Middle aged white man smiling

US Senator Sherrod Brown

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown has taken over the Ohio Democratic Party (ODP), putting his protégé Elizabeth Walters in charge with the blessing of a handful of union donors.

On one hand, this could be good because Sherrod is the only Ohio Democrat who knows how to win statewide partisan elections.

It is less good when you consider that he lacked the coattails to pull any of the other statewide non-judicial candidates over the finish line in 2018.

On the other hand, the powerful labor donors have not been able to help Democrats regain control of the governorship and other statewide administrative offices and win more state legislative races.

It is less bad when you consider that Democrats have gained three Ohio Supreme Court justices in the last two elections and are on the verge of gaining a majority for the first time in a long time if they can turn one more seat in 2022.

David Pepper beat out a Sherrod-backed candidate for the ODP chair job six years ago. He compiled a record of mostly failures in statewide and legislative races, but won some key judicial races.

Pepper tried to rebuild the party from the ground up, inaugurating the Main Street program that recruited candidates for local offices and schooled them in the fine art of political campaigning. It was led by the hard-working and genial Sam Melendez. Many successes were achieved, but apparently that was not good enough for Walters, who, in a boneheaded move, terminated Melendez.

This is called subtraction by subtraction.

So far, we Democrats are waiting for Walters to announce her plan for rebuilding a party in a state that has lost twice to the coup-loving Mad Ex-King by 8 percentage points.

Firing good people like Melendez, and reportedly 20 more, is not a plan.

Getting Stacey Abrams to move to Ohio and take over the party is a plan.

Re-aligning the state party and Democratic candidates with the hopes and aspirations of typical Ohioans is a good beginning for a plan. Too often our candidates are seen as connected to the AOC/DNC wing of the national party and that turns off salt of the earth Ohioans.

It's Sherrod Brown's party now. He should be held responsible for the success or failure of the Walters' regime. He has proven over the decades that he knows how to win the Buckeye State for himself. Now it is time to prove he can do it for others, too

Coleman: Would Boost 2022 Candidates' Lineup

I suggested last month that former Columbus Mayor Mike Coleman throw his hat in the ring for governor. He half-tossed his hat in the ring for statewide office last week, but pointed it toward the open U.S. Senate seat.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman answered many of our prayers last week by saying that he would take his hat and go home to Cincinnati in early 2023, when his term ends.

Vapid Rob got himself on the Mad Ex-King s--t list by not endorsing the coup attempt among other things. He faced a primary in 2022 against a well-funded Mad Ex-King acolyte and likely forced exile to the family-owned restaurant in Cincinnati.

Coleman jumped into the breach by announcing that he was thinking about running and that it would be a family decision. In other words, his wife would have to okay it. Coleman, who has made a bundle of dough as a major law firm's rainmaker since leaving as mayor, was not quite ready for prime time in his TV appearance. It looked like he was as interested in reminding people of his prominence as in actually running.

All that said, Coleman quickly can gear up for prime time. He knows how to do TV. He knows how to raise money. Most people in central Ohio like him. He is popular in his hometown of Toledo. Nearly everybody in Ohio has heard of him. Most importantly, he is pals with one Barack Obama.

Ryan: About To Be Redistricted, Eyes Statewide

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Youngstown is expected to see his district divvied up among neighboring Republicans for 2022 as the U.S. Census figures are expected to cause a reduction of Ohio Congressional districts from 16 to 15.

Ryan, who has lost contests for the Democratic presidential nomination and U.S. Speaker of the House, is not without ambition. 2022 may be the year that he throws caution to the wind and runs statewide for either senator or governor.

His biggest obstacles are that Youngstown is a small media market and that Youngstown-ness (crime, graft) is a big turnoff to the more conservative and staid voters elsewhere in the state. Ryan's pretty good on TV and knows where the big national donors hide their cash. So there's that.

King LeBron: Who Could Ask For More?

Black, rich, philanthropic, well-read, only 36 years old, championship athlete, international celebrity, movie star, dynamite at TV interviews, entrepreneur, founder of a school for children, native of and hero in Akron, led the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team to Ohio's first major professional championship since Hector was a pup – there is a lot more that can be said about LeBron James, a prospective candidate for U.S. Senate.

I first learned about LeBron 20 years ago when I was a journalism professor at Central Michigan University. A student sent an email to me under the name "LeBronJamesIsTheKing234." I asked the sender, a young man, what the email name was all about. He said it referred to the next great NBA star, still in high school in Akron, LeBron James.

It was the first time I heard of him but not the last.

Ohioans love to vote for celebrities. Let's substitute King LeBron for the Mad Ex-King.

2022 Candidate Scorecard

It is time for my fourth monthly 2022 Candidate Scorecard. I started this feature just before the Nov. 3, 2020, election.

In November, I was stumped for a senate candidate and wanted Sherrod Brown to run for governor as the best means of rebuilding the party. The latter was a non-starter. He took over the party instead.

In December, I put forth Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley as the best available candidate for senator and proposed Aftab Pureval, Hamilton County Clerk of Courts, as governor with Amy Acton, former Ohio Health Department Director, as lieutenant governor to be put in charge of health again.

Former ODP chair Pepper was my choice for senator in January with Coleman as governor and Acton again in the second spot. Pureval announced he was running for mayor of Cincinnati in 2021, so I dropped from consideration.

My February lineup changed once again as LeBron looks like our best candidate for senator. Pepper is moved to the backup position. Ryan breaks into my lineup as governor candidate with Acton still on the ticket. Backup would be Coleman-Whaley.

For the four statewide administrative offices, I offer first and second choices.

Attorney General: 2018 nominee Steve Dettelbach (fourth month in a row) followed by Ryan.

Secretary of State: Whaley followed by John Cranley. The Cincinnati mayor is making noises about running for governor as a conservative Democrat, but lacks star power of Coleman, Ryan and James.

Auditor: Cranley followed by Connie Pillich, a charismatic former state legislator who has run statewide.

Treasurer: Pillich (third month in a row) followed by Emilia Sykes, Ohio House minority leader.

Dear readers: Send your 2022 candidate lineup to my email address below.           


-- John O'Keefe writes that his suit asking that the OSU Airport pay property taxes, since it is now primarily a commercial airport, not a training one, is before the Ohio Supreme Court. It is no-brainer, but the OSU lobby is so powerful that the suit's outcome is in doubt.

-- The Columbus Dispatch has laryngitis. It has lost its voice. It rarely publishes local editorials or opinions now and devotes less and less space to them.

-- GateHouse, now called Gannett Co, that bought the Dispatch nearly six years ago for $47 million, is selling its suburban office building for $8.8 million, further reducing its footprint in central Ohio. Remember, it closed its press operation in Columbus a year ago and began printing in Indianapolis, imposing ridiculously early deadlines on its loyal print readers.

-- media business reporter Rick Edmonds offered a revealing interview with Gannett CEO Mike Reed on Jan. 27. Reed is betting on selling lots of subscriptions for digital access in the near future. It is an essential read if you care about the future of The Dispatch. Why Gannett CEO Mike Reed thinks the company can reach 10 million paid digital subscribers within 5 years - Poynter

-- Joe Blundo may be semi-retired, but he still writes one hell of a column for The Dispatch. "Biden inauguration is a reason to sing" will make you laugh and cry. Joe Blundo: Biden inauguration is reason to break out in song (

-- Urban Meyer has given up on being restored as head football coach at Ohio State University and taken a bucket of cash to coach the Jacksonville Jaguars of the NFL. OSU was not big enough for Urban and ex-President Michael Drake to co-exist after Drake suspended him two seasons ago. New President Kristina Johnson took over last summer, perhaps opening the door to an Urban comeback. But current head coach Ryan Day shows no sign of leaving. So bye-bye. I wonder if Urban will trade his Audi for a Jag.

(Please send your comments and suggestions for future columns to John K. Hartman,  

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