Looking back at six years …

Saving Health Care, Fighting for Voting Rights, Stopping Gerrymandering, Notching Historic Wins

Ohio Democratic Party
7 min readJan 1, 2021

It’s been six years since David Pepper took over as chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, and as he steps down, we wanted to take a look back at some of the highlights of his tenure.

Ohio Democratic Party team with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, 2018 Legacy Dinner
Ohio Democratic Party team with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, 2018 State Dinner
Ohio Democratic Party team with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 2019 Legacy Dinner
President Barack Obama, 2016 State Dinner

Since 2015, Ohio Democrats have won significant electoral victories, including re-electing U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown by nearly 7 percentage points and flipping three Ohio Supreme Court seats in two cycles. In addition to these statewide wins at the ballot box, Ohio Democrats have also achieved real policy victories over the past six years.

  • Working with Democratic officials and grassroots activists across the state and country, we helped save the Affordable Care Act and preserved the health care law’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions, Medicaid expansion and much more.
  • We stood up for voting rights and won key victories in court and in the legislature.
  • We fought for redistricting reform measures to end the scourge of gerrymandering.
  • In community after community, local Democratic officials have enacted progressive policies like expanding pre-K, outlawing discrimination against LGBTQ+ Ohioans and declaring racism to be a public health crisis.
  • Wins in prosecutor and judicial races across the state and at every level will have enormous consequences for reforming our broken criminal justice system and keeping the right-wing Statehouse in check.

These policy wins at the local level are a tribute to our strong bench of great public servants, which the Ohio Democratic Party has been proud to help cultivate.

Notching Historic Wins

Ohio Democrats have broken barriers and made history during Chairman Pepper’s tenure. In 2018, Ohioans re-elected U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown to a rare third term. That same year, Ohio Democrats picked up two state Supreme Court seats, with Justice Melody Stewart becoming the first African-American Democratic candidate ever elected to statewide office.

In 2020, Ohio Democrats flipped another Ohio Supreme Court seat, with Justice-elect Jennifer Brunner set to be sworn in this January. It was was one of only five statewide red-to-blue pickups in the nation — and the only one in a state where Donald Trump won at the top of the ticket.

By promoting voter education about the importance of nonpartisan and judicial races and investing resources to inform voters about Democratic candidates in these critical races, Ohio Democrats have also achieved success at the appellate court level. In 2021, Democratic judges will hold the majority of seats on the state’s 12 appellate courts.

As part of the chairman’s Main Street Initiative, we’ve built and deepened our bench, helping to elect candidates that reflect the diversity of our state. Check out some of these great public servants who have made history in their communities …

Reynoldsburg City Councilman Bhuwan Pyakurel — First Nepali-Bhutanese Elected Official in the Country

Reynoldsburg City Council President Angie Jenkins, Councilwoman Meredith Lawson-Rowe and Councilwoman Shanette Strickland — First African-American Women Elected to Reynoldsburg City Council

Sheriff-elect Charmaine McGuffey — First LGBTQ+ Sheriff in Ohio

Judge Carla Baldwin — First African-American Woman Judge Elected in Youngstown

Wyoming Mayor Thaddeus Hoffmeister — First African-American Mayor in City History

Solon City Councilman Macke Bentley — First African-American City Council Member

Struthers Mayor Catherine Cercone Miller — First Woman Mayor in Mahoning County History

Ironton Mayor Sam Cramblit — Youngest Mayor in City’s History

Hubbard Mayor Benjamin Kyle — Youngest Mayor in City’s History

Hamilton County Clerk Aftab Pureval — First Democrat Elected to Clerk’s Office in More Than a Century

Hilliard City Councilwoman Cynthia Vermillion — First Democrat Elected to Council in Three Decades

Bowling Green Mayor Michael Aspacher — First Democratic Mayor in More Than 30 Years

Protecting Health Care

The fight to protect the Affordable Care Act has been one of the greatest challenges — and biggest victories of the past six years. Grassroots activists across the nation came together to push back against “Trumpcare” and call out the Trump Administration’s war against the health care law’s protections.

David talks with reporters outside a Paul Ryan event in 2017

Over the past six years, David has visited every corner of the state to talk about the importance of health care.

In 2017, Ohio Democrats worked with Indivisible to save Medicaid expansion in Ohio.

Ohio Democrats even got a shout-out from Gov. John Kasich when one of our health care tours stopped at the Ohio Statehouse in 2018.

Defending Voting Rights

The Ohio Democratic Party has tirelessly fought back against Republicans’ attacks on voting rights.

In 2015, the state party worked with Ohio College Democrats to push back against an attempt to prevent out-of-state students from registering and voting in their college communities.

In 2016, the Ohio Democratic Party challenged Ohio Republicans’ elimination of Golden Week and enactment of onerous absentee and provisional ballot requirements.

In 2019, the state party worked with grassroots volunteers across the state to “Fight the Purge” and help purged Ohio voters get re-registered.

In 2020, we won key victories to empower county boards of elections to offer additional ballot dropboxes and allow Secretary of State Frank LaRose to move forward with online ballot applications whenever he sees fit.

Fighting for Fair Districts

Under Chairman Pepper’s leadership, the Ohio Democratic Party has been at the forefront of the fight to end gerrymandering in the Buckeye State.

In 2015, the Ohio Democratic Party’s executive committee endorsed Issue 1, a redistricting reform amendment for legislative districts. The state party used email and social media extensively, as well as traditional forms of outreach including mail and robocalls to tens of thousands of voters, to communicate with Democratic voters about the redistricting amendment. The reform measure passed by a 71–29 percent margin.

Three years later, Ohio Democrats worked with local groups and progressive activists across the state to collect hundreds of thousands of petition signatures for the Fair Congressional Districts for Ohio campaign. This activism pushed Statehouse Republicans to take action and put a congressional redistricting reform measure on the ballot. The Ohio Democratic Party invested heavily in supporting Issue 1, and the 2018 ballot measure passed by an even larger margin — 75–25 percent.

The final piece of the puzzle in ensuring fair districts for the next decade has been the state party’s increased focus on the Ohio Supreme Court. With the new makeup of the state’s highest court, Ohio Republicans will have to think twice before defying the Ohio Constitution’s new restrictions on partisan gerrymandering.

Supporting Great Candidates and Public Servants Across the State

Throughout his time as chair, David made it a priority to support and promote state and local candidates in every corner of the state and tout the great work our elected officials are doing at every level.

David at the 2018 Main Street Initiative’s Bench-Building Boot Camp
David with Toledo School Board Member Sheena Barnes
David with Norwalk Mayor Dave Light
David with Reynoldsburg City Council President Angie Jenkins and Councilwoman Meredith Lawson-Rowe
David with Summit County Democratic Party leaders and volunteers

On behalf of the entire Ohio Democratic Party family, we wish Chairman Pepper all the best in his future endeavors!



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