Sunday afternoon I was one of the Democratic Party Central committee tasked with picking a replacement for Clayton Luckie for the Ohio 39th House seat, in light of his current ethics investigation and voluntary withdrawal from the race.
The district is reportedly one of the most Democratic leaning in the State, meaning whomever we picked, they were almost guaranteed a win. The opponent they will face is Jeff Wellbaum (two l’s), a first time candidate for the Republicans. Fortunately or unfortunately, there are two Jeff’s with almost the same name- the other is Welbaum (one 1) is a Republican running for the second district court of appeals.
Even with confusion, Jeff Wellbaum, an Iraq war vet, won’t stand a chance. His Facebook page has all of 29 likes.
So, the decision on Sunday was really about who would be the next State representative, being decided in the main meeting room of Montgomery County Democratic HQ. Procedure was stumbled through, but Victor Harris had one central committee member nominate him, and I may have been the second. I believe in choice- always have.
Vic, a retired U.S. Army Lt. Col., had made waves with the party 4 years ago, running against their chosen one, Roland Winburn in the 39th and taking about 40% in the primary. Harris had flyers on all the chairs introducing himself with a brief bio and a list of what he’d work for.
If you need to hand members of the Montgomery County Democratic Party a bio, you can already forget it- they go with who they know. Harris told us the reason we should vote for him is so that Fred Strahorn could concentrate on winning the 5th Senate seat back that he lost 2 years ago. He also mentioned he was a cousin of Clayton Luckie (who has a reputation for having a family so big that just their votes are enough to get him elected).
Harris had already made a fool of himself to me by listing “Will fight to bring back the Wright Brother’s boy-hood (sic) and bike shop from the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan to where it belongs in the Wright-Dunbar neighborhood in Dayton.”
Wow, Vic, really? That’s more important than school funding reform and updating the laws put in place by the Northwest Ordinance of 1785?
After their 5 minute speeches, questions were allowed from the floor, I threw out three relative softies, while a few others made one minute speeches in support of Strahorn, including one from former rep and senator Tom Roberts who had picked Strahorn as his successor.
I believed we should hear what the candidates reasons were for running, what they were doing now and how much time they will be able to commit to the race and finally- a harder question on what they would do to address the real issues (stated above). Strahorn shined in his response. Harris didn’t.
There are about 69 precincts in the 39th, the party called me twice, mailed me once and dropped a flyer at my door. They made a solid effort to get the precinct chairs to the meeting. A quorum was 39, they had 41.
When it came time for the vote:
Fred Strahorn was selected as the Ohio House candidate for the 39th District after a vote of 41-1 at the Montgomery County Democratic headquarters on Sunday.
And no, I wasn’t the one person voting for Victor.
Not that these were ideal conditions, with the short time-frame to pick a replacement for the ballot, but all in all, the process was the most democratic thing I’ve seen in a while from the MCDP. The doors were open, the cameras were rolling, the only question is who are the people who are voting. There is no list on the Dem party site- and the tool they have (which is new) has my house in Precinct 1-D and my precinct Captain as Joan Wagner (wife of A.J. Wagner) but I’m the captain of 1-E (not). Maybe I wasn’t qualified to vote after all? Despite having a certificate of election.
From looking around the room, the decision of who to hand this seat over to was made by quite a few elected politicians, people with patronage jobs and retired folks. Not exactly a cross section of our community. I’m not suggesting that there is a better way, but, realistically, it’s a pretty tight knit group. I doubt that the party would have felt a need to rig the room, but, I’m not sure how anyone would check.
I’m sure that Fred Strahorn was the most qualified candidate they could field, and as someone who also knows Jeff Wellbaum, Fred is the right man for the job. Fred learned some humility after his defeat by Bill Beagle two years ago- it was Fred’s first real contested race. This time, he won’t take things for granted even though he has once again been given a hall pass to the halls of our state government.