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.