral and other municipal races. He pointed out the value of having Democratic mayors in places like Lima and Defiance, so that when 2014 statewide candidates go there, they can stand beside the local mayor.

Of course, the 2014 races were of major interest to the people in the room, because that’s when we can get rid of Taxin’ John, attorney general Mike DeWine, auditor Dave Yost, secretary of voter suppress … I mean STATE … Jon Husted, and of course, treasurer-when-he-feels-like-showing-up, Josh “The Empty Suit” Mandel.

While saying that the ticket would probably not come together until late summer or fall — yet asserting “If you’re going to run for governor, the time to get in is now” — Redfern gave some strong hints as to what the ticket is going to look like.

He named all four of the commonly mentioned gubernatorial candidates — Ed FitzGerald, Betty Sutton, Tim Ryan and Rich Cordray. “It’s exciting to know the choice of candidates, compared to those on the other side,” he said.

He said, “John Carney is probably going to be running for auditor.” He said that Nina Turner has been spending her off hours in the party office making phone calls to potential supporters. “She’s a dynamic voice for reform in the secretary of state office,” Redfern said. She all but admitted after the meeting she’s running. And it’s unlikely there’s another candidate as committed, and no one has done comparable groundwork on election-related issues.

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** Our next secretary of state? **

So it seems likely we’ll have a clear idea of our ticket long before Labor Day 2013. Redfern said that any party chair tries to avoid primary contests because they’re expensive and divisive. Many activists bristle at the idea that the party would push some candidates to run and others not to in order to have a clear field. But more likely, the willingness and ability to commit the time and energy it takes to run statewide will shape the field. How many people want to spend every day for more than a year (including — especially! — weekends) driving all over the state to talk to strangers at fish fries and pancake breakfasts? Not me, that’s for sure!

Redfern alluded to this in talking about the potential gubernatorial candidates. He pointed out that their decisions to run or not run could come down to whether a grueling campaign schedule conflicted with other considerations, including family.

I know some are touting insider knowledge that Rich Cordray is going to dump his job in D.C. to come back to Ohio and run. As Redfern pointed out, he’d have to do it soon, even though he’s got another year on his tenure as head of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, whether he’s confirmed or not. Would it appeal to him to give up a perfect-fit job that lets him spend evenings with his family to hit the rubber-chicken circuit, especially knowing that if he’s not confirmed, policy organizations and think tanks will be beating on his door to offer him jobs that pay three or four times as much as governor of Ohio? I am not so sure.

Regardless of who our candidate is, Redfern pointed out that there’s no reason to be pessimistic about our chances next year.

“Kasich is abrasive, coarse, polarizing,” he said. “He’s not a grassroots candidate. He is a right-wing ideologue. Because of this style, despite the economic rebound and [his] taking credit for the rebound of auto industry, his reelect number is 36%. On his worst day, Ted Strickland’s reelect number was 46% — in the midst of a recession. Let us not wring our hands about 2010. Let us learn from 2010.”

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** Fired up! Ready to go! **

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