What do ‘endorsements’ mean in Dayton, Ohio?

The mailer came to my mother’s house yesterday- the “slate card” or “dummy voters guide”- The Endorsed Candidates of the Montgomery County Democratic Party. These endorsements were decided back in January, publicly, and before that privately. It was done without hearing the candidates making a single stump speech, without a primary, by a small, self-selected group of the Montgomery County Democratic Party Central Committee. The “screening” is just for show as well- as the party’s inner circle- the people in charge of the “Friends and Family” plan in Montgomery County- take care of their own. These people control a lot of patronage jobs – from the Board of Elections (which is 100% patronage) to many jobs in the city and county that are hired directly by the officeholders. Being endorsed by the party gives you access to data and resources that aren’t available to other people in your party- like email lists, telephone banks, auto dialers, and donor lists. It’s like going to play monopoly- with 90% of the money.

In Dayton, it’s rare that anyone beats the party in the down-ticket (less hype races). A few have. Mostly in special elections, or by tricking the voters as Judge Bill Littlejohn did when his poll people handed out a slate card full of Dems- with his picture and name on it- even though he was running as a Republican. The party howled, but by then the damage was done- he’d won. Dean Lovelace only got elected because he jumped from the general election to a special election and beat two “name brand” party wives by a slim margin in a four-way race. I siphoned off some of the old girls’ votes to help him get there. Other than that- the party wins and likes to keep it that way.

The mayor’s race isn’t quite the same. Turner beat Dixon- by a slim 400 votes, partly because Dixon had caved on the landfill on the West Side- and partly because he just wasn’t that impressive on the campaign trail or in office. McLin beat Turner because Turner had pissed off a lot of people with his arrogance and his inability to share the credit- of course it didn’t matter since he’d already set his sights on Congress which gerrymandering had just opened the door for him to win. Leitzell overcame 10-1 odds in spending and 100-1 odds according to the political pundits- because McLin’s campaign assisted him with multiple mailings getting his name out- and that McLin hadn’t done much in 8 years other than change hats and glasses.

Endorsements by unions is another claim that seems to go along with winning. Mike Turner had an endorsement from the Dayton Firefighters when he ran against Clay Dixon. Whaley is proudly advertising she has their endorsement. The reality is the union that endorsed Turner had twice as many members- and they all lived in the city. No longer the case. The firefighters and the FOP didn’t even screen commission candidates in this race.

Labor union endorsements bring big money to a campaign- Whaley raked in multiple checks of $10K each. Even if the rank and file don’t agree with leadership’s pick- they know that they have to place the signs in their yards- for fear of retribution. Many will work to distribute lit, or man phone banks, or will stand outside the polls on election day because that’s what you do- but, it doesn’t mean that they necessarily will vote the union line. You find this out by knocking on doors and having candid conversations with people. The real damage is the money- candidates will always have to remember whom they owe as long as they hold office. The other damage is that campaigns get expensive quickly when you start talking handicapping- candidates are often judged by the money they’ve raised and people seem to think dollars raised somehow equals votes.

A lot of people looked at the “primary” results in May and seem to think that it’s an indication of the election coming this Tuesday. It’s not. First off- the election in May was a runoff election- to narrow the field because voters in Dayton are considered too stupid to make a decision among more than two choices. The time frame to campaign is compressed- 60 days- and the turnout incredibly low. These elections are typically decided by the people who are most connected to the party- or are politically dialed in.

This last election saw almost 2,000 previous “super voters”- who typically vote in every election- take a pass. The turnout of 10,000 was less than a third of the people who generally vote in these elections. And then there is the money- spending $50 per vote in the mayor’s race isn’t exactly something to brag about- it’s a sad commentary on what politics has become in this country – an auction to the highest bidder.

Gary Leitzell came up 238 votes short after spending around $2,000- or a dollar a vote. Knocking on a few more doors- or a robocall- or a mailing- and things would have changed. He hzs now backed A.J. Wagner and if all the Leitzell voters go for A.J., this race is a dead heat, despite the lopsided money. I’ve knocked on a lot of doors where people’s disdain for Whaley was clear. Very few have been anti-A.J.- unless they were either political insiders who don’t like the fact that he turned his back on the party way and ran against their pick- or, they had somehow been connected to him through the courts. It’s hard to vote for the guy who put your baby-daddy in the pen.

As for me and my “endorsements”- I screened with the UAW, AFSCME, DEA- telling all, that I’d accept an endorsement, but not the money that comes with it. None endorsed me. The DEA endorsed both Wagner and Whaley which is kind of counter-productive, but this isn’t an organization that brings big money to the table or has contract negotiations with city hall. In fact, it’s the first time I’ve ever seen them involved in a commission race- but, the fact that their former leader, lobbyist Jeff Mims, is running may be the reason. Despite my plan to get all DPS students online with iPads and citywide wifi- I’m not their guy.

I’m not a conventional candidate by any means- so, of course, I do my “endorsements” differently- asking people who know me, who are known in the community to do short video testimonials- typically- one take- no editing- to share their opinion of me. They don’t sugarcoat my personality- which is often called “abrasive”- but, if you want anything to be finely polished- you know sandpaper is the tool you use. Get used to it. Pouring honey on things makes it sweet- but it also makes things sticky- and in politics sticky isn’t good- see congress today for the mess they’ve got us into.

Each video is about 2 minutes- plus or minus. The most recent and final one- is Gary Leitzell, endorsing me- watch and draw your own conclusions:


Back to life- need your help

The last 2.75 days have been hell. My iPhone 3G “upgrade” turned it into a brick. And as digitally dependent as I am- it was a crisis.

I spent over 6 hours on the phone with Apple- to no avail. The upgrade was supposedly unreversable- and it even trashed the backup.

Luckily- I back things up in multiple places- and, did a whole bunch of searching- to find a solution- which I posted here: http://www.websitetology.com/?p=711

Helping people across the globe get their phones back from the brickyard.

But- now- I need your help. 2 ways:

I have to take a 150-word endorsement essay to the DDN on Monday. Be it one of Ice Bandit’s poems, one of Jstults astute references to Wikipedia and other arcane sources, Larkin’s Pulitzer worthy prose- or one of PizzaBill’s tongue in cheek responses- I don’t care.

Give it a shot in comments- and we’ll vote and see who gets to give the DDN the reason why I’m the best to go up against Turner in the fall.

The second part is- I need to see some more money in the donation kitty. Please consider $5 a week- or even one time. If you’ve read this site, and get some entertainment value at the least- it’s gotta be worth a few greenbacks.

And just remember- it all gets a lot more interesting if:

1) I’m debating Turner or

2) I’m writing from the floor of the House of Representatives.

It’s up to you. Thanks.

An activist’s search for inspiration

Last night I took exception when seventies activist Angela Davis said an individual can’t fight city hall during her Q&A. It wasn’t a Joe Wilson moment (fixed)- the floor was open, but in Dayton- it’s almost written in stone that one has to ask permission by commission and it drives me crazy.

Gary Leitzell didn’t ask permission to run for Mayor. He just did it- and surprised a lot of people. The typical process, still unbeknown to most, is to appear before the Montgomery County Democratic Party screening committee and ask for its blessing- or, alternatively, to ask someone in the Montgomery County GOP for permission (although Mike Turner skipped this step as well). There is no written rule about this- but, it’s just the way things have always been done.

A long time ago, Paul Woodie, who was working as the head of planning for Dayton at the time, told me in Dayton “you need a herd to be heard.” And even with the power of the Internet- the “Powers That Be” still place emphasis on who “endorses” you. We saw the media value of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance not endorsing Rhine McLin, and the import that the people who ran her failed smear campaign placed on Gary’s “Republican endorsement.”

I went to hear Ms. Davis speak because I wanted to know what made her tick, what made audiences still come see her 30+ years after her prime time in the spotlight, and what someone who once ran for VP on the Communist Party ticket would say to inspire the next generation to question authority, to stand up and act out to fight inequity. Instead, I heard about the plight of transgendered criminals being assigned to prisons that might not fit their lifestyle based on a panties check. Yes, the penal system in this county is broken and we’ve allowed a prison-industrial complex to rise to prominence.When I asked her how an activist of her stature can be talking about panties checks of minor criminals and the injustices done to them- while criminals like Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis are getting $125 million dollar severance packages while people are losing their homes, jobs and hope- I expected an inspired answer and didn’t get one.

Can one voice make a difference, or do we always have to have a herd? Do we need to ask permission before commission of a new vision? I almost find more inspiration from my friend David E. Bowman who decided to start a group called “The Dayton Marketing Community” and hosted “Big Idea Breakfasts” without having to ask anyone for an OK.

And while Angela Davis talked about her position of an “abolitionist” and her desire to see the end of prisons, I was looking for an inspiration to “fight the power.” She didn’t deliver.

When it comes back to inspiration for activism, or for any great achievement in life- I again turn to David Bowman who shared a Dayton centric quote that sums up so much of my struggle in one of his posts: “Orville Wright did not have a pilots license.”

Gary Leitzell didn’t have a mayor’s license either, before 11pm last Tuesday.

Angela Davis has an activists license, but didn’t use it IMHO last night.

What license are you waiting for?

Leitzell v McLin without an intelligent thought: Martin Gottlieb

Call it scorched earth, call it stupid, but, writing this post before meeting up with the Dayton Daily News editorial board questioning the writer’s intelligence is what I do. I want people to think, to analyze, to look at things with more than the same old thinking. Martin Gottlieb at the Dayton Daily News, a publication that literally makes everything about black and white:

Mayor Rhine McLin is being challenged by Southeast Priority Board Chairman Gary Leitzell.

So the question arises: can a first-time candidate — known in certain circles, but lacking a public reputation — who is endorsed by the Republican Party beat an incumbent Democratic mayor in a hugely Democratic city at a time when there’s a lot of public dissatisfaction with the state of things?…

One cannot honestly discuss Turner’s victory without mentioning race. He did not make a racial appeal, but he won almost exclusively on the basis of white votes, including some liberals…..

So Leitzell has less time, tougher demographics and apparently limited money. (At the last deadline for filing his financial report, he had raised so little he didn’t have to report the amount.)…

Whether he’s a good candidate has yet to emerge. As to the issues, he sometimes seems to have the perspective of a community activist, complaining about the city’s unresponsiveness to citizens and businesses. But that sounds like what challengers always say.

via Martin Gottlieb: Can Leitzell pull off a Turner | A Matter of Opinion.

If you read Martin’s post- the keys to getting elected are simple: be black, endorsed by the Democratic Party and raise lots of money. The only way you lose if you are like that- is to embarrass yourself enough publicly that the newspaper can’t ignore it (and they are willing to overlook a lot).

When it comes to if someone is a good candidate- one has to wonder what that means to Gottlieb. First, he ignores that the City Commission is five equal votes, and the Mayor’s position is mostly ceremonial if done right. Second, he doesn’t really identify what he considers as qualifications- other than the being black, dem and flush with cash. Matt Joseph and Nan Whaley had zero qualifications other than being backed by the party with no real opposition. Some would say they still don’t have any.

Rhine got into the Statehouse because her Daddy was there. If she was just any mortician running for Mayor- would Gottlieb question her qualifications (other than the all important three?).
Gary Leitzell is as good a candidate as any- in fact, that’s what this country was founded by- citizens who were fed up with unresponsive government.

About the only thing Martin does get right- is that we have been hurt by not having primaries. However, I can state as a candidate in the primary he waxes poetic over- the Dixon/Turner, that the standards of scrutiny at the Board of Elections in those days was much more lax. I can also look back to that race as the last inexpensive (comparatively) race for Mayor. The real solution we need to look at is to have a race for three seats one year, two seats in year three- and the candidate with the most votes- in either election- is Mayor. That way we don’t cast off so many good candidates who lose close elections.

Me, I’m just fed up with small minded columnists who get a soapbox but say almost nothing of value.

Insanity reigns at union HQ

Albert Einstein said that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. The AFL-CIO did just that- endorsing the incumbents instead of the challengers- or not endorsing at all.

The Dayton Miami Valley AFL-CIO Regional Labor Council has endorsed Rhine McLin for a third term as Dayton mayor over her opponent, Gary Leitzell.

Democrat incumbents Nan Whaley and Joey Williams also received the union’s support of their bids for re-election to the Dayton City Commission. Their challenger, neighborhood activist and blogger, David Esrati, was not endorsed.

“It’s no secret that we have had problems with the city commission and the mayor, but those have been resolved,” Wesley Wells, executive director of the labor council, said.

via McLin wins AFL-CIO endorsement for mayor.

The comments on the Dayton Daily News site are almost all negative, with quite a bit of union bashing- as well as McLin bashing.

What this means is that McLin and her shadow, Nan, have an army of volunteers to distribute their literature, paid for by out of town landfill/demolition contractors. What it means for Williams is he gets to tag along for the ride. What it means for Gary Leitzell and me- we need volunteers.

Lots of them. There is no doubt that the people of Dayton are frustrated with the lack of leadership and direction. However, just getting them to the polls in these off-year elections can be tough.

Are you willing to volunteer? To donate?

Or are you going to sit around and let nature take its course?

My new donation page is ready for testing :)


And a third option for labor?

I wonder what American politics would be like without Special Interest Groups, Political Action Committees, unions and even political parties. What if the only thing that counted was the will of the people? What if we took the money out of politics? What if we just had old fashioned debates- and then mailed ballots to everyone (they do it in Oregon) complete with a page from each candidate with links to their websites? No more ads, no more yard signs, no more circus freak shows….

Today, the AFL-CIO will ask their delegates on who to back according to the Dayton Daily News:

Labor throws its voice into the debate about who should be the next Dayton mayor, beginning Monday, Aug. 24.

Some 200 delegates who represent community service organizations and unions affiliated with the Dayton Miami Valley AFL-CIO Regional Labor Council will vote on whether to endorse the candidacy of Democratic incumbent Mayor Rhine McLin or her challenger, Gary Leitzell, an independent backed by the Montgomery County Republican Party.

The AFL-CIO, with some 40,000 members in the region, is the lobbying and legislative arm for affiliate unions, including the 3,000-member, Dayton AFSCME Local 101, the largest city of Dayton employee union. AFSCME represents state, county and municipal employees….

Endorsement of two candidates for Dayton City Commission also will be decided by the AFL-CIO delegates Monday. Running in the three-way race are incumbents Nan Whaley and Joey Williams and challenger David Esrati.

via Unions meeting to decide who to back for Dayton mayor.

However, what would happen if the union members chose option three: none of the above?

Could they stay out, could the newspaper stay out, could the FOP and IAFF stay out? Could the voters have to make a decision all on their own?

I grew up in a union household. I walked the picket lines when I was 10 years old- in fact, I was sent around the corner to watch for the teamsters to come out of their hall, so the newspaper guild would be ready if the teamsters were going to break the line (they didn’t). It was my first recon mission- but not my last.

I believe that their is a lot to be said for collective bargaining- for representation from the rank and file. However, I don’t think that Unions should have any more right to dictate politics than they would to dictate religion on their members.  Since when was it mandatory that a union vote and support Democrats?

And why should politicians, who are supposed to be elected to be the board of directors for our city- be aligned with a group of organized employees? Would this not be a conflict of interest? It is the commissions job to watch out for the people, all of them, in this city- not just the ones who back their campaigns.

Yes, I’d be honored to be chosen by any group of people in a democratic fashion as worthy of support, however, if elected, it is my duty to look out for the best interest of all, and I would never be able to accept money from an organization for my campaign.

If we hope to change Dayton, maybe this time, the best option for the unions is to back no one, and see what happens. That in itself would be a change.

Hillary Clinton: choice of an old school generation

Don’t expect the disenfranchised voters to come out in droves in November if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee- or even if she is some part of some borked split ticket with Obama.

Look to the things the endorsers of Hillary say:

Obama, Clinton pick up endorsements
Hall said he decided to endorse Clinton months ago in part because the Clintons “have been friends of mine and have been very good to me over the years.”

The Clinton campaign announced Hall’s endorsement as part of some 100 backers from the state, their “Ohio Leadership Council.”

The list included Montgomery County Commissioner Judy Dodge, former county Democratic Party Chairman Dennis Lieberman, and established backers Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, D-Cleveland, Gov. Strickland and former U.S. Sen. John Glenn.

“Friends of mine and have been very good to me over the years”- not a peep about a new vision, moving forward, hope, progress or change. Hillary Clinton is the establishment, Obama is the movement.

The word change is bandied around like the “Orgasmatron” in Woodie Allen’s classic  tale of the future “Sleeper” but, in reality, change only comes when you are willing to cut-ties to old ways of doing things.

Just visit an Obama grassroots organizing meeting and compare it to a Hillary meeting. It’s like the difference between a wedding and a funeral to me.

We don’t need another country club leader while we’re fighting to save our homes, our jobs and waiting for health care that we can afford. Look at that list of names backing Clinton- and show me one who hasn’t made a career out of government service. Obama is the candidate of the people- and 2008 is the year the people will take back their government.

(waiting for snide comments from Russ Joseph)

DDN board with Roth present goes against the flow- Endorses Harris

You read it here first- when I said Vic Harris should run despite the Democratic Party Secret Screening Society decided he shouldn’t. Now, the DDN editorial board actually agrees with me- the Vic Harris is the kind of fresh energy that the Democratic party should be encouraging. Not only that, primaries are good- giving voters a chance to choose, something you would think this country would be in favor of.

In many places, party endorsements of candidates in a primary would be illegal. The fact that the Board of Elections are made up of Dem’s and Republicans only- should already tilt the system enough.

Our recommendation: Harris offers Democrats much needed life in 40th District
Mr. Winburn is, indeed, a respectable, safe bet. But safe bets have, for too long, led to local Democratic lawmakers’ lackluster, uninspiring image and performance. Quick! Name one energizing, tireless, charismatic local Democratic state lawmaker. (Local Republicans have done better about advancing some people with drive, but, in truth, they, too, have carried their share of mediocrities.)

In an ordinary race — and by the standards of either party — Mr. Winburn is well above average in terms of experience, qualifications and demeanor. But he faces an exceptionally energetic opponent in this primary.

Victor Harris is the kind of candidate Democratic voters should be encouraging and advancing in local politics. And the Ohio House is a logical place for him to start, what with term limits forcing so much turnover. While once-upon-a-time such job openings weren’t so predictable, House seats in the last decade have become an entry-level position for those hoping to get into politics. It’s pretty much there or running for county commission.

And if the paper was really looking for an “energizing, tireless, charismatic (or at least interesting) local Dem- wouldn’t that be me- who at least shows up in the paper more than Jane Mitakides- who only shows up when she wants to come out of her private community in Centerville and run for Congress?

I support Victor Harris in the 4oth as well- go look at his site: harrisohiohouse40.com

For once, the Dayton Daily News gets it right.

Where did Jane Mitakides get her advice?

I have to laugh at the quotes from Mark Owens and Jane Mitakides in today’s DDN:

Dems endorse old foe for Turner
Dems endorse old foe for Turner
Jane Mitakides, a Washington Twp. businesswoman, lost the same congressional race in 2004.

By Steve Bennish Staff Writer Friday, January 25, 2008

DAYTON — The Montgomery County Democratic Party Thursday night endorsed Washington Twp. businesswoman Jane Mitakides in the March 4 primary election to decide who will face U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Centerville, in November.

Democrats believe this is the year the party will unseat Turner and put a Democrat in the Third Congressional District seat.

The three Democrats who will face off on the March 4 ballot are Dayton activist and businessman David Esrati, Mitakides and former Waynesville Mayor Charles W. Sanders. Mitakides ran for the seat in 2004 and lost to Turner 62 percent to 38 percent.

Turner does not have a Republican opponent….

Mitakides on Thursday cited Gov. Ted Strictland‘s taking 56 percent of the Third District vote as a good sign for her run.

“This is the year, this is the state, this is the race,” she said. “It’s a winnable race — don’t think it’s not.”

Mark Owens, chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Party, said Mitakides has campaign experience.

“She can put together a campaign team and is right on the issues,” he said.

Esrati, who has already posted ads on YouTube, said he deserves the vote because he’ll bring new perspective to the job. “We need new voices and ideas because the old ones aren’t working anymore,” he said.

If Jane is counting on coming up with a win just because Ted Strickland did (Note DDN misspelled his name in a funny way- emphasis mine above) she’d have to be running against Ken Blackwell, to fill a vacant seat after someone had botched it for 2 terms. Locally, people generally think Turner is doing an OK job.

When we get to Montgomery County Democratic Party Chairman Owens comments, you have to wonder if he’s been out drinking with County Commissioner Deborah Lieberman too much lately.

  • If she was “right on the issues” why the secret meetings? And, why wouldn’t they endorse her in December?
  • If “she can put together a campaign team” is it because she can sell out to special interest groups and PACs like the NRA of whom she was so enamored with in the DDN endorsement meeting?
  • Is it because they gave up already, or have a deal with the Republicans so that x-party chairman Liebermans wife, Deborah, wouldn’t have a Republican opponent?
  • Considering Ms. Mitakides ran a “well funded” campaign last outing, with much more time to plan and implement, and she got spanked  62 percent to 38 percent by the very same opponent, says to any novice political observer that she can’t run a campaign. Note, Mitakides still doesn’t have a website up as of today.

Many would say that the name Esrati is known better in Montgomery County, and that the brand actually has some meaning to political followers. The DDN in their last screening called me a “Political Maverick”- today, they reminded people that Jane is Turner’s old foe who lost to him.

Beating Turner, a lawyer, in court five times in a row proves I can beat Turner at his own game with strict rules. Too bad the Democratic party still believes secret meetings are still the best way to do things. Turner learned that lesson the hard way.

We voted against her, before we voted for her…

The Montgomery County Democratic Party reversed itself tonight by endorsing Jane Mitakides in the primary for OH-3. Even though she still doesn’t have a website up, almost 20 days after the filing deadline, and they rejected her on the party floor when I called for an endorsement, they still believe Mitakides is their best bet to take on Mike Turner in November.

Before the vote to accept the screening committee recommendation, Gary Staiger of Left of Dayton, asked why the screening had to be done in secret. I followed, saying that I didn’t think there was a question asked that couldn’t be answered in public. Why 40 people of the screening committee get to chose who runs and who doesn’t in Montgomery County (note, OH-3 also includes all of Highland, Clinton and part of Warren Counties) still amazes me (Vice Chair, Tom Ritchie of AFSCME asked if I wasn’t endorsed would I drop out- it’s one of the questions they think defines your suitability to run).

I respect Jane, and wish her well, however I don’t get a feeling that she has the pulse of the voters in this district. She had to hire an expensive Washington pollster to tell her if she could win, and is busy interviewing a full time staffer to help her buy her way through the primary.

Just to recap, I’ve had an active site for over 3 years with field forward thinking on economic issues facing the area. I’ve been raising funds for a month already. I’ve produced 2 youtube videos, a postcard, a flyer, and a ton of ideas for how to change not only how we pick our candidates, but have showcased the next generation way to represent the people by keeping you informed here.

Spread the word. I’m even more energized by being the underdog taking on the back-room politicking that’s gotten us into this mess.

And to the pompous sycophant that stood up and told the whole room that he liked the way the Democratic Party holds secret meetings to pick their politicians and that it’s worked for years: I restate my answer to your comment: If it really worked, Mike Turner wouldn’t have been Mayor, or moved on to Congress.