By Rev. Donald L. Perryman, Ph.D.
The Truth Contributor
Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down. – Oprah Winfrey
Fasten your seatbelts! It appears that the 2021 local election year will be a bumpy ride that could ultimately leave northwestern Ohio voters queasy as we prepare for the statewide races of 2022.
Republicans in the Ohio Legislature are throwing down to make sure that they tighten their grip on power through gerrymandered redistricting, expanded police rights, and toughened voter suppression laws.
The response? Lucas County Democrats are at war with themselves over endorsements.
So far, three candidates have expressed an interest in screening for the Democratic Party (Party) endorsement for the Toledo Public School Board – Bob Vasquez, Chris Varwig and Polly Taylor-Gerken.
Although each has served on the School Board for multiple terms, the Party – under the new leadership of Michael Ashford, party chairman – has re-designed the screening application process to require that candidates provide their own criminal background check and a credit report or proof of credit score.
Taylor-Gerken is protesting the “higher standards,” calling the process “unnecessarily intrusive.” As of this writing, the Party is not allowing Taylor-Gerken to screen. Thus, she is ineligible to receive an endorsement at this time.
Seven Endorsements for Six Seats:
In another unusual move, the Party has endorsed seven individuals for only six at-large Toledo City Council seats: Mac Driscoll, Michele Grim, LP.D.; Sam Harden; Nick Komives; Cerssandra McPherson; Katie Moline and Tiffany Preston-Whitman, Ed.D.
African-American candidates Keith Jordan and Charlie Mack screened but, surprisingly, were told that they “didn’t qualify for the endorsement,” according to sources.
What is the Problem?
Some in the Party are not happy with Ashford’s “autocratic style and unilateral decision-making,” especially with his re-design of the screening application process.
Others accuse Ashford of supporting the endorsement of those he likes and excluding those individuals he doesn’t like.
Additional Party members complain that the Party is afraid to make any “noise” and hasn’t taken any real stance on important issues “other than putting up a lame-ass statement after George Floyd.”
However, many see no fault whatsoever in Ashford’s strengthening the Party’s endorsement and background check requirements.
Ashford “got burned” in 2018 when the Party denied him the endorsement for Lucas County Treasurer in favor of an opponent who had a poor personal credit score. The Party’s decision negatively impacted Lucas County’s ability to provide necessary bonding for the endorsed candidate.
Ashford is also expected to tighten the requirements for a criminal background check given last year’s ethics probe that led to the indictment of four sitting city councilpersons.
Meanwhile, Ohio Republicans are currently pushing bills through the legislature aimed at “criminalizing protests and interactions with police.” This action could have a tremendous impact on voting rights, free speech and rights of assembly. For instance, if you are videotaping police in their “official business,” you can be arrested if they subjectively deem that you are interfering with their work.
Redistricting is another process that requires the Party’s vigilance. The Ohio Legislature will likely attempt to re-draw northwest Ohio’s districts. Instead of having three Democratic and one Republican districts, Ohio will probably try to re-configure existing maps into two Democratic and two Republican districts. Republicans may try to eliminate Lisa Sobecki (D., Ohio District 45) from the Ohio House of Representatives or another vulnerable Democrat from northwestern Ohio.
Meanwhile, local Democrats and other activists all over the nation celebrated the legacy of John Lewis with an organized “votercade” this past weekend. Councilwomen Tiffany Preston-Whitman and Cerssandra McPherson – both “temporary,” but ever-present-in-the-community councilpersons – are gearing up to experience running their first political campaigns.
In addition, the Party is financially stronger than it has been in the past 15 years. There is also a diverse mix of new candidates and young people actively participating at the committee level.
At the same time, Democrats are coming together outside the Party to form the Lucas County Progressive Caucus. The new platform will allow a wing of the Party to discuss issues such as housing, police reform, homicides and violence in the city, and other issues that they have “not had the opportunity to discuss within the Party.”
So, hold on to your hat. The ride is expected to be both exhilarating and terrifying.
However, if nothing else, maybe the ride will help the Party relieve some of its internal stress so it can fight oppression and suppression more effectively.
Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, PhD, at firstname.lastname@example.org