Executive Committee of Montgomery County Democratic Party To Recommend Replacement for Tom Roberts

According to Mark Owens, Montgomery County Democratic Party Chairman, the Executive Committee of the Montgomery County Democratic Party will have a special meeting for the purpose of recommending a replacement for the 5th District Senate position vacated by Tom Roberts.

Mark said that the Senate Democratic Caucus has requested that Democratic Party county organizations that contain the 5th District each recommend up to three candidates. The 5th District is in Montgomery, Darke and Warren.

Roberts is resigning from the Ohio Senate in order to accept an appointment from Governor Strickland to the Ohio Civil Rights Commission.

Mark said that in addition to Fred Strahorn, Vic Harris also has expressed interest in the position and that, so far, Vic and Fred are the only 5th District Montgomery County Democrats who have expressed interest. Mark said anyone seeking the endorsement of the Montgomery County Democratic Party needs to contact him by March 6. He said the deadline for the Executive Committee to make its endorsement is March 13.

Last week the DDN printed an editorial, “Ohio Senate rises above democracy,” that tells that it looks like the fix is in for Strahorn to be appointed to the Ohio Senate. Strahorn is the protege of Tom Roberts, and Roberts is pressing for Strahorn to be his replacement.

After Strahorn was term limited as state representative from the 40th District, it was widely assumed in the party that he would next seek election to the Ohio Senate for the 5th District. Roberts’ strong endorsement for Strahorn means, most likely, that Strahorn gets to the Senate early and that by the time of the March 2010 primary, Strahorn will have an incumbent’s advantage.

Says the DDN, about Strahorn, “But, as if winning in that Democratic district in 2010 wouldn’t be easy enough if the seat were open, he (Strahorn) gets a year-and-a-half of incumbency going in — even as his friend and predecessor gets a job out of the deal. Nice work if you can get it.”

The Ohio Senate has 33 members and only 12 are Democrats. The 11 Senate Democrats that remain after Roberts’ resignation will be the group that determines Roberts’ replacement. The DDN’s complaint is that this process — “two handsful of people from nowhere near Dayton picking a legislator for Dayton” — hardly seems democratic. According to Owens, this process for replacement of a State Assembly member, has remained part of the Ohio Constitution every since the beginning of Ohio’s statehood in 1803.

The DDN editorial says, “Even within that not very democratic process there is apparently to be even less democracy than there might be. Sen. Roberts has said he would propose Mr. Strahorn to the Senate, and Montgomery County Democratic Party Chairman Mark Owens said last week that no other Democrat had even expressed interest.”

The replacement will serve until the term expires in January 2011. In March 2010 Democrats in the 5th District will have a chance to vote in the Democratic Primary to choose their next candidate.

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4 Responses to Executive Committee of Montgomery County Democratic Party To Recommend Replacement for Tom Roberts

  1. Stan Hirtle says:

    I have been pretty impressed with Strahorn, who seems like the natural candidate for the Senate given his experience and the job he did in the House. Harris seems like a decent candidate, who the local party leaders passed over for the House in favor of a more long time guy. This kind of insider organization politics does not necessarily get you the best person to make important decisions at the state level. But I doubt that Harris would get picked over Strahorn for the Senate by any system, including a publicly funded primary or whatever the ideal system might be. I do hope Harris keeps trying and eventually catches on.

    Another problem with the creation of safe districts by political insiders is that there is really no incentive to pick the candidates who would best for everyone, as opposed to for the insiders. If districts were more competitive a lot of good things might happen.

  2. Mike Bock says:

    Stan, I disagree with you assessment, when you say, “I doubt that Harris would get picked over Strahorn for the Senate by any system, including a publicly funded primary or whatever the ideal system might be,” and my conclusion is the opposite.

    Strahorn is being pushed ahead via an anti-democratic system that greatly favors insiders and party regulars. He will likely be placed in the Ohio Senate because of the support of just one voter in the 5th District — Tom Roberts. I think that if we had a system of democracy that actually worked, whereby Democrats in the 5th Senate District had the opportunity to make an informed choice, Democrats would more likely choose Vic Harris rather than Fred Strahorn.

    The DDN, in the article cited above, suggests a big reason why well informed voters might choose Harris over Strahorn is the fact that many Democratic voters are wondering where Democratic leadership in the Ohio Assembly has been hiding. Both Roberts and Strahorn have had their chance in the Assembly to bring forth good ideas for legislation that would benefit voters in the 5th District, but overall, the DDN implies, their efforts at leadership have been mediocre at best.

    The DDN says, “Sen. Roberts has paid his dues. He hasn’t burned up the league in Columbus, though he’s had years to do so in both houses. … In line to replace him is his former aide, Fred Strahorn, who replaced him in the House. Mr. Strahorn has a similar record. Ironically, he always said the reason his name was not associated with major legislation was that he was in the Democratic minority, and the House was terribly partisan.” DDN’s point is that in the Ohio Senate, Democrats are even more outnumbered and marginalized. If Strahorn couldn’t overcome a partisan divide in the House, it seems unlikely that he will overcome an even larger partisan divide in the Senate.

    I can’t agree with your assessment that in “any system” Democrats in the 5th District would choose Strahorn over Harris. We are far from experiencing a system of vigorous democracy, but in such a system, I think Democrats would not base their selection of 5th District Senator on longevity, party connections, affability — but would, instead, seek to choose a candidate with vision and strong leadership abilities who would be a strong and effective spokesperson in the State Assembly for a Democratic point of view. Remember, this seat will most likely go Democratic in 2010 regardless of who is running. In this strong Democratic District, shouldn’t we be sending strong Democrats to the Assembly, Democrats who could successfully use their position to articulate a strong voice for a Democratic point of view?

    Roberts and Strahorn represent the old, boss centered, party dominated, style of Montgomery County Democratic Party politics. They’ve paid their dues, they’ve wormed their way into the party bureaucracy; they’re reliable. They’re nice; they’re likeable. And, I believe they are ethical and well meaning. But this isn’t enough. The system we have that relies on a small clique of Democrats to run things is simply not working to provide the substance of leadership that these times call for. Given a chance, I feel the majority of Democratic voters in the 5th District would indicate that they want something much more from Democrats in the Ohio Assembly. A vigorous system of democracy in Montgomery County, I believe, would support candidates with new energy, new ideas, new vision.

    In a system of vigorous democracy, I feel Vic Harris would have the advantage over Fred Strahorn.

  3. Stan Hirtle says:

    Sen. Roberts will never be compared to Obama as an orator or to LBJ as a legislative powerhouse. With the Republican majority we had if he were the latter we would never know it. He is responsible for one major piece of legislation, a predatory lending bill that he kept alive for years. It took until 2006 for him to get bipartisan support enough to actually get it through. 2006 was also the biggest year for the mortgage frenzy. This law was actually a large step forward nationally in the battle against predatory lending. Its biggest weakness was that it only applied to loan originators and not to the secondary market players that own all the loans today, but no state dared risk being ostracized by the securitization goose that seemed to be laying golden eggs. By the time the law took effect in 2007, the greed had caught up with the industry and the meltdown began. The first major case under it was filed by the Attorney General against New Century Mortgage, a poster child for abusive lending, but it was shortly before the investors started demanding New Century buy back their bad loans, forcing the uncapitalized outfit into bankruptcy. If Republicans had listened to Roberts earlier and the law had taken effect in 2005 or 2006, Ohio would probably be in much better shape. So in that way Roberts was ahead of his time and deserves credit.

    As we know politicians must play with the cards they are dealt, and advance within the system that exists. Roberts and Strahorn are creatures of party systems which are old boy (and girl) networks and where there is not a lot of democratic action. Mostly the voters approve their candidates. We don’t see a lot of interest in primaries which have exceptionally low turnouts. The leaders the bosses have picked, people like Dayton Commissioners Whaley and Joseph, pretty much came out of nowhere but are decent representatives of the City of Dayton, who have been handed a formidable lack of resources to manage. Some of the products of this system are better than others, but you don’t see the kind of corruption and abuse you see in some places. It would be better if we had an engaged electorate and a system that encouraged and responded to the grassroots, generated ideas to improve the local situation. It would certainly be better if we had more competitive elections that would bring out the best ideas and candidates in both parties, instead of the collection of safe seats that discourage participation. And it would be better if elections didn’t require fundraising from party leaders or wealthy contributors. Lets talk about that. I don’t know that this particular choice of a State Senator makes the case.

  4. Eric says:

    First step: find a candidate who will be a forceful advocate of Ohio’s K-12 quality policy. Such a candidate could help build “an engaged electorate …[that] generated ideas to improve the local situation.”

    Alternatively, Ohio Democrats could let President Obama’s si se pueda moment spoil into sal si puedes.

    Remember: Failure to Plan is Planning to Fail.
    Time’s a-wasting!


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