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Ohio Dems Fighting Over U.S. Senate Candidate

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Former and current Ohio Democratic Party chairs are clashing over the treatment of Cincinnati City Council Member P.G. Sittenfeld, who has refused to drop out of the U.S. Senate race to make things easier for fellow Democrat Ted Strickland, the ex-Governor who is also in the race. Ohio Public Radio's Jo Ingles reports.

Former Ohio Democratic Party Chair Jim Ruvolo led the party from 1982-1991.  And much of the time he was at the helm, Ohio Democrats were successful, holding the Governorship and key state leadership positions.  In recent years, that hasn’t been the case. Ohio Democrats don’t hold a single statewide office and haven’t since 2010. Ruvolo blames Democratic leadership for not doing what is needed to get good candidates. And he’s not happy with current party chair David Pepper.  
 
“I want David Pepper to go back to being a chairman, building a party,” Ruvolo says.
 
Ruvolo says Pepper has made disparaging comments about one of the U.S. Senate candidates, P.G. Sittenfeld, in his, and Pepper’s hometown of Cincinnati. Ruvolo also says Pepper has urged Sittenfeld to get out of the race and cede the Democratic party’s nomination to Former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, who is also running for the U.S. Senate seat. In a call with reporters, Ruvolo called on Pepper to focus on other priorities.
 
“He showed me his plan yesterday. It’s things that parties should do. I didn’t have any problem with it. He needs to get back to that and not intimidate a candidate.”
 
But Pepper says he hasn’t intimidated Sittenfeld or asked him to step out of the race. He says the comments he made recently in Cincinnati were not directed at Sittenfeld.
 
“Part of building that farm team is a very simple message to the people on that farm team. Whatever your aspiration is down the road, the most important thing you can do is do a really good job serving the people in the office you are currently in. That’s the essence of building a good farm team. And that’s what I say everywhere. Jim has somehow perceived that to be as somehow telling one candidate he shouldn’t run for something else. That’s not it at all.”
 
Pepper says he gave Sittenfeld’s suggestions on how to deal with some problems in his current role as a Cincinnati City Council member. And Pepper says Sittenfeld has followed many of those suggestions.  Ruvolo might not like the way Pepper is handling his job but he gets high praise from another former Ohio Democratic Party Chair, current State Representative David Leland from Columbus.  
 
“David Pepper is doing a great job of recruiting Democrats across the state of Ohio. He’s speaking to Democrats almost every night. He’s building a strong grassroots. He’s making sure we have the equipment and the technology we need. I mean he’s doing what he needs to do. He inherited a bad hand after the 2014 election but he’s doing everything anybody could ask him to do to rebuild our Democratic Party.”  
 
The party’s endorsement of Strickland over Sittenfeld has been controversial.  The executive committee of the party backs Strickland. So do leaders of many of the state’s largest labor unions. But Democratic Supreme Court Justice William O’Neill as well as longtime Democratic consultant Jerry Austin, who both served as key advisers to former Democratic Gov. Richard Celeste, are backing Sittenfeld.  
 

Jim has been with WCBE since 1996. Before that he worked as a reporter at another Columbus radio station, and for three newspapers in Southwest Florida.
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