A Blueberry in a Strawberry Patch

Rev. Donald L. Perryman, D.Min.

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

We’re at a moment of reckoning in America. I think our democracy is on the line.
                                 – Eric H. Holder Jr.

For the Lucas County Democratic Party, 2021 was a good year. The election results validated the Party’s brand of standing for working, middle-class, and people of poverty and support for criminal justice and the rising tide of diversity and multiculturalism.

Yet, Lucas County is politically-situated like a blueberry in a strawberry patch when it comes to state-level gubernatorial, legislative, and judicial races. In other words, as a blue island of progressiveness surrounded by a sea of red conservatism.

The late Speaker and U.S. House of Representatives and Tip O’Neill’s classic quote is undoubtedly true. “All politics is local.” Consequently, we minimize and neglect local politics at our own peril.

Yet, the national right-wing Party has implemented a backward integration strategy to gain control of state and local-level races to tighten their stranglehold on absolute power. Therefore, many politicians feel that our greatest struggle is for the survival of American democracy.

Are Lucas County Democrats serious about state and national elections, or is the Party entirely focused on political campaigns within its local boundaries?

I spoke with Chairman Michael Ashford to reflect upon the Party’s 2021 achievements and discuss how his work addresses state and national challenges to democracy.

Michael Ashford

Perryman: What legacy does the Lucas County Democrats leave for 2021?

Ashford: It is that we have grown so much in the year and a half since I became chair. We raised a significant amount of money and won three seats that we were not supposed to win at all or be close.

Perryman: Which were they?

Ashford: Everybody thought Tony Dia would upset Katie Moline. Everyone thought Judge Myron Duhart’s race would be close. In Lori Olender, we beat Alfonso Gonzales, a sitting judge for Lucas County Court of Common Pleas.

So, that set the stage for the expectations that we had going into 2021.  We brought a team philosophy to city council. We asked candidates to campaign and knock on doors as teams.  The effort towards their campaigns was incredible. We won 17 of 20 races and passed two levies.  We had almost 80 volunteers every Saturday knocking on doors.  We must’ve knocked on nearly 12,000-14,000 doors.  The candidates did a great job.  The officers and funders all did a great job of supporting them. It builds momentum going into 2022.

Perryman: 2022 will be a challenging year for state-wide contests like the governor and legislative and judicial races.

Ashford:  Absolutely, but our goal is to make sure that we increase the Democratic footprint in Lucas County. I think it’s growing, especially when we picked up a seat on Maumee City Council. We’re powerful in the Washington Local area. We remain steady in Oregon and are beginning to see some great strides in Sylvania, Sylvania Township, and Maumee, where we want to make sure that we continue to grow and identify potential Democrats to vote the ticket.

Perryman: Well, that’s critically important as you get into the governor’s race. Ohio’s four-year congressional map gives the Republicans an unfair advantage and a gerrymandered 9th Congressional District creates uncertainty for long-serving Marcy Kaptur’s tenure. What are your plans there?

Ashford:  There will be a legal fight about Congressional District 9, so we’ll have to wait and see. Regardless, the Party’s going to put in 110 percent. This entire county, our elected officials, stakeholders and our voters will get behind Marcy to make sure that we get out and push her to victory.

Perryman: Are Democrats sober, sincere and serious about these state and national-level issues and races? Can we generate the excitement actually to show up?  Will anything anger this Party or motivate them to hit the streets?

Ashford:  First of all, we have outstanding new leadership, a new chair for the Ohio Democratic Party, who is doing a fantastic job of getting the information out, rallying the troops and developing the grassroots to get people excited about 2022.

In addition, we’ll have some very strong Democratic candidates for governor across the board.  We have Nan Whaley of Dayton and John Cranley out of Cincinnati. They each bring strengths, but more importantly, they bring all their grassroots and voting base to energize and get them ready.

Yes, you will also see the ugliness of the Republican Party, which has already started with the governor’s race. But hopefully, we can capitalize on making sure that we talk about Biden’s $1.75 trillion Build Back Better plan. The legislation, if passed, will create millions of jobs between the next five-to-eight years and invest in human capital. So, there are many things that the base will be excited about moving forward in 2022.

Perryman: In addition to gerrymandered redistricting issues, there are state issues such as HB 322 and 327, which prohibit teaching factual history regarding race or what the state terms as “divisive concepts.”

Ashford: You know what? I’m not surprised about the state bills that come out of Columbus. They’ve gone so far to the right it’s unbelievable. Not only are we talking about HB 322, but we’re also talking about the one bill that you don’t even have to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon. That scares me more than anything. We just have to make sure that our base clearly understands the legislative significance of quality of life for how we move forward living in Ohio.

Perryman: Speaking of the open carry legislation, what about the street violence and these initiatives to reduce gun violence?

Ashford: Let me put it like this, Mr. [JoJuan] Armour is doing an excellent job. I don’t know his overall plan of action, but I’ve been impressed by what I’ve seen.  I do know that across the nation, crime is up everywhere. I don’t know how you can precisely control that.

Perryman: What are the Party’s goals going into 2022?

Ashford: The goal is to maintain the momentum in the Party and continue to provide the best services for our customers from the Lucas County Recorder’s office, my day job.

Perryman: Please describe the current state of the Party.

Ashford: If I had to give us a grade, given that we’ve only been in charge for a year and a half, comparing us to everybody else, I think we’re on the same par. We still have a little more growth to do and put in additional infrastructure to address a couple of minor issues. But we still have to put some things in place.

Perryman: Can you elaborate?

Ashford:  Number one, we need to do a better job of raising money from our donor base and getting our donors to understand the importance of why they donate.  And it’s not always to fund a campaign. Funding is also needed for overall operations and hiring quality staff or to pay our bills.  People think that the Party takes money and just puts it toward campaigns. That’s not necessarily true. That money has to go to pay for overall operations. So, we must do a better job of relaying that message to people.

Perryman: Indeed, you do. Lucas County is a blue island surrounded politically by a red state and nation. Given the right-wing focus on state-level and national issues and campaigns, the Republican Party could rise again from near virtual extinction in Lucas County.

Ashford:  If the Republicans revive, that’s okay. We’re prepared and will be fine. We know that it will happen, but we don’t worry about what they do. Instead, we concentrate on what the Lucas County Democratic Party can do and how we can get better.

Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, PhD, at drdlperryman@enterofhopebaptist.org