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Ohio Democratic Party Expected To Appoint New Leader This Month

David Pepper, the chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, speaks at the Hamilton County Board of Elections as people arrive to participate in early voting in Norwood, Ohio on October 6, 2020..
Aaron Doster

The Ohio Democratic Party is expected to vote on a replacement for outgoing chairman David Pepper on December 29. 

Former Mahoning County Democratic Party Chair David Betras has been critical of Pepper and the party. So is he interested in taking over?

“Let me put the Hell in front of the no," Betras says.

Betras says the state Democratic party needs to clean house and refocus on working Ohioans, a sentiment that’s shared by former party chair Chris Redfern.

“We need to go back to our base, continue conversations and support issues that are important to African American and Latino communities, but also talk to working folks,” Redfern says.

Redfern says he’s open to being the chairman again if the board wants it. He says he's also willing to help a new person take over that role. Pepper says he'll help the next leader make an easy transition into the role.

Former state Senator Lou Gentile and Columbus consultant Antoinette Wilson are also contenders for the post.

Pepper announced he would step down last month after an election where polls showed Democrats would do well in Ohio but largely didn’t. Though polls showed Democrats could win Ohio this year, President Trump won the state by 8 points, just slightly less than he did in 2016.

Pepper has been at the helm of the party for six years. Under Pepper, Democrats have also lost significant ground in state politics – losing all three of the last races for governor, and falling to an even smaller majority of a Republican-supermarjority legislature. Democrats have not won a single statewide executive office since 2012.

After redistricting in 2010 led to gerrymandered congressional districts, Democrats have been stuck at a minority of Ohio's U.S. House members as well. This election, Democratic challengers again failed to oust a single Republican incumbent, resulting in the same 12-4 divide. However, Democrats have reclaimed three of seven Ohio Supreme Court seats in the last two years.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.