Ohio Democrats were wiped out in the Nov. 8 election. Let the excuse-making begin.

Democrats in the state of Ohio have become like Democrats in Delaware County, where I reside. When you can’t win and you can’t even get close to electing Democrats, hold nice social gatherings and create an elaborate committee structure to divert the blame from the party leaders.

The Ohio Democratic Party, what of it there is, has moved into full public relations mode to try and save the jobs of its chair Liz Walters and her underlings.

Chris Redfern, the chair a decade ago, traveled from county to county after the party was whipped (though not as badly as this year) with charts and maps of how progress was being made and how the victory was just around the corner, if only brother Redfern were kept on the job.

He quit and was replaced by David Pepper, who engineered the strategy that elected three Democrats to the Ohio Supreme Court, by taking advantage of the fact that high court candidates’ names appeared on the ballot without the party designation. He also promoted early voting by Democrats that helped a few candidates get over the finish line. Pepper worked tirelessly to build the party including recruiting and training candidates to run for all offices in the state, including non-partisan ones like city council.

Pepper stepped aside two years ago and now promotes the election of Democrats through a group he founded, Blue Ohio. He wrote a non-fiction book about politics called Laboratories of Autocracy that brought him national acclaim.

Liz Walters was hand-picked by Ohio’s only Democrat in statewide office, U.S. Sherrod Brown, to take over Ohio Democratic Party (ODP)  She quickly got rid of most of the employees and brought in her own crew.

Her first challenge was the fight between Nan Whaley and John Cranley for the gubernatorial nomination. The party was ready to anoint former Dayton mayor Whaley, who had been buttering up party insiders in her quest to win the nomination for 8 years. Former Cincinnati mayor Cranley had some powerful followers who believed he was a superior candidate to Whaley and that he would take it to Gov. Mike DeWine far more effectively than Whaley.

Cooler heads prevailed, an unusual development for Democrats who like to fight and are loathe to make up, and the party decided to remain neutral in the primary.

I think Senator Brown may have provided the balm to assuage Whaley’s disappointment by offering to do TV commercials for her in the primary.

And so Brown went on the air around the state for Whaley as narrator in a brilliantly staged ad that literally showed Whaley with an Irish twinkle in her eyes at the end.

Cranley could not counter it and told associates that he felt like he was running against Brown instead of Whaley.

In the May 3 primary election, Whaley coasted to a 2-to-1 victory and claimed the nomination. It would prove to be the highlight of her campaign because she flopped badly in the general election.

Brown’s all-out backing of Whaley in the primary endeared him to many female Democrats who felt it was time for a female governor. It strengthened his ties with women in advance of his expected 2024 bid for a fourth term.

On May 4, the general election campaign began and neither Whaley nor Walters proved equal to the task of defeating the Republicans.

The only viable Democrats running for office – the ones who raised enough money to be compete – were U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, running for U.S. Senate, and Jennifer Brunner, Terri Jamison, and Marilyn Zayas, all three running for Ohio Supreme Court justices.

Unfortunately, DeWine and the Republican state legislature pulled a fast one and decided to place party affiliation under the judicial candidates’ names. That switcheroo resulted in the three Democrats losing by nearly identical 56 percent-44 percent margins.

Note well: The Republican brand in Ohio is all powerful and the Democrat brand is sullied in Ohio. It is the same in Delaware County. Big changes are needed in how Ohioans and Delaware Countians perceive the Democratic Party or losses will continue.

That left Tim Ryan as the only Democrat with a chance for statewide success. He conducted a campaign for the ages, raising nearly $50 million. He flooded the airwaves with clever TV commercials and campaigned in every nook and cranny of the state.

Yet the Democrat Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC) would not give him a cent while ploughing millions into John Fetterman’s winning race in neighboring Pennsylvania.

Why? Because the DSCC knew Ryan had no chance. That Ohio was a ruby red state where even a dynamite campaign by a gifted public official would fail if said official was a Democrat. Ryan lost 53% to 47% to carpetbagger Yale-billy J.D. Vance, whose main qualification was Republicanism.

The four other non-judicial Democrats on the statewide ballot lost 59%-41% in round percentages.

Liz Walters and her crew are arguing that they deserve credit for winning Congressional seats in Toledo, Cincinnati, and Akron to add to the ones already held in Columbus and Cleveland.

Truth is that a legendary Congresswoman in Toledo, Marcy Kaptur, held her seat because of her stellar reputation and because her opponent was discredited, that a longtime Cincinnati congressman was knocked off by Greg Landsman because the district was reshaped as Democratic, and that the holder of a legendary political name, Emilia Sykes, in Akron upset a lackluster opponent.

If the ODP gets credit for those three victories, as it claims, then it deserves blame for all the statewide losses and losing ground in both the Ohio House and the Ohio Senate.

The main purpose of a state or county party is to elect Democrats. The rest is ceremonial blather. Walters and company should do the right thing and resign, as should Delaware County party leaders who laid an egg.

I hereby nominate Tim Ryan as savior of the Ohio Democratic Party. As chair, his swashbuckling style would put real fear in the hearts of the GOP. As chair, he would give Sherrod Brown’s re-election prospects a significant boost. (See below.) Ryan raised $50 million for his Senate campaign. Don’t you think he could fill the empty ODP coffers?

Tim Ryan is the only living Ohioan who could breathe new life into the moribund ODP. (Do me a favor. Send Ryan a copy of this article if you agree.)

But before he takes over the party, he needs to make peace with Columbus attorney Morgan Harper, who unsuccessfully challenged him in the primary, and other progressives. The ODP misplayed the favoritism game and Ryan mistakenly declined to debate Harper.

Sherrod Brown’s Re-Election Prospects Mushy

Sherrod Brown is the Ohio Democratic Party’s last person standing. He is expected to run for a fourth term in 2024, but is far from a shoo-in.

In 2018, Brown defeated Jim Renacci by 53.4 percent to 46.6 percent, 2,358,508 to 2,057,559, a 300,949-vote margin.

By contrast, in the 2022 race for the Senate, Republican Vance won 53.3 percent   to 46.7 percent, 2,147,898 to 1,883,223, a 264,675-vote margin, according to the latest figures available.

A closer look shows that 565,624 votes shifted from the Democratic column to the Republican one in four years, as Ohio has taken on an even deeper shade of Republican red.

This does not bode well for Brown. He faces an uphill climb. This may explain why Brown did not do in your face television ads against DeWine for Whaley. Brown did not want to motivate DeWine to go all out to defeat Brown in 2024. There could have been a wink and a nod deal that Brown would not do anti-DeWine ads in 2022 with DeWine returning the favor – not doing to anti-Brown ads – in 2024. 





What The Future Holds For Democrats Who Lost

Nan Whaley should return to Dayton area politics. She has no statewide appeal. She started the campaign way behind DeWine and ended even further in arears, losing 63 percent to 37 percent. She flopped as leader of the ticket and trailed all the other Democratic statewide candidates in vote percentage. Her political skills are average at best.

Jeff Crossman should keep in the fray by attending every Democratic Party chicken dinner that he can in all 88 counties. He took it to Dave Yost in the attorney general’s race, but lacked money to go on TV, so he never had a chance. Crossman is a future statewide star if he stays with it.

Chelsea Clark is a dynamo in her own right, bedeviling Frank LaRose but lacking the resources to go on TV and make her case in the secretary of state race. She might run for higher office in the Cincinnati area as a steppingstone to a statewide role.

Truth be told, auditor candidate Taylor Sappington, who lost to Keith Faber, was recruited to run at the last minute by the ODP because nobody was running. He deserves credit for coming forward but lacked political sophistication to run statewide. His future lies in southeast Ohio politics, perhaps running for state representative a second time.

Scott Schertzer established himself as a future statewide star in the state treasurer race, losing to Robert Sprague. The longtime mayor of Marion has the political savvy to be a successful statewide candidate in the future.

Supreme Court candidates Jennifer Brunner, Terri Jamison and Marilyn Zayas all polled as well as could be expected against the red tide that swept Ohio. Brunner will continue as an associate justice. Jamison and Zayas have the stature to run again, but not until the Democrats figure out how to be something other than the minority party in Ohio.

John Cranley, who lost the primary to Whaley, has the stuff that statewide winners are made of. He would have taken the race to DeWine from the get-go, unlike Whaley.

Money Remains The Elephant In Democrats’ Room

You cannot win races with shoe leather anymore. Democrats will stay in the losers’ column until they build a war chest to pay for TV ads and glossy postcard mailings.

Whaley had to scrounge for cash after she won the primary, enabling DeWine to define her with those “she was a bad mayor” ads. The ODP is not exactly a fund-raising machine. The party needs to be adopted by a billionaire, like J.D. Vance was to the tune of $15 million donated to him by his pal and billionaire Peter Thiel in the primary.

Political Reporters, Media Endorsements Impotent

The public pays little attention to what is written by political reporting covering politics in Ohio. And the public pays little attention to endorsements by major news organizations such as and

The biggest story of the campaign was Whaley’s incompetent campaign. She made bad decisions like failing to respond to the "bad mayor” advertisements and hanging her hat on the pro-choice, women’s vote surge that never materialized in Ohio. Her campaign was disorganized, and it lacked a clear message that differentiated her from DeWine. All this was obvious to the casual observer yet Ohio’s political reporting titans could not bring themselves to document that she was inept and getting whupped. Were they afraid of being accused of picking on a woman?

Newspaper endorsements did not move the needle either. backed Ryan, Brunner, Jamison and Zayac and they all lost big. endorsed Whaley and she still got pounded.


-Be sure to read Harvey Graff’s articles in the Columbus Free Press. He writes the truth about what is happening in the City of Columbus and at the Ohio State University. It truly is the rest of the story that, the TV stations and won’t touch for fear of alienating their benefactors.

-Send Tim Ryan a note and urge him to take over the Ohio Democratic Party. You will be glad you did.

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

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