Victor Harris: Surprised That Local Democratic Party Wanted To Suppress Primary Competition

Victor Harris with Governor Ted Strickland

It came as a surprise to Victor Harris that, in order to seek the 40th Ohio House District Democratic primary nomination, he would need to buck the Montgomery County Democratic Party. Yesterday, The Dayton Daily News ran an article, “Township Trustee, Military Vet Vie for Strahorn’s Post,” about the race that said that Harris, a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel, in terms of understanding the local Democratic Party, “admits to being somewhat naive.” The subtitle for the article was, “Roland Winburn has the Democratic Party’s endorsement in the March 4 primary.”

Victor Harris does not strike anyone as being naive. On the contrary, Vic shows a firm grounding for his thinking. But who wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the local Democratic Party discourages primary competition? Isn’t the purpose of a Democratic primary to give Democratic voters the chance to make the choice of who will be the party’s nominee? The DDN quotes Harris: “I didn’t know the party would select in a primary. I thought the party would take the view … to encourage people to run so voters would have a choice.”

What a concept: the party should encourage people to run in order for Democrats to have a choice. But, of course if that was how the local Democratic Party actually operated, then the power brokers in the Party would lose power.

The word “naive,” certainly applies to many Democrats’ understanding of the local Democratic Party. I became involved in the party only in 2006, elected in my local precinct to be a member of the Montgomery County Democratic Party’s Central Committee. My assumptions about how the Party would operate were very wrong. I guess I was “naive.” You would think that the Democratic Party would operate as a model of democracy, that it would conduct itself in such a way as to deserve to be known as “the party of the people.” I was surprised.

I explain part of my frustration with the local Democratic Party in a December 14 post entitled, “The Montgomery Democrats Decide to Suppress Democracy — Just Like the Republicans,” that tells how the party rejected my motion to at least delay endorsements until after the filing deadline of January 4. The motion was rejected because the whole point of the Democratic Party’s endorsement process is to discourage Democrats, other than the endorsed candidate, from filing to run. As it is, the record shows that every year a number of potential candidates take out petitions, but, when they fail to receive the Party’s endorsement, simply abandon the process and never become an official primary candidate.

Typical Democrats probably feel as I once did that a local Democratic Party endorsement probably results from a fair and democratic consideration of possible candidates. If Democrats understood that only five or six people really have much say-so in the process and that the process is designed around projecting Party power rather than finding the best candidates, they would demand local party reform.

Democratic voters, I’m convinced, if given the opportunity would oppose the Party’s exclusively endorsing one individual and suppressing participation by other qualified individuals. Democratic voters, if given the chance, would reject the notion that The Montgomery County Democratic Party should revolve around the power and prerogatives of a few individuals.

From what I understand, as early as last July, and certainly by September, the decision as to who should be the endorsed Democratic candidate for the 40th House District was already determined. The choice was Roland Winburn — not because all possible candidates had been fairly vetted, but because key players in the local Party decided that it was Winburn’s turn.

The DDN article quotes Harris as saying, “Roland has been part of the party machine for a long period of time. I think he had a decided advantage going into the endorsement interviews.”

It is not OK for the Party to imply that Roland Winburn would make a better representative for the 40th District than Victor Harris. There simply is no justification for such an implication. Winburn, a dignified and reasonable man, I feel, would be a reliable bureaucrat who would faithfully vote Democratic and would be accessible and responsive to his constituents. But what Victor Harris offers is much more. Vic, I feel, would be bring needed energy and leadership to the Dayton political scene and, helping to fulfill a great need, he would be effective in encouraging and building up new leadership.

I would like to see Victor Harris elected to the Ohio House.  It’s up to the Democratic voters in the 40th District to decide. One thing is for certain, however, it is not appropriate for a few power players in the local Democratic Party to deny voters in the 40th District the right to decide.  It seems very obvious to me that the position taken by the Montgomey County Democratic Party to suppress primary competition is untenable.  It is not a position that most Democratic voters support.

To me, the unfolding of the endorsement process proves much about Vic’s character. Victor did not back down to the pressure of the local party. In this whole process he has shown much character by standing up for what he believes in. He bucked the petty meddling, the petty corruption, of our local Democratic Party. Good for him. If given the chance, the character that he demonstrates, I feel, will be the source of much needed positive leadership — needed in Columbus, needed in our local Democratic Party, and needed in the 40th Ohio House District.

Vic has professionally produced 30 second videos that will be shown as advertisements on Time Warner programs starting today, as well as during the Obama / Clinton debate tomorrow. You can view those 30 second spots here and here.

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5 Responses to Victor Harris: Surprised That Local Democratic Party Wanted To Suppress Primary Competition

  1. David Esrati says:

    I’ve posted the names of the secret society of the Montgomery County Democratic Party’s screening committee here:
    I’m also surprised that you make no mention of my candidacy Mr. Bock- are you only for promoting the candidates you feel close to- or, are you really interested in seeing choice?
    The Montgomery County Democratic Party should be promoting debate between the candidates- instead- they are trying to stifle it.
    Note- in OH-3, the other three county parties DO NOT ENDORSE in the primary.
    That should tell people a lot.

  2. I don’t believe DDN or any newspapers including parties should be endorsing in the primary. There is little time and often money for each candidate to get their platform across only then to have to run with opposing odds.
    I strongly oppose Winburn’s nomination for 40th district and hope Harris generates votes neccessary(even though I am not Dem nor Rep but value voter and plan to vote Siefker in Nov). Knowing that there are more Dem than Rep in 40th district…the odds are in Dem candidate to win. Harris has the merit and energy needed to move 40th district and Dem party forward and deserves the opportunity.

  3. Mike Bock says:

    David — Thanks for posting the names of the screening committee. The individuals in that group appear to hold the real power in the local Democratic Party.

    You also have a legitimate beef with the Montgomery County Democratic Party. And I’m glad that you are making your run for the 3rd U.S. House District Democratic nomination — regardless of the Party’s endorsement actions.

    Endorsement is one issue — I am opposed to the Party making official endorsements — but a more important issue is the practice of pressuring potential candidates to not participate. The Party’s endorsement of Mitakidas at least occurred after filing date — after you and Sanders had already filed. But in the case of the 40th OHD, the endorsement was made before the filing date. The whole point of making endorsements before the filing date, of course, is to discourage non-endorsed candidates — to pressure non-endorsed candidates from filing.

    Democrats always win in the 40th OHD by comfortable margins, so, with no incumbent running, The Party in this election cycle had a chance to award a plum “safe” seat to one of its own. So, the Party attempted to discourage a very viable candidate, Victor Harris, from participating in the primary, and, instead, promoted an already elected Democrat with good Party connections, Roland Winburn. It is my impression that only a handful of key insiders determined who the Party would endorse in the 40th OHD race.

    I first learned that Victor had filed to run in the 40th by reading about your meeting him at the Board of Elections that you reported in your blog. I thought it great that he was going to buck the undemocractic actions of the Party. I immediately contacted him and told him that I wanted to be of help to his campaign. I’ve enjoyed getting to know Victor over the last couple of months. Lately, I’ve been helping Victor’s campaign by placing yard signs along the busier roads in the District. And after March 4, I will help collect those same signs — hopefully to re-use in the general election.

  4. David Esrati says:

    As part of the endorsement process- the MCDP asks if you aren’t endorsed- will you withdraw. That’s how un-democratic they are. If you want to read the whole questionnaire and my answers:
    There is no doubt that a Dem will win in the 40th- which makes the party endorsement even more questionable. Who are these people that they think they are anointed to pick for all of us.
    I’ve met both candidates- and both are fine choices. My personal choice would be Harris in a heartbeat- I think he’ll work harder than any other rep we’ve seen in years.

  5. Lisi Reynolds says:

    I no longer agree with my statement- DDN, newspapers, and parties should not endorse a candidate in the primary.

    What I believe- A candidate that has organized their campaign effectively can win in the primary.

    I don’t believe that Rep. Winburn is the best representative for the 40th District.

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