Hi, I’m Meredith, and I started working in the communications department for the Ohio Democratic Party just three weeks ago. As one of my first assignments, I was out on the road this week, touring Ohio with our chairman, David Pepper, as we met with local candidates and promoted early voting.
We criss-crossed the state, kicking things off in Hamilton County on Monday morning, heading up to northeast Ohio, zipping across the Ohio Turnpike to Toledo and wrapping up our three-day tour with stops in Mansfield and Wilmington.
A local TV station in Toledo even captured this moment, as I was taking a photo of David with school board candidate Sheena Barnes.
Our program to support local candidates is called the Main Street Initiative — and it’s all about building a bench of great public servants at every level, whether it be for school board, city council or mayor. The state party provided training and support for nearly 500 local candidates this year.
We started off the week at the Hamilton County Board of Elections in Norwood for a news conference to promote early voting. We heard from Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairwoman Gwen McFarlin and great local candidates like Aharon Brown, who is running for city council in Forest Park.
State Rep. Jessica Miranda was there, too. As a former school board member, Jessica knows the importance of building a bench at the local level. In 2018, she flipped a suburban Hamilton County state House seat from red to blue — and she won by just 56 votes!
Lots of folks are voting early in Hamilton County!
Our next stop was Wooster, where we met Nell Reardon, who is running for mayor, and Juanita Green, who is running for city council.
Massillon is the City of Champions, and the current mayor, Kathy Catazaro-Perry, has her city on a winning streak. We sat down with Kathy at local restaurant Smiley’s, and she introduced us to the “Mayor Special,” which, of course, was delicious.
Ohio Democrats have a number of great women mayors up for re-election in 2019 — including Catazaro-Perry, Euclid Mayor Kirsten Holzheimer Gail and Elyria Mayor Holly Brinda.
Tuesday started with another early morning event focused on early voting in Summit County, where we met Green Councilman Matt Shaughnessy, who is running for mayor.
Matt began his lifelong pursuit of public service as Cleveland police officer in 1989, served as a firefighter/paramedic with Fairview Park Fire Department for 18 years, worked at the University of Akron as a project manager while attending law school at night and currently works as a crime victims attorney.
Ohio Democrats are increasingly taking the fight to the GOP in their suburban strongholds. Green is an affluent suburb of 26,000 residents, between Canton and Akron, and it’s the headquarters of Diebold. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because they used to make voting machines.
Summit County is another place where Ohio Democrats flipped a suburban state House seat from red to blue in 2018. The newly elected state representative, Casey Weinstein, was a former city councilman in Hudson.
In Huron County, Dave Light and his wife Kim sat down with David and I to discuss his upcoming election. Dave is running for mayor of Norwalk, a city of 17,000.
Dave is the former police chief in Norwalk — he retired in 2018 after 34(!) years with the police department there.
On Tuesday night, the South Toledo Dems held their 55th annual spaghetti dinner, where we met up with with Sheena Barnes, who is running for the Toledo Public Schools Board of Education. Sheena would be the first openly LGBTQ+ person of color on the school board.
Building a bench of great public servants who reflect the diversity of Ohio is essential. That’s why supporting LGBTQ+ candidates like Sheena and Marlena Brookfield for Cincinnati Public Schools Board of Education and Connor Thompson for Mifflin Village Council is important to the Ohio Democratic Party.
On Wednesday we attended the Richland County Democratic Party’s weekly luncheon, which this week featured Councilman Don Bryant, the Democratic candidate for Mansfield mayor.
Democratic mayors run all of Ohio’s top 10 biggest cities — and 16 of the top 20. In 2019, we have the chance to take over two more of the top 20, with strong candidates in Mansfield (#19 — Councilman Don Bryant) and Newark (#20 — Councilman Jeremy Blake).
One of the Main Street Initiative’s first candidates in 2015 was Kelsey Swindler, who was running to become the first Democratic councilmember in Wilmington in, well, a really long time.
Guess what? She won — and in 2017, she won re-election, bringing two more Democratic candidates onto council with her.
This year Kelsey and Tyler Williams are both running for re-election to Wilmington City Council in their deep-red county.
On our three-day tour, it was so inspiring to see so many young candidates running for office. Across the state, Ohio Young Dems have endorsed nearly 90 candidates who are under 40 and on the ballot in 2019.
Are you fired up for 2019? Election Day is just days away, and it’s all going to come down to turnout in these local races. Want to help? Click here to find a volunteer event near you.