The Dawn of Sky Nation: A Grassroots Revival

Rev. Donald L. Perryman, D.Min.

By Rev. Donald L. Perryman, Ph.D.
The Truth Contributor

   The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.
Socrates (as quoted by Dan Millman)


When the Lucas County Democratic Party elects Schuyler Beckwith as its new Party Chair at its Central Committee Reorganization Meeting scheduled for April 17, the transition will be more than a mere changing of the guard.

Instead, the passing of the baton from outgoing chair Paula Hicks-Hudson to Beckwith marks the onset of a new era, a new vision, and potentially a significant transformation in Party ethos and strategy.

Schuyler Beckwith was, quite literally, born into community organizing and political activism. So, her new Sky Nation Movement and its “reach out and rally” mantra isn’t just about changing faces or refreshing the Dems’ slogans. It’s about fundamentally rethinking and reinvigorating how the Party engages with its base and beyond. It is a pledge to spread the Dem’s influence through a more distributed power base, a commitment to not only listen but to act on the voices of the people, and a strategy to rejuvenate wards and precincts that have slipped into apathy.

Under Beckwith’s stewardship, we are on the cusp of what promises to be a rejuvenating chapter in the Party’s history. A key Party figure describes the dawn of Sky Nation as “a seismic shift towards a younger, more vibrant, and inclusively welcoming political entity.”

I caught up with Beckwith to explore the contours of this transition, examining how her leadership could redefine the Party’s identity, strategy, and approach to our local politics.

Perryman: Did Paula Hicks-Hudson inform you she’s not running for Lucas County Democratic Party Chair again?

Beckwith: Yes, she called me. I’ve previously shown interest in the chair role, and we’ve discussed it. A couple of weeks ago, she confirmed she wouldn’t seek re-election and offered her support.

Perryman: Talk about your history and the journey from a child to presumed Party Chair.

Beckwith: I was an infant born when my mom, Lindsay Potts, was running one of Representative Marcy Kaptur’s earliest campaigns. I was on the table in my little bassinet at Democratic headquarters, where everybody was sitting around doing mailers. And, my dad, Dave Beckwith, was a community organizer and an activist through and through and did a lot of organizing work. That’s what brought him to Toledo. Peter Ujvagi convinced him to come to town and run the East Toledo Community Organizing Network. That kind of awareness of activism and politics has been in my blood.

Perryman: Please share your organizing experience with our readers.

Beckwith: The first campaign I worked on was a special election in the Cincinnati area for a man named Paul Hackett. Then, I got a job working for Senator Sherrod Brown on his first Senate race in 2006. It really lit a fire under me and let me know I could make a real difference. That was the start of my campaign political experience, and I haven’t stopped since.

I’ve run campaigns locally for Nick Komives, Carrie Hartman and Katie Moline, which gives me some unique experience to take over as chair. That on-the-ground grassroots experience is something we need to get the vote out in Lucas County this year.

Perryman: What type of platform are you bringing to the Party?

Beckwith: I’m zeroing in on three critical areas: structure, support and strategy. To navigate the needs of our time, I need to raise money; I need to bring folks together to raise money so we can support candidates and make sure we have a robust, coordinated campaign this year, but also build that structure for campaign management for future candidates.

We’re facing a pivotal year and have several candidates that we need to get elected, from Dr. Brittany Jones for Toledo City Council up to Marcy Kaptur’s significant congressional run. We say this every year, but this is truly the most important election of our lifetime. Democracy is at stake. Therefore, my focus is going to be on fundraising and candidate support.

Perryman: Please tell me more about the theme I’m hearing out in the community called Sky Nation.

Beckwith: Sky Nation is a spreadsheet kind of conversation. How do I address the brain trust? I think it speaks to the community that I’ve built around me.

I learned from my dad in the early days of organizing and when I first got involved in campaigns that a good organizer knows how to organize themselves out of a job. You surround yourself with people who are really good at this work and give them the space, support and resources to do that work. I’ve been good at cultivating a community around me that is really good at what they do.

Perryman: Let’s delve into details. Please share who’s on your leadership slate and the key figures forming your advisory circle.

Beckwith: My team features me as chair, with Commissioner Pete Gerken stepping in as the first vice chair. Raina Dawson, an attorney at ABLE, will be the second vice chair. David Zavac, a long-time friend and current staffer for Representative Kaptur, will serve as secretary, while Daniel Ortiz continues his crucial role as treasurer. Daniel was pivotal in last year’s issue campaigns and his decision to stay on is a significant asset to us.

Also, my closest allies, Nick Komives and Carrie Hartman, with whom I’ve shared a long professional journey, lend their support, enhancing our team’s strength and cohesion.

Perryman: What distinguishes Sky Nation from the previous leadership eras of Hicks-Hudson, Ashford and others before them?

Beckwith: I am deeply grateful for Senator Hicks-Hudson’s contributions. She stepped in at a tough time and steered us to where we are today, and I’m so thankful. Moving forward, having a chair who isn’t an elected official could be beneficial. I’ve pledged not to seek office in my first term to focus entirely on this crucial role. That will be helpful and different from what we’ve seen in recent years.

Perryman: Given the prevalence of older candidates in the presidential race and the aging demographics of Congress and the Senate, how do you plan to make the Lucas County Democratic Party more relevant and engaging to younger voters?

Beckwith: I acknowledge the presence of seasoned leaders within our ranks, yet I commend President Biden and U.S. Senator Brown for their dedicated service and achievements over the past four years. Absolutely no one fights harder for our state than Senator Brown. In addition, we see in the news the tireless efforts Representative Kaptur makes for her district all the time. It is crucial to highlight these accomplishments.

So, I want to celebrate their work, but I also want to ensure local candidates feel supported by the Party. This means offering them resources and support for their campaigns and emphasizing the importance of reaching voters across all areas of Lucas County.

To this end, I have already started engaging with various community groups and attending club meetings all across the county. I was at the Sylvania Dems last week, and I’m planning to go to the Holland-Springfield group next week. I’m also connecting with the Latino Alliance. I’m making sure that people know that we are invested in our candidates and elected officials and their work on our behalf.

Perryman: Can you elaborate on the importance of reaching the suburbs in these upcoming elections?

Beckwith: This reflects the dynamism of our expanding community and the exceptional organizing efforts in regions like the Anthony Wayne area, where tireless work has significantly boosted Democratic Central Committee representation. These efforts underscore the importance of tapping into population shifts while keeping sight of our diverse voter base. Voters span various demographics and locations, so I am dedicated to maintaining and strengthening connections with communities throughout the county.

Perryman: What is a strategy for improving central city voter turnout, which has been extremely low, particularly for primaries and non-Obama-led presidential races?

Beckwith: My roots are in grassroots organizing, so door-to-door engagement with voters is still the most important way to connect. Despite technological advances and digital marketing, personal outreach by knocking on doors or calling on the phone is unparalleled in ensuring voter turnout. That approach is crucial for supporting Dr. Brittany Jones and Mac Driscoll in their Toledo City Council races. Brittany Jones has never been on the ballot before, so we must ensure she has the support she needs in Toledo to win. I’m committed to making sure we have a robust, coordinated campaign.

Perryman: Is there anything you want to add that maybe I should have asked?

Beckwith: I’m deeply grateful for Senator Hicks-Hudson’s contributions and the leadership she’s shown me. Her guidance has been invaluable on this journey, and along with the efforts of people like Representative Kaptur, they’ve paved the way for me to where I am today.

Having such role models has been inspiring. Despite the challenges ahead, I’m genuinely excited about our team and the positive changes we’re poised to make. There’s much work yet to be done, but I’m optimistic about the future.

Perryman: I can feel the energy already. Here’s to Sky Nation’s success. Best of luck!

Beckwith: Thank you!


Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, PhD, at