Friday, February 13, 2015

Ohio Democratic Party chair David Pepper speaks on party's new vision to Dems in Cleveland Heights, says Blacks, Black leaders are loyal Democrats who will be supported by the party, other forum panelists were ODP vice chair Rhine McLin, Nina Turner, and Billy Sharp, voting rights are still paramount says Pepper, who said that Hillary Clinton will likely run for president

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper (far right), ODP Vice Chairwoman Rhine McLin (third from right), who is also a former Dayton, Ohio mayor,  ODP Political Engagement Chairwoman Nina Turner (second from left), who is also a former state senator,  Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Ohio Young Black Democrats President Billy Sharp (second from right), and other organizers of a political forum held Tuesday evening at the Cleveland Heights Community Center in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. The  political event was sponsored by the Shaker Heights Democrats, Cleveland Stonewall Democrats, Cuyahoga Democratic Women’s Caucus, and the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Ohio Young Black Democrats.

By Johnette Jernigan and Kathy Wray Coleman, Cleveland Urban News.Com and The Kathy Wray Coleman Online News, Ohio's leaders in Black digital news ( / (

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman
David Pepper

CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio-Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper said Tuesday evening during a political forum at the Cleveland Heights Community Center that the state Democratic party that he began leading just last month is committed to diversity at all levels of the organizational continuum. And he said that Blacks, including  Black leaders and elected officials that may feel disenfranchised, are paramount to the success of the party, and that Black people will get a reasonable amount of jobs with the party during the upcoming 2016 presidential campaign.

The Shaker Heights Democrats, Cleveland Stonewall Democrats, Cuyahoga Democratic Women’s Caucus, and the Northeast Ohio Young Black Democrats sponsored the event that drew some 175 people.

"African-Americans are our most loyal Democrats," said Pepper, adding that voting rights are still at risk because of Republican pushed anti-voting rights laws adopted by state legislatures across the nation, including the Ohio General Assembly.

Flanked by former state senator Nina Turner, a Cleveland Democrat and the chair of political engagement for the ODP,  former Dayton mayor and ODP Vice Chairwoman Rhine McLin, and local Democratic affiliate Billy Sharp, Pepper addressed a crowd of some 150 people.

Turner said too that Blacks, and the Black media will be supported, and that one need only look at the panelists there Tuesday night, Turner herself, McLin and Sharp, to see that the ODP means business in terms of changing its image among some Blacks. 

Turner, McLin and Sharp, president of the Ohio Young Black Democrats northeast Ohio chapter, are Black, though Pepper, a licensed attorney, former Cincinnati councilman, and former Hamilton County commissioner who ran unsuccessfully for Ohio attorney general last year, is White, and likable.

Cleveland Heights has a population of some 45,000 people and is a middle class suburb of Cleveland, a largely Black major American city that which host the Republican National Convention next year.

A handful of Democratic politicians and other party operatives were there too, including North Shore AFL-CIO Federation of Labor Executive Secretary Harriet Applegate, Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations Judge Francine Goldberg, and East Cleveland School Board Member Dr. Patricia Blochowiak, who asked Pepper and the other three panelists what they will do to get the party's message across to Ohio Democrats that do not use the Internet.

Lynnie Powell said that the ODP leadership team is facing high expectations from fellow Democrats.

"You can tell by the energy in this room that we are expecting great things from the new leadership," said Powell, the regional political director of the ODP. 

A survey was issued that sought input from those there on the direction the state Democratic party should go, with subjects ranging from tackling a broken legal system, to strategies for winning elections.

 Republicans won a sweep of statewide offices in 2014 and 2010, including governor, secretary of state, auditor, treasurer and attorney general.

Former ODP chair Chris Redfern announced publicly on election night last November that he was quitting.

Asked before the audience by Cleveland Urban News.Com if he would confirm whether former U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton is in fact running next year for president and has consulted former Democratic governor Ted Strickland to lead her campaign in Ohio, Pepper said that he was not telling anything that has not been officially announced by the former first lady. He admitted though that it likely that Clinton will run for president.

 Strickland lost reelection in 2010 to Republican Gov John Kasich.

"Ohio is more important than its ever been, especially if  Jeb Bush runs for office," said Pepper. "He will start going after voters rights."

Strickland, say sources, is considering a run for the U.S. Senate next year and would likely face Sen Rob Portman, a current senator, if he wins the Democratic primary.

Ohio remains a pivotal state for presidential elections.

A February 3 Quinnipiac University poll that sampled 936 Florida voters, 943 Ohio voters, and 881 Pennsylvania voters found that if the presidential election were held that day, Clinton would win those three swing states, if she were to run.

The poll results also reveal that in Ohio Kasich would get 43 percent of the vote compared to Clinton's 44 percent. Also according to the poll, Clinton would easily win Ohio over any other Republican opponent, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie 47 to 34 percent, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush 47 to 36 percent, former congressman Ron Paul 49 to 34 percent, and social conservative Mike Huckabee 49 to 34 percent.

Cleveland Heights resident George Witherspoon, 74, told Cleveland Urban News.Com at Tuesday's forum that the Democrats are on the right track in rallying troops at the local level in cities like Cleveland Heights, which is roughly 43 percent Black. 

"I hope we have many more forums like this with a turnout like this," said Witherspoon.

 ( / (