State Rep. Robert F. Hagan is out as an Ohio Democratic chairman candidate

By David Skolnick


State Rep. Robert F. Hagan’s withdrawal from the race for Ohio Democratic Party chairman and encouragement to his supporters to back David Pepper helps strengthen the latter as the leading candidate for the post.

Hagan of Youngstown, D-58th, said Wednesday he wouldn’t seek to replace Chris Redfern as chairman at next Tuesday’s meeting of the party’s 148-member executive committee, and would support Pepper. first reported this early Wednesday.

Pepper is a former Hamilton County commissioner and Cincinnati councilman who lost the state auditor’s race in 2010 and the attorney general’s race last month.

Hagan had about 20 votes — far short of the amount needed to win the seat, but enough to help swing the race.

“Pepper’s election will afford me the best opportunity to advocate for the interests of Ohio’s working families, to ensure that the Ohio Democratic Party refocuses its messaging, energy and efforts toward policies and programs that will give every Ohioan a chance to achieve the American Dream” and help recruit strong candidates who believe in the party’s principles, Hagan said.

Before Hagan’s announcement, Pepper said he has the support of about 90, a majority of the executive committee members.

When told of Hagan’s withdrawal, Pepper said, “We’re thrilled to have his support, and I’m eager to work with him. Bob’s a strong voice for the party, particularly on labor issues.”

Some of Hagan’s backers on the executive committee — Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras; Joyce Kale-Pesta, 33rd State Central Committeewoman; Tina Morrell, president of the Federated Democratic Women of Ohio; and Hagan himself — have pledged their support to Pepper. Also, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, who isn’t on the committee but has influence, also is backing Pepper.

Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni, a committee member, said he committed Monday to Pepper.

Sharen Neuhardt, who lost two congressional races and was the party’s lieutenant-governor candidate in last month’s election, also is seeking the position.

She has picked up a number of high-profile backers, including U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, who said last week that he was whipping votes for Neuhardt and “she’s got way more votes than anyone else.”

But based on Pepper’s supporters on the committee — he started providing some names Tuesday — and Hagan’s withdrawal, he has more than enough votes to win.

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