Democratic Chair Mark Owens must be gritting his teeth. Today’s Dayton Daily News, on its editorial page, gives Victor Harris — the candidate not endorsed by the Montgomery County Democrats — two new and very strong newspaper endorsements. These endorsements are in addition to the newspaper’s strong Feb 8 endorsement of Harris. The editorial headline states, “Few Candidates Do the Basics Before Running, Victor Harris is Notable Exception”
These new endorsements for Harris come in the wake of a big fund raiser for Victor’s opponent, Roland Winburn, attended by many local Democratic Party insiders. Wednesday, about 100 attended $50 plate fund raiser dinner for Winburn. The event featured Chinese food, and by all appearance was a big success. To get 100 people out on a Wednesday evening to pay $50 each is a big achievement for any campaign. It looks like it owes its success to the big support of the local Democratic Party. A partial list of those who attended are: Mark Owens, Fred Strahorn, Debbie Lieberman, Karl Keith, Tom Roberts, and Nan Whaley. I don’t know whether Clayton Luckey, the unopposed Democrat who represents the neighboring 39th District, attended.
The DDN editorial describes Winburn as “a nice man and party regular.” Winburn was officially endorsed by the Montgomery County Democratic Party at their meeting December 14. As a Central Committee member, at the time, I objected to the Party’s action and wrote about their endorsement here.
The DDN says, “Winburn waited his turn, but seems to have spent considerably less time thinking about what he might actually do to represent the district.” On the other hand, the newspaper praises Harris: “Good government is no accident. It starts with candidates willing to move beyond political chatter and actually prepare themselves for the job. Voters should reward Mr. Harris for having done just that.”
On the same page, Martin Gottlieb, in a column entitled, “On Candidates New And Old,” slams several candidates, including County Commissioner Debbie Lieberman, and gives Victor this praise, “Then there’s Vic Harris, the young-though-retired military officer who wants to succeed Fred Strahorn. He has a background that must make anybody take note.”
These endorsement articles today emphasize and add to the newspaper’s Feb. 8 editorial, “Our recommendation: Harris offers Democrats much needed life in 40th District.” With today’s additional editorials, the newspaper is emphasizing it strong support for a local primary candidate to a degree and manner that to me seems unprecedented. Mark Owens and the Montgomery County Democratic Party leadership, who endorsed Roland Winburn rather than Vic Haris, must be seething at the newspaper’s action.
The more I think about it, really, the more I am perturbed that the local Democratic Party would take official action to actively endorse and support one viable candidate over another viable candidate in a primary election. In their endorsement practices, I think the leadership of the Montgomery County Democratic Party is sorely out of touch with the thinking and wishes of the vast majority of county Democrats.
This local expression of blatant party insider favoritism would never be tolerated on a national level. Can you imagine the outrage, if, early on, the National Democratic Party had officially endorsed one of the Democratic Presidential candidates and had discouraged other viable candidates from running? Insider favoritism makes no sense whether at the local or national level.
Gottlieb, in his column, notes that, regardless that County Commissioner Debbie Lieberman recently had a well publicized drunk driving arrest, she has little to fear, because she has no opponent in the general election. Gottlieb reports the corrupt collusion between Democrats and the Republicans that gave Debbie and other candidates a free pass by making an agreement between the parties that certain candidates would have no opponents in the general election. (DaytonOS reported this arrangement, Montgomery County Dems/GOP Conspire to Limit Democracy, on December 31.) Lieberman, the wife of former Montgomery County Chair Dennis Lieberman, has no Republican opponent for the general election and, in return, the Republicans in the positions of County Coroner and sheriff, have no Democratic opponents. It seems obvious that local politics, as controlled by the local Montgomery County Republican and Democratic Parties, needs a lot of reform.
The newspaper articles today, in praising Vic Harris, take a deserved slap at the Montgomery County Democratic Party. Mark Owens and the entire local Democratic Party leadership have a lot of explaining to do. The election of Victor Harris, I’m hoping, will be an impetus for needed reform in the Democrats’ county organization.