Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Ohio Dems Fighting Over U.S. Senate Candidate

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.
The Statehouse News Bureau was founded in 1980 to provide educational, comprehensive coverage of legislation, elections, issues and other activities surrounding the Statehouse to Ohio's public radio and television stations. To this day, the Bureau remains the only broadcast outlet dedicated to in-depth coverage of state government news and topics of statewide interest. The Bureau is funded througheTech Ohio, and is managed by ideastream. The reporters at the Bureau follow the concerns of the citizens and voters of Ohio, as well as the actions of the Governor, the Ohio General Assembly, the Ohio Supreme Court, and other elected officials. We strive to cover statehouse news, government issues, Ohio politics, and concerns of business, culture and the arts with balance and fairness, and work to present diverse voices and points of view from the Statehouse and throughout Ohio. The three award-winning journalists at the bureau have more than 60 combined years of radio and television experience. They can be heard on National Public Radio and are regular contributors to Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Marketplace. Every weekday, the Statehouse News Bureau produces in-depth news reports forOhio's public radio stations. Those stories are also available on this website, either on the front page or in our archives. Weekly, the Statehouse News Bureau produces a television show from our studios in the Statehouse. The State of Ohio is an unique blend of news, interviews, talk and analysis, and is broadcast on Ohio's public television stations. The Statehouse News Bureau also produces special programming throughout the year, including the Governor's annual State of the State address to the Ohio General Assembly and a five-part year-end review.
Related Content