Does a Strickland win signal a paradigm shift for Ohio Democrats?

By Ken Hanson

Democratic Gubernatorial nominee Ted Strickland stomped his opposition in the primary, and is “out of the gates” running towards November with a double-digit poll lead, not to mention a substantial financial edge, over Republican nominee Ken Blackwell. Happy times are here again, right? Well, not according to Ohio’s big city democrats.

A front page story from The Other Paper's Dan Williamson outlines the woe and gnashing of teeth the big city liberals are suffering. While Mr. Williamson does his usual excellent job in his story, I think there is a current running just under the story that deserves further examination.

The gist of the story is that the Mayors of Dayton, Cleveland, Columbus, Akron and Youngstown, as well as a congressperson from Cleveland, have all withheld their support from Strickland. Surely a candidate polling as strongly as Strickland must have committed some major transgression to be blackballed in such a manner. Strickland’s crime? His policy positions.

The ire of the big city Ds is not limited to Strickland, with Democratic party chair Chris Redfern also being singled out for his policy differences with the big city machines. The story goes on to note, several times, the difference between the urban Ds and their country cousins Strickland and Redfern on the issue of guns. So working against Strickland and Redfern is the fact that they have blasphemed the holy gospel of gun control and dared to opine that perhaps gun control is a failure.

Mr. Williamson’s story also notes, several times, that the big city mayors are indignant about a state law that stripped the cities of their power to require that city employees must reside within the city. While this law might very well be overturned by the Court’s as a violation of home rule authority granted cities under the Ohio Constitution, their indignation is a thin veneer over a larger problem: They know that if city employees are not required to live in the crime infested slum holes that these Mayor’s preside over in order to maintain their jobs, then a large number of these city employees will chose to live outside the city. This will, of course, deprive the cities of political clout due to the decrease in voting population, and the decrease in persons earning a living wage residing within their cities.

    However, Coleman and the other mayors aren't concerned about the Democratic Party for the last 15 or 16 years. They're concerned about this year's Democratic Party under Redfern. While conceding that Redfern isn't "totally anti-city," Coleman cited Redfern's votes for the residency-requirement override and the concealed-carry law passed in late 2003. "He has had many votes that have been anti-city, anti-urban area, and yet he comes back around the other side with his Democratic Party chair hat, saying, 'We need ya,'" Coleman said. "Yeah, right." Redfern appeared exasperated by Coleman's remarks. "That's wrong," he said. "I beg to differ with the mayor—and I appreciate his concerns."

So, what does this spat come down to? Mr. Williamson takes a stab at it:

    “Some pro-Strickland Democrats say what's really involved is the egos of Coleman and his crew: They didn't want Strickland to be the party's nominee and didn't want Redfern to be the party's chairman, so now they're going to hold their collective breath until somebody pays them attention.”

That is certainly part of it. However, a larger part of it is probably the recognition that a paradigm shift might be occurring. The Ohio Democratic party is enjoying the greatest renaissance it has experienced in nearly two decades, and is doing so with the likes of Ted Strickland, Chris Redfern and Marc Dann at the head of the ticket, pro-gun candidates all. Further, NONE of these are big city candidates. So the Democrats are, for the first time in memory, seriously contesting the two top jobs in the state, Governor and Attorney General, and doing so with rural pro-gun candidates under a party directed by a rural chairman.

You don't have to almost graduate from one of Columbus' failing schools to understand that this fact pattern might signal a substantial shift of power within the Democratic party. If you, like me, have voted Republican in a contest recently simply because a vote for the Democrats would have been a definitive vote for gun control, not because you supported the Republican candidate, now is the time to let Ohio Democrats know that the big city Ds are wrong, and Strickland, Redfern, Dann et al are right.

I’ll throw this extra one in for free: Had the Democrats run ANYONE even MARGINALLY pro-gun against Mike DeWine, they’d have picked up a Senate seat, too.

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