Ohio Democratic Party Chair David Pepper's long-term plan to bring his party back to power

Posted at 1:58 PM, Jul 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-07 19:34:16-04

Poor David Pepper. He’s the head of a political party in Ohio that’s been shut out, gerrymandered and rendered nearly powerless: Democrats in Ohio have been steamrolled by a popular two-term Republican governor and a Republican supermajority in the state legislature that's had their way for years.

But Pepper has a plan, which he laid out for WCPO's editorial board Wednesday.

Here's some short takes from his interview:

Pepper: I’ve spent the last year and a half being in the interesting job of being the head of a party that had a disastrous 2014 and trying to rebuild it.

We’ve come through for the nation, say, by electing Barack Obama, but other than that, we’ve failed in so many ways.

WCPO: So what is your plan?

We put a lot of time last year into not just preparing for this year, but also making sure we won mayor’s races and council races all over Ohio.

We call it the Main Street initiative. It’s to focus on building a bench of great public servants all the time. We literally reject the terminology “off-year election.” It’s a local year or a state year.

The party is basically weighted for whomever wins the primary for the presidential election to build the infrastructure for us. But that infrastructure is for that candidate in that race. And when that campaign ends, it all disappears. 

We’re not going to do that anymore. We’re going to build something long before someone wins the primary.

How is the Ted Strickland-Rob Portman race shaping up?

The main thing (Portman's team) keeps saying is the recession started in Columbus in 2008. Thus, (Strickland) is the reason that jobs were lost. We all know it was Wall Street and Washington and the housing crisis. 

But isn't that why Strickland lost the governorship?

He lost by two points in a terrible turnout year across the country. If that argument was so effective, he would have lost by 20. It’s a very weak argument.

Will there be a “Trump effect” in the Senate race?

I think Donald Trump puts Rob Portman in a real difficult spot. Rob Portman has really mishandled this question about Donald Trump.

What do you mean?

The heart of Donald Trump’s message in Ohio is that people have done a terrible job negotiating trade deals all these years. That’s Rob Portman’s career! He was the U.S. trade representative.

Is this race bigger than Ohio?

This will probably be the most expensive race. This will probably be the race that determines the Senate.

What are the odds of Sherrod Brown being picked for vice president?

If he wasn’t a senator that would lead to a Republican replacement, I think he would be the clear favorite. (Resigning from the Senate in the middle of his term would mean Republican governor Kaisch would choose his replacement.) That’s the big obstacle for him.

What he brings to the table is that strong: He’s from Ohio, the swing state. He’s the perfect rebuttal for Donald Trump’s trade talk. He has a reach into the Bernie Sanders wing of the party that not too many politicians do.

What do you think is next for P.G. Sittenfeld after his run for Senate?

P.G.’s first commitment is to get back to City Hall and, I think he’s said this, be one hell of a city council member. And I think he’s already doing that. He’s certainly one of the brightest members of the bench we have.