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David Pepper Front-Runner To Head State Democrats

It looks like David Pepper is poised to become the next leader of the Ohio Democratic Party. Sharon Neuhardt, his main competition and Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman's choice, has withdrawn from the race. Ohio Public Radio's Jo Ingles reports.

Former Lieutenant Governor Candidate SharenNeuhardt had the backing of U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, but that’s not enough to get her the job as head of the Ohio Democratic Party.

Neuhardt “The truth is the majority of the people on the executive believe David Pepper is the right person to lead the party right now.  I think what is most important is not who leads our party but what they believe.”

Neuhardt says she has read the vision statement put forward by David Pepper, the former Hamilton County Commissioner, who has run for and lost two statewide races, for Auditor in 2010 and this year for Attorney General. Outgoing State Senator Nina Turner, who ran unsuccessfully this fall for Secretary of State, is supporting Pepper and wants to play a major role in leadership alongside Pepper in the future.  Neuhardt says she’s hoping that new leadership will address governance policies.

Neuhardt “There are things from a governance structure that we should be doing b etter and I think this election highlights it because, among other things, there is nothing in the bylaws about what happens when a chair resigns and how a new one gets elected.  So what I want people to realize is that some of the ways we have been operating in the past just won’t work in the future.”

For his part, Pepper says he’s open to Neuhardt’s suggestions.

Pepper “Sharen and I have a somewhat different vision of the party.  Of course, I’ll do the things she’s talking about.  Nina and I have laid out a very broad plan about how we’d do things internally and externally.  But what I care most about is winning elections and then winning those elections in a way that you actually make a difference to the citizens of Ohio in ways that actually matter to them.”

Pepper says he thinks the party needs to focus on its message so that voters know where candidates stand on issues.  If the party does indeed put Pepper in as the Chairman, as is expected, what role will Turner play?

Pepper “One thing we will likely see happening is the addition of several vice chairs so that more people can use their energy and go to work on different parts of what the party takes on so I could easily see Nina as being in one of those vice chair spots.  And there are other ways that we will lay out later.”

Last week, longtime legislator Bob Hagan, who had also been running for the party’s top post, took his name out of the running.  If elected, Pepper will replace current Chairman Chris Redfern, who has been in that post for 9 years.  Redfern lost his re-election bid for his House seat and announced his resignation as party chairman on Election night.

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