Ohio Democratic Party chairman hoping Wisconsin Gov. Walker is Republican choice for president


On the side

With Gov. John Kasich officially announcing Tuesday that he’s running for president, the Mahoning County Republican Party is sponsoring a bus trip for those wanting to be there for it.

The trip to the Ohio Union at Ohio State University in Columbus will leave party headquarters at 621 Boardman-Canfield Road in Boardman at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday. The cost per person is $50 and also includes refreshments and a T-shirt. The bus will stop for lunch, but the cost of the meal is not included. To reserve a seat, call the party at 330-629-7006.

Kasich will deliver his remarks about seeking the presidency at 11:25 a.m. The pre-program starts at 11 a.m.

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, is cosponsoring legislation with two Republican congressmen from Ohio – Jim Renacci of Wadsworth, R-16th, and Pat Tiberi of Genoa, R-12th – called the Preparing More Welfare Recipients for Work Act.

The bill would strengthen the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program and encourage states to engage more recipients in activities that lead to self-sufficiency as well as simplify the current work participation requirement states must meet.

“Providing expanded opportunities for job training, vocational and secondary education and extended time for job searches are common-sense solutions that will help those most in need in our communities lift themselves out of poverty,” Ryan said.

If Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper had his choice, he’d want Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to be the Republican nominee for president next year.

“People know how out of touch he is with where working people really are,” Pepper said during an interview earlier this week with The Vindicator. “I think we would steamroll him. I would not say that about every one of their candidates – but Walker in particular – is so off message that I think he is in some ways the dream candidate for the state of Ohio.”

Pepper pointed to the repeal by Ohio voters in the Nov. 8, 2011, election of what was called SB5, a bill that restricted collective bargaining rights for public employees. Voters rejected the bill 61.6 percent to 38.4 percent.

A similar law in Wisconsin was upheld by that state’s Supreme Court, and an effort to recall Walker as governor a year later failed. The issue made Walker a national conservative star and one of the Republican Party’s leading presidential candidates.

Pepper also said a statement Walker made in February that “if I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world” in reference to taking on the threat of ISIS terrorists shows he’s not ready to be president. Walker later said that he meant he had experience handling difficult situations.

As for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican who will officially announce Tuesday that he’s running for president, Pepper said the governor’s “record isn’t presidential.”

The governor “will take credit for the [economic] recovery,” Pepper said. “Most of the credit for the recovery was national factors.”

During last year’s gubernatorial election, Kasich ran a television commercial saying it was “halftime in Ohio.”

“He promised a great second half, but he didn’t say it would be from a cellphone in New Hampshire,” Pepper said.

Quinnipiac University polls show Kasich as the clear front-runner in Ohio, a key battleground state. But national polls show Kasich as a blip on the screen at this point.

Pepper unsuccessfully ran in 2010 for state auditor and lost four years later in the attorney general race. In both elections, Republicans swept the executive branch races.

The 2014 defeat led to the resignation of Chris Redfern as Democratic chairman. Pepper was selected to replace him in December.

Pepper said his state party needs to do a much better job of electing Democrats and not just focus on the presidential years.

“The party in the past decade gets organized and energized for the presidential years, but forgets that races in other years are just as important,” he said. “The day after the 2008 election, almost everything disappeared, and the day after 2012, the same thing, so the party had to restart from nothing. Our goal is for that not to be the case in 2016 and 2018. Everything we do for ’16 is also about building for ’18. They’re connected.”

GOP on message

Republicans have “been very concise on [their] message,” while Democrats haven’t, Pepper said.

During meetings throughout the state earlier this year, Pepper said, “We heard from very frustrated Democrats, [why does] this party [with] more voters than the other side know how to win in presidential years and just can’t figure out how to win in nonpresidential years? So we put together a plan.”

The plan is to “change the culture” of the state Democratic Party, Pepper said. That includes touting the accomplishments of the party’s local elected officials as well as grooming Democrats on the local level for higher office.

“The party sent many more emails to all of our Democrats around the state asking for $3 than we have ever sent saying, ‘Hey, the mayor of so-and-so did a great thing on wages or we have a councilman in Bexley who just did a nondiscriminatory law,’” he said.

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