We are in fair/festival season.  I’d like to share some of my experiences and observations as I’ve traveled around our County.

New Richmond, Ohio

I had the pleasure of renewing an existing acquaintance and meeting a new friend at New Richmond River Days. Judge Marilyn Zayas and Judge Terri Jamison came to the Cardboard Boat Races. They are starting their campaigns to be elected to the Ohio Supreme Court in 2022.

I met Judge Zayas when she successfully ran for the Ohio Court of Appeals in Hamilton County in 2016.  Judge Zayas called me before the New Richmond’s River Days Festival to tell me she is running for Supreme Court. She asked about opportunities to meet voters in Clermont County. I suggested the Cardboard Boat Races. I was pleased to see that Judge Zayas accepted my suggestion and brought Judge Jamison too.

Since 2016 Judge Zayas served on the Ohio Court of Appeals in Hamilton County.  She is a mother of three. Before becoming a lawyer, Judge Zayas spent several years as an IT manager for Procter & Gamble. While Democrats have been doing much better in Hamilton County, Judge Zayas took pride in telling me that she is still one of the very few Democrats to carry Anderson Township in recent years.

Judge Jamison currently serves on the Ohio Court of Appeals in Franklin County (Columbus). Prior to her election to the Court of Appeals, she served nine years as a judge on the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas in the Domestic Relations and Juvenile Divisions. Domestic Relations and Juvenile Court are the courts which deal with family issues: divorce, child custody, and juvenile crime. Judge Jamison has seen how the law impacts ordinary people at difficult times in their lives.

I expect Judge Zayas and Judge Jamison to join us for a CCDP Executive Committee meeting in September or October.  By Party rules, Executive Committee meetings are public.  I urge everyone to join us for those meetings to hear from these very impressive women.

Together with Justice Jennifer Bruner, who is running for Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court next year, Judge Zayas and Judge Jamison offer the opportunity to restore the Democratic majority on our Supreme Court. This matters, a lot. There are many ways the Court impacts the everyday lives of Ohioans. The Republican majority, in the name of being “pro-business,” has made it harder for Ohioans who have been injured or defrauded to obtain justice. As it stands now, Ohio law protects the victimizer if its name ends in “Inc.” or “LLC”. The Court has accomplished this through procedural rulings, such as aggressive interpretations of statutes of limitations, which have the effect of protecting businesses from legitimate claims. We need the courts of our state to be level playing fields rather than tilted in the direction of wealth.

Getting a Democratic majority on the Ohio Supreme Court will not be easy. As Governor Strickland told me several years ago, “In a statewide race, a vote in Clermont County counts just as much as a vote in Cuyahoga County.”  2022 will also, almost certainly, see the end of “non-partisan” races for judgeships.  Although they run in partisan primary elections, candidates for judge at all levels have, for years, run in the general election without a D or R after their names on the ballot.  Republicans believe this has caused “confusion” which resulted in Melody Stewart and Michael Donnelly being elected to the Supreme Court in 2018.  Once again, the Republican General Assembly and Governor DeWine have changed the election rules to try to help Republicans.

A side note:  River Days was followed on Sunday, August 8, by an art festival in New Richmond.  This was a very different atmosphere than River Days, and less crowded.  If New Richmond has the arts festival again, I encourage you to check it out.

Owensville, Ohio

Owensville, of course, means the Clermont County Fair.  I want to thank everyone who helped set up our Fair building; who joined us in the parade on Sunday July 25, including, especially, Milford School Board candidate Emily Mason had her family; and everyone who volunteered to staff our building during the Fair.  It was a hot week and a challenging environment.  I greatly appreciate everyone who helped.

The atmosphere of the Fair seemed more challenging this year. The “trump 2024” flags scattered around the fairgrounds were some of the more benign materials I saw. On Monday afternoon, standing outside our building, I was harassed by a man about my age wearing an “Ohio Minuteman Militia” tee shirt.  I resisted the urge to ask whether calling himself a “minuteman” wasn’t giving me more personal information than I needed to know.  I have heard, indirectly, that our volunteers working the Fair one evening felt threatened enough that they locked themselves in our building and called Fair security.

Intimidating us into staying away from events like the Fair is part of the Republican/rightwing playbook. They want to create the false impression that everyone in Clermont County shares their hate. It is vitally important that we remain highly visible so thinking Clermont Countians know they are not alone.

It is also important that we not respond to the haters in kind. As Michelle Obama has said repeatedly, “When they go low, we go high.” We cannot give independent voters the impression that we do the same things as those on the right. We must be mindful that events like the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and the subsequent minimization of that terrorism by Republican leaders has put a seal of approval on violence in rightwing circles. Going high is frequently also the better part of valor.

Congratulations to the North

I want to give a shout out to my colleague, Shontel Brown, Cuyahoga County Democratic Chair. Last week, Shontel won a special Democratic primary election and will be on the November ballot in a special election for Congress from Ohio’s Eleventh Congressional District. The Eleventh is one of the solidly Democratic Districts in Ohio. It is highly likely that Shontel will be going to Washington to serve out the term of Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, now President Biden’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

The Clermont County Board of Elections is currently scheduled to certify candidates for the November 2021 general election ballot on August 16.  My next piece will report to you about the candidates on the ballot this year.

Stay safe and enjoy your summer.

Raymond Lembke, Chair of Clermont County Democratic Party