Raymond LembkeOn November 20, I attended a Democratic gathering at the Milford Brewery.  I was invited by, among others, Milford Mayor Amy Vilardo.  While I and several other people spoke  briefly, the featured speaker was Ohio Democratic Party Chair David Pepper.  The Chairman said many interesting things, but I’d like to focus here on one of them. Chairman Pepper was, rightfully, enthused about how Democrats had done in local elections around the state this year.

In Westerville, Reynoldsburg, and Cuyahoga Falls, Democrats took control of or significantly increased their numbers in municipal governments that have historically been solidly Republican.  A Democrat, who was a first-time candidate, defeated the Republican incumbent for mayor of Ironton in southern Ohio.  I think these results should say something to us in Clermont County.

Within the 2020 election, the highest priorities are getting as many votes as possible for our candidate for President and for our statewide candidates, Jennifer Brunner and John O’Donnell for Ohio Supreme Court. We have five local candidates who need our support as well:

  • Jaime Castle for US Congressional District 2
  • Alan Darnowsky for Ohio House District 65,
  • Acacia Uible for Clermont County Clerk of Courts
  • Jeff Richards for Clermont County Commissioner
  • Richard Perry for Clermont County Commissioner.

However, we also need to think beyond 2020 to the local races which will happen in 2021.

Many times while I’ve had the privilege of serving as Clermont County Democratic Executive Committee Chair, people have said to me that they knew our candidate for a particular office would do a better job than their Republican opponent but “I can’t vote for her/him because she/he is a Democrat.”  How do we combat this type of thinking?

We combat it by running good candidates in the non-partisan local elections in which candidates don’t carry a D or R on the ballot.  We get those candidates elected and they do a good job.  Once those people have gained credibility and have shown that they are working for the people in their communities (and are not charged with crimes while in office), those candidates run for higher offices in races in which they do have a D after their names.  This will allow us to create a brand for Democrats in Clermont County as the good government party.

First, we need new candidates.  These candidates need to be young enough to run for village or township office in 2021 or 2023 with an eye to being elected a County Commissioner, State Rep, or State Senator in 2030 or later.

These candidates will need to have passion; passion for campaigning and passion for doing the best job possible for their communities once in office.  While we are starting to see a few people like this emerge in the more suburban western parts of Clermont County, we also need them in places like Owensville, New Richmond, Goshen, and Bethel.  We all need to be looking for the people who can be these candidates and encouraging them to step up.

Second, we need to support these candidates when they do run, not just in our own communities but everywhere in Clermont County.  Being a candidate can make you feel lonely and exposed.  These new candidates will need to know that we have their backs.  Some candidates may want the official, overt support of the Democratic Party.  Others may feel that their chances of being elected are better if they de-emphasize party affiliation.  In both cases, we need to make sure that they have money and volunteers.

You may read this and think that I’m advocating giving up on our local candidates in 2020.  Not true.  More Democrats on the ballot shows that there are Democrats in Clermont County and that our neighbors who share our values are not alone.  As I write this, we still need 2020 candidates for County Treasurer, County Recorder, Prosecutor, Engineer, Coroner, Prosecuting Attorney, and State Representative for District 66.  We ran a full slate in 2018.  We’re falling short for 2020.  The more votes Democrats receive once they are on the ballot, the more voters will see that it is possible to break the Republican death-grip on Clermont County.  If we can win even one race, it will be much easier to win again in the future.

Chairman Pepper was rightfully proud of the success of Democrats in historically Republican communities in Ohio in 2019.  Clermont County is not an outlier, it can happen here.  We aren’t going to do it in one election and we aren’t going to do it by waiting until a few months before an election.  We need to start local, plan ahead, and start building our brand as the Good Government Party right now.