By Rev. Donald L. Perryman, Ph.D.
The Truth Contributor
Confrontation is about closing a gap between what should happen and what is happening. You are communicating to find a solution, not to bring someone down.
– Garrett Gunderson
Tensions were sky-high, and every eye in the stressful room was upon Michael Ashford, Lucas County Democratic Party Chair. Fingers were pointed and accusations made in hopes, by some, that he would resign. Some were even selling wolf tickets, and others aggressively called their bluffs. But Ashford had done an excellent job of organizing his supporters to come out and stand in his defense.
The issue was the Party’s finances. There was barely the ability to cobble together enough funds to pay basic operating expenses in a year with a controversial Lucas County commissioner’s race between incumbent Gary Byers and State Rep. Lisa Sobecki. In addition, long-serving Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur finds herself in the race of her life in a yet-to-be-determined district for the U.S. House of Representatives.
Yet, fights about cash and checks are not just about the money but something more profound.
The truth is that the Lucas County Dems, having had seven different chairs in the past 15 years, have displayed a pattern of relationship difficulty.
It is also a fact that due to COVID, the Party has been unable to hold its yearly Jiggs dinner or annual fall event. These two major fundraisers bring in approximately forty thousand dollars per year.
The Party chair’s primary responsibility is to get Democrats elected in Lucas County. Therefore, the issue also is not about job performance. Last year the Democrats won 19 of 21 electoral seats, losing Sylvania Township, winning in Oregon, but picking up a seat in Maumee.
Instead, as in most arguments about money, at the root of the Party’s internal dispute lies the issue of control.
In addition to the critical midterm races of 2022 and the presidential election of 2024, there will be several important district and municipal races in 2023. In 2024 or 2025, there will also be high-profile county vacancies as several politicians could be leaving office. Political mainstays such as Bernie Quilter, Tina Skeldon Wozniak, Julia Bates, Jack Puffenberger, and others could be gone. So, the stakes are high for the Dems.
For the Party, then, the heightened tensions are about control and the ability to choose candidates who will do their benefactors’ bidding.
So, who will call the shots?
The good news is that although arguments often bring a negative connotation, conflict can also help organizational (and individual) relationships evolve and grow.
Part of the Party’s problem is the Building Trades’ outsized power and influence. The Trades provide a disproportionate amount of money and volunteers. As a result, they have most of the say in what happens inside the Party.
State Representative Paula Hicks-Hudson has recommended a caucus system where the progressives and three or four other wings of the Party can gather among other like-minded individuals to develop ideas and bring a platform to the larger body.
This caucus idea, along with a proposed “change committee,” has the potential to “spread the wealth” of power, give voice to unheard groups, and reduce conflict in a Party known for fighting amongst themselves.
The Building Trades are aware of their enormous power and “are not that crazy about keeping it.” Therefore, the meeting provided a chance for everyone to think about and appreciate others’ perspectives.
Finally, a plan was laid out to unify and bring the Party back together. People signed up to be part of the discussion to start the change at the meeting.
Ashford must support each perspective and tune in to all members of the Party. In addition, the Party must help provide the funding necessary for Ashford to lead adequately and not threaten or attempt to intimidate him into resigning.
Then, although the strife exposed cracks in the relationship, it also provided the Party with an opportunity to reconcile, evolve, and grow.
Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, PhD, at firstname.lastname@example.org