Hope springs eternal for Democrats

On the side

Political breakfast: The Democratic candidates for Youngstown mayor will be at the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber’s Good Morning Youngstown breakfast next Friday at 7:30 a.m. at the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Banquet Hall, 343 Via Mount Carmel.

The chamber’s government affairs council is hosting the event.

The candidates will give opening remarks and then answer questions posed by a moderator. If there is time, the candidates will answer questions from the audience.

The cost is $20 for chamber members and $30 for non-members.

The deadline to register is today, and can be done by contacting Jennifer Mascardine at the chamber by telephone, 330-744-2131 extension 12, email at jennifer@regionalchamber.com, or online at regionalchamber.com and click on “upcoming events.”

The crowd appeared enthusiastic, giving the likely 2014 Democratic statewide executive-branch ticket loud applause as each spoke.

The scene was the Lemon Grove restaurant in downtown Youngstown.

It was the first time the five would-be Democratic candidates were together outside of the state party’s annual dinner March 15 in Columbus.

They are Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald for governor, former Hamilton County Commissioner David Pepper for attorney general, state Sen. Nina Turner of Cleveland for secretary of state, state Rep. John Carney of Columbus for auditor, and state Rep. Connie Pillich of Montgomery for treasurer.

Though none of them have officially announced their candidacies, this is likely the party’s statewide slate. They wouldn’t come to Youngstown if they aren’t serious.

They all said the right and correct things about the importance of the Mahoning Valley for Democrats in statewide elections.

But appearances can be somewhat deceiving.

I had about six to eight Democratic insiders, officeholders and former officeholders at the event ask me if any of the likely candidates had a chance to win the 2014 election.

To a person, their assessment was if the election were now, none of them would win.

These aren’t independents or undecided voters. These are the people who will work to get these candidates elected next year, and they don’t have much optimism at this point.

Fortunately for Democrats, the election isn’t today, and a lot can and will change between now and November 2014.

Despite victories last year for President Barack Obama, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and William O’Neill, the first Democrat elected to the state Supreme Court since 2000 (even though judges run without a party designation in general elections), you would think Democrats would be more optimistic about the party’s statewide candidates for next year.

More than last year’s statewide success and the 2011 campaign by Democrats and organized labor to overturn SB5, which restricted collective bargaining for unionized public employees, local Democrats haven’t forgotten the disastrous 2010 statewide election.

That year saw three incumbent Democrats, including then-Gov. Ted Strickland and then-Attorney General Richard Cordray, and the rest of the party’s statewide ticket lose to Republicans. Democrats also lost control of the Ohio House in that election.

When Democrats captured four of the five statewide executive-office seats in the 2006 election, they rode an anti-Republican, anti-President George W. Bush wave, much like Republicans did in 2010 when Obama’s popularity wasn’t strong and the economy was even worse than it is now.

It’s going to be a challenge for Democrats to win in 2014. What they need more than anything else is a solid plan to campaign throughout the state, including rural areas, raise a lot of money and be unified. A huge Republican Coingate-like scandal would help.

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