Morgan Harper at rally

Morgan Harper is not like the others and the Free Press can count the ways. She goes door-to-door for her own campaigns. She’s handing out free food at a Parson’s Avenue pantry, which she did at the onset of the pandemic. She’s standing with urban neighborhoods during anti-violence rallies, which she did late last summer soon after she initiated Columbus Stand Up!

And just look at those dope-tastic sneakers she’s wearing.

This past Saturday on the steps of a sun-drenched Ohio Statehouse Morgan Harper officially announced her campaign to become the first African-American and woman US Senator from Ohio. The passion in her voice is undeniable, her heart is in the right place.

“Central Ohio stepped up for me and gave me a chance at life,” said Harper recalling how the local foster care system and her adoptive mother propelled her to Princeton, to Stanford, to her working for the Obama administration, and beyond.

“My mom, a public-school educator who immigrated to Ohio from Trinidad…adopted and raised me on the Eastside,” said Harper her mother standing nearby. “Times weren’t always easy, but I saw early on how just one union job could be the difference from weathering storms or going off the rails entirely.”

The challenge for Harper is not one tall mountain but several peaks, as the state trends redder and more MAGA. First, she must face-off against Ohio’s established Democrats in next year’s primary. Their latest manifestation being current US House of Representative and forgettable former frat guy Tim Ryan (D) who has already raised over $2 millionand won the endorsement of US Representative Joyce Beatty (D), the grandmotherly matriarch of Central Ohio politicians who less we forget quietly supported legalized loan-sharking in urban Ohio communities at the height of the Great Recession. Which makes Harper’s 2020 loss to Beatty more lamentable because Harper after all is a consumer protection lawyer. 

Such political insider-ness on the part of Beatty and others over the previous three decades has swayed many moderate Dems to gravitate to progressive candidates. Conquered Ohio Dems – both moderate and progressive – need Harper to enter the race. So all can have a serious reckoning about what the party stands for and how it can regain influence against the Ohio GOP and its supermajority.

No doubt Harper will force Ryan’s hand: Where does he truly stand on defunding the police? What about the Green New Deal and fracking? What about a woman’s right to choose regarding abortion? Is Ryan using his Mahoning Valley blue-collar background as a front against any attacks against him being a career politician?

“Career and far-right politicians talk a good game about working people, they whip up folk’s anger and fear,” she said, adding this about the Republican candidates seeking the seat Sen. Rob Portman (R) is vacating, “All I see are cowards who will always toe the party line and never upset their corporate donors. In Ohio we know what this looks like. Politicians cut deals with First Energy for a billion-dollar bailout on tax-payer’s dime. Politicians got big donations, CEOs got richer, and Ohioans got screwed…For every First Energy we hear about there are five more we don’t.”

Harper stressed there is a path to victory if neglected and overlooked communities do what she does so very well: Morganize – a great new word to describe an old-school way at winning elections – a strong ground game.

“Door by door, block by block…we must mobilize communities that have been sitting out elections and reach them and get them to turn out. That is how we win.”

She ended her announcement by quoting a daughter of a working-class, black family from Ohio who went on to inspire so many with her words and actions.  

“Toni Morrison, a great Ohioan, once said, ‘Your real job is that if you are free, you need to free someone else. If you have the power, then your job is to empower someone else,’” she said. “I will say it today and everyday until we win next November. This campaign is about giving power back to our communities. It’s about throwing out the old playbook and blazing a new path forward. And that Morganizing starts today.”