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Time for state Dem chair to go

Published: Sun, March 13, 2011 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

On Nov. 9, 1994, the chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, Harry Meshel, was handed a “While You Were Out” telephone message sent by an Ottawa County commissioner. Here’s what the message said:

“Ask you that you resign.”

Meshel, former long-time state legislator from Youngstown, was livid. To be sure, the Democratic Party had suffered a stunning defeat in the 1994 statewide elections, starting with the embarrassing loss of the Democratic nominee for governor, Rob Burch, to Republican incumbent, George V. Voinovich.

However, Meshel, who had served as president of the Ohio Senate, was stunned by the audacity of the political whippersnapper from Ottawa County, Chris Redfern.

Fast forward 16-plus years to Jan. 30, 2011.

A note to Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern — yes, the same former commissioner — from Harry Meshel — the same former party chairman and legislator:

“Chris Redfern,

“Thought you might like a reminder of your ‘warmth’ toward me after I suffered the defeats of ’94.

“You had a great Governor, a full slate of Dem officeholders, a ton of money.

“I had none of these.

“You failed miserably!

“You have earned the requirement to ‘take the pipe!’

“Get lost!


A copy of 1994 telephone message from Redfern to Meshel was superimposed on the note.

Party’s shellacking

Redfern, chairman since December 2005, presided over the state Democratic Party’s shellacking in the November general election. Not only did Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland fail to win re-election, but Democrats lost control of the Ohio House of Representatives and lost all the statewide offices they had held since 2007.

If Redfern in 1994 wanted Harry Meshel to fall on the political sword, should he now do the same thing? The answer is a definite “yes.” Redfern’s mishandling of the statewide election was just as bad as Meshel’s. He must recognize that his political stock has plummeted.

It is instructive that the Republican Party, flush from a very successful national election, is already making moves for the 2012 presidential contest.

For the GOP, it’s all about the future, which is why the national party leaders decided to dump Chairman Michael Steele — this, after he had orchestrated the election of 63 new members to the U.S. House, which resulted in Democrats losing control; the election of 13 new senators, paving the way for a Republican takeover of the Senate in 2012; and the election of more than 690 new state legislators.

Likewise, Ohio Republican Party Chairman Kevin DeWine has reportedly been told by Gov. John Kasich that a change in leadership may be in order. DeWine, who can take credit for the GOP’s sweeping victory last November, was re-elected chairman in January, but there are reports that Kasich wants his own man at the helm of the party.

Even though Kasich defeated Strickland by a very small margin, a win is a win. Meshel is right: Strickland should never have lost.

Voter turnout

The problem is that the Democrats allowed the Republicans to define them and also failed to energize the party faithful. Thus, in Democratic strongholds like Mahoning and Trumbull counties, the turnout was no better than the state average. Had voters gone to the polls in greater numbers, Strickland would have won.

They either stayed home, or switched sides. That is a failure of the state party leadership.

There’s another reason why Redfern should step aside: The labor unions’ battle with Kasich and the Republican controlled General Assembly over the collective bargaining bill.

The bill, which is aimed at neutering public employees, will pass and be signed into law. The unions will undoubtedly push to have the law nullified by a statewide vote of the people.

The question is whether they will put the issue on this November’s ballot, or wait until November 2012 to coincide with the presidential election.

The chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party will have to do a lot of negotiating and persuading. Based on last November’s election, Redfern does not appear to have those skills.


1valleyop(14 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

Bert you are right on the mark this time, Redfern must go. You forgot to add "Chairman of the Year" David Betras who should also be booted out.

Betras is an embarrassment to local Dems and down state they laugh at him. He sent thousands of dollars raised locally to Redfern last year when the local party could have spent the money much more wisely.

Betras cares about Betras only and it was in his interest to send Redfern the money so he can run for office someday himself. Local Dems should wake up, “Smell the Hummus” and find a new Chairman.

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2mishmash(329 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago



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31970mach1(1005 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

Have never been much of a fan of Harry Meshel, but I do have to say I agree with his feelings on this. In '94, GOP was rolling nationwide and already had Ohio state offices and no scandals.

Plus, while Meshel is over the top at times, he is not a punk like Redfern.

In 2010, despite national GOP wave, Dems in Ohio were well positioned. Strickland was ideal candidate for a Dem in Ohio, and to lose the guv race was just plain failure by Redfern.

That said, I hope Redfern stays.

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4csky(10 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

Let see, Harry "the Hack" Meshel keeps a note that offended him from 1994, waits 17 years for the opportunity to get back at the offender, is so proud of the fact that he tells Bertram, and Bertram thinks its so newworthy that this petty story of revenge is a prominent part of his column. Pretty much says it all about Harry the Hack and the state of journalism in the Valley.

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5Westsider(269 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

I don't disagree that Redfern is not the leader the Ohio Democrats need at this time - but what difference does it make to this area? Valley voters have consistently and blindly followed candidates just because there is a "D" next to their name. Interesting that Republican Jay Williams only won because he ran as an independent. What exactly has blind democratic allegiance done to help the Mahoning Valley? Nothing.

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6Askmeificare(1042 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago


Look at me - I'm a poet!

Betras and Redfern sittin' in a tree,
L - O - S - I - N - G,
First comes donations then comes voters,
then comes the wrath of the newspaper reporters!

Ok here is the City of Youngstown lineup:

Mayor- STAN, a Vindicator commentator

President of City Council: Chucky Sammarone

City Council Ward 1: Annie Gilliam

City Council Ward 2: Rufus Hudson

City Council Ward 3: Jamael Tito Brown

City Council Ward 4: Mikey Ray

City Council Ward 5: Kevin E.J. Salata

City Council Ward 6: Jim Traficant

City Council Ward 7: Bob "Buckwheat" Hagan

You so crazy!

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7ipaidattention(68 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

I agree with the first commentator, Redfern must go, and Betras should go with him. Local dems are not rallied because they despise that man. If you took a poll of the average voter, say sitting at walmart, and asked who is the biggest a**hole in Mahoning County to every person walking through the door, you'd get his name more often than Jim Trafficants, and likely by a large margin, especially if you gave them options. People see him for what he is, why can't the party? He is a lobbyist using the party for his own gains, He uses his money to buy off anyone who is rightfully against him, and then sends out a press release (Aey family feud) The party did not help enough to get Carol elected, and the man is making businesses shy away from this area by attacking people from the chamber of commerce whom he has personal issues with. His personal issues should not highlight my news everyday. Glad to see he is airing less commercials and Maruca's got out of his firm probably before the Cafaro's wound them all in jail. I'm a democrat who is just not motivated to support any candidates while he is at the healm, he made the ship into the titanic, but he's heading it towards an iceburg smiling and hoping for another news article for it. Hope he chooses to go down with his ship.

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8author50(1121 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

falconeddy - loved you in Rich Man poor Man! William Smith - great bad guy character actor.

Anyways... there is no GOP locally. For years it has been the far right wing of the local Democratic Party. Name me one time the local GOP came out heavily against any sales tax or levy?

Except for Traficant, the local GOP always was not only running dormant campaigns against very bad democrats, but Sunny Smith has given more money to local Democrats than local Republicans!

Thus we are stuck with what we have. Is it perfect - heck no. Do I want to see change? You bet. And Betras exposing the chamber for what it really is is the first step in a very long journey, right ValleyOz?

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