National Dems blind to local reality

On the side

Opting out: As a follow-up to last week’s column about potential candidates for next year’s race for what will be an open seat in the 58th Ohio House District, Austintown Trustee Jim Davis says he will not be a candidate.

Davis said people have approached him about running, but he’s not interested. Also, he lives in one of the four precincts in the township, out of 40, that is not part of the 58th District.

Meanwhile, Michael E. O’Hara of Youngstown, who unsuccessfully ran for the Ohio House in 2004, said he plans to seek the seat next year.

Also, Cynthia McWilson, who unsuccessfully ran in 2003 for Youngstown’s 5th Ward council seat, is interested in the position.

Incumbent state Rep. Robert F. Hagan, a Youngstown Democrat, is serving his last term in the House. He can’t run next year because of term limits.

Others who are considering the post include Youngstown Councilwoman Janet Tarpley, D-6th; Youngstown Councilman Mike Ray, D-4th; and Hagan’s wife, Michele Lepore-Hagan, director of Youngstown State University’s Performing Arts Series.

National Democrats and their staff seem to get lost once they step outside Washington, D.C.

I don’t need to go into their lack of interest and/or inability to communicate and interact with voters and the media in the Mahoning Valley. I think the numerous articles and columns I wrote last year showed that pattern.

But what do I know? President Barack Obama did well in Mahoning and Trumbull counties so the national party’s micromanaged arrogant and dismissive campaign strategy in this area, among others, works for them.

This brings me to Monday’s $500-a-ticket fundraiser at the Zoldan family home in Canfield sponsored by the Mahoning County and Ohio Democratic parties.

Let me be crystal clear: the county and state parties understand the importance of this area in politics and want media attention. Democrats are facing an uphill battle in next year’s statewide election with every statewide seat held by a Republican who is seeking re-election against relatively unknown Democratic challengers.

Democrats are also trying to defeat incumbent Republicans in the U.S. House. Democrats see the 6th Congressional District seat, held by two-term Rep. Bill Johnson of Marietta, and the 14th District spot, held by freshman David Joyce of Russell, as their best opportunities to compete next year.

Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, who’s running for governor, as well as Jennifer Garrison and Michael Wager, who are running in the 6th and 14th, respectively, were at the Zoldan event that raised about $60,000, not including expenses.

The headliner at the event was Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who campaigned in the Valley two times last year for Obama.

The simple thing to do Monday was a 10-minute press conference before the event with Wasserman Schultz supporting Fitz- Gerald, Garrison and Wager. They need media attention in the Valley, particularly the first two. The 14th includes upper Trumbull County, but it’s the least populous county in the district.

Instead, the DNC decided to allow one Valley reporter, me, to interview Wasserman Schultz. No one from the DNC reached out to me until I pushed, which was late Monday before the fundraiser. I was told by a DNC spokesman that the interview was a go — for the next morning.

And that was after a press conference in Cleveland in which she endorsed Fitz-Gerald. If there’s one place in the state where Fitz- Gerald’s name recognition is solid, it is Cuyahoga County, and that should be the last place for a press conference like the one held Tuesday. Wasserman Schultz also endorsed state Sen. Nina Turner, the Democrat running for secretary of state, who lives in — you guessed it — Cleveland.

As for my interview with Wasserman Schultz, she understandably didn’t know Garrison and Wager. She is also a U.S. House member and criticized Johnson and Joyce for “consistently embracing the tea party agenda,” and for “being out of step with the middle class.”

FitzGerald is “one of our rising stars,” which isn’t a great comment for the guy who’s going to be the party’s gubernatorial candidate.

She praised county Democratic Chairman David Betras and state Chairman Chris Redfern, Mahoning County is “really critical” for Democrats in Ohio, she doesn’t plan to run for Florida governor, U.S. senator or House leadership at this point, and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-13th, a friend of hers, is a “scrappy fighter for his district.”

When I mentioned that it was hard to get her on the phone, she said, “Not really.”

To her credit, she did agree to the interview, which is more than I can say for other national Democrats.

As for access to national Republicans who visit the Valley, it’s usually significantly easier.

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