The Montgomery County Democratic Party at its December 12 meeting voted on early endorsements for the Democratic Primary. This endorsement practice is so anti-democratic and so reeks of a system that is rigged that some Democratic Party county organizations prohibit this practice.
Willis Blackshear Jr. got the big prize — the endorsement for Dayton’s 39th Ohio House District. There were four other qualified Democrats who had taken out petitions (see the last article below). A majority of the 29 members of the Screening Committee party chose the 27 year old son of their friend — Willis Blackshear Sr., the County Recorder who died less than two years ago. The MCDP seems to have no fear of showing in its endorsement actions what appears as blatant favoritism.
The Blackshear endorsement is particularly appalling because whoever wins the March 17 Primary is a shoo-in for the general election. OHD-39 is gerrymandered to contain as many Democratic voters as possible. In 2016 and 2014, Fred Strahorn, now term-limited, won 100% of the votes in this district — the Republicans didn’t even bother to field a candidate. It is SAD that rather than organizing a fair contest that would meaningfully engage the 16,000 registered Dems in this district, a super-majority at the December 12 Central Committee meeting chose to control the Primary election and to give a big boost to the career of Mr. Blackshear Jr.
Mr. Blackshear Jr. may be wonderfully qualified. I don’t know. There was no explanation offered at the December 12 Central Committee meeting concerning any of the endorsements. I’d say if elected he will be competent, but I have no idea whether, or not, Blackshear has the fire in the belly that an effective Democratic representative needs. He has never addressed the Central Committee. I think at one time he was introduced. I’ve never seen anything he has written.
My opinion is that if party insiders, as individuals, want to support a young and promising candidate, like Mr. Blackshear Jr, with personal donations and campaigning efforts, then, of course, that is fine. It is simply wrong, I feel, for the “party” to endorse in the Democratic Primary. It is wrong because such endorsement communicates an elitist / authoritarian attitude that is a turn-off to voters — especially young voters. It is wrong because it is not an effective method of finding the strongest candidates and best public servants. It makes no sense for Democrats to mimic the anti-democratic practices of the Republican Party. The Democratic Party must stand as an alternative to the Republicans and must be the party of authentic grassroots democracy and must do everything possible to give rank-and-file Democrats a voice.
Endorsement means that now the MCDP will use members’ dues money to prepare and mail literature to every county Democrat urging that they support the candidates endorsed by the “party.” The early endorsement evidently worked to drive two of the OHD-39 Dems from the ballot. Now, in addition to Mr. Blackshear, only Walter James Hickman Jr., and Jo’el Thomas-Jones have remained on the ballot for the OHD-39 nomination. These non-endorsed candidates will need to raise their own funds to be able to communicate with OHD-39 Democratic voters.
Who is the group called the “Democratic Party” that makes endorsements? It’s a majority of the 29 voting members of the insider group — the Screening Committee. It’s the old guard that shows up at the Central Committee holiday party. Only about one-third of the Central Committee members showed up to vote (81 members out of 244) at the December 12 meeting. This meeting was advertised as a holiday event in a letter sent to each member; the notice of the endorsement vote was tucked inside and not emphasized. No mention was made that this endorsement vote is the most important vote opportunity for Central Committee members in a two year period. Regardless that the party loves to send email notices to Central Committee members urging donations, the party made zero effort to send an email message to inform members the importance of this voting opportunity.
The Central Committee approved the recommendations of the Screening Committee by a vote of 61-20 — meeting the 2/3 super-majority requirement. If only twelve more Central Committee members had showed up to the meeting and had voted “No,” the endorsement recommendations would have been defeated. Since the 2018 Reorganization Meeting, thanks to the yeoman efforts of Tim and Allison Benford, over 125 new members have been added to the Central Committee. Very few, if any, of these new members attended this important endorsement meeting. It appears that these new Central Committee members were never informed about the key importance of this voting opportunity. I won’t know exactly who attended the meeting until I get the attendance report from Kurt Hatcher, the Executive Director. I put in my request on December 13.
At the meeting, I objected to the early endorsement practice — condemning it as unwise and unfair and not worthy of a party that calls itself “democratic.” This objection can be added to my history of objections to this practice. (See articles below.) I was glad to see Lucy McKosky, an officer in the local League of Women Voters organization, also rise to urge a “No” vote and, in the standing vote that occurred, I recognized other League members joining Lucy in the “No” vote. I am a member of the League because I believe in their pro-democracy efforts and I am glad that a small contingent of the League is active in the MCDP.
There is no official record of how members of the Central Committee voted, because, as Kurt Hatcher cheerfully explained to me, prior to the meeting, the MCDP Constitution forbids a roll-call vote for Central Committee endorsements.
Voters are sick of today’s politics. Trump is working to undermine and rig our entire system of democracy but he got elected, in part, by claiming, “The system is rigged.” As a loyal Democrat, who wants the best for our party, I’m aggrieved when it looks like my local Democratic Party organization is rigging the system. Two years ago, members of the MCDP endorsed their friend, Rev. Ward, over Rev. Fairchild — needlessly dividing the membership of the party. In 2008, the party endorsed their friend Roland Winburn over Victor Harris in a gerrymander strong Democratic Ohio House district. In the Primary, Democratic voters were deprived of an important discussion because Roland refused to debate Victor.
Primary endorsements have been a point of contention in the party for years. At the 2018 Reorganization Meeting, there were four proposed changes to the MCDP Constitution concerning votes for endorsements — that they be by roll call vote, etc. None of the four proposed changes received a majority vote.
Also receiving endorsements at the December 12 meeting were candidates for the U.S. Congress and the Ohio Senate. The Screening Committee chose Desiree Tims for OH-10, passing over another qualified Democrat, Eric Moyer. The Committee chose Mark Fogel for OSD-06, passing over another qualified candidate, Albert Griggs.
I’ve not yet spoken with Moyer, but Al Griggs sent me an email explaining that he is staying in the race because he believes that the Democratic rank-and-file voters “deserve a choice.” He says that the theme of his campaign will be “Repairing Our Democracy.”
- The Montgomery Democrats Decide to Suppress Democracy — Just Like the Republicans, December 14th, 2007
- Victor Harris: Surprised That Local Democratic Party Wanted To Suppress Primary Competition, February 25th, 2008
- Mark Owens Says Most Montgomery Dems Approve The Party’s Suppression Of Primary Participation, April 8th, 2009
- Proposal To Stop Democratic Primary Endorsements in Montgomery County Quashed At Reorganization Meeting, June 3rd, 2010
- Montgomery County Democratic Party Dominated By Appointed Gov. Workers And Elected Gov. Officials, September 16th, 2011
- At The Reorganization Meeting, A New Constitution Could Transform the MCDP’s “Political Boss” Structure, January 19th, 2014
- The Dayton Daily News Cut Fifty Words From The Heart Of My Article, January 31st, 2014
- Elected Precinct Leaders At The MCDP Reorganization Must Advance A Plan To Build Respect And Support For The Party, May 21st, 2018
- At The MCDP Reorganization Meeting, The Central Committee Votes To Make No Change In Endorsement Policies, June 7th, 2018
- Which Democrat Will Represent OHD-39? Should The MCDP Push An Endorsement Or Let Primary Voters Decide?, December 4th, 2019