Dems, GOP select new statewide leaders
By DAVID SKOLNICK
Liz Walters, Summit County Council president, was elected Ohio Democratic Party chairwoman, and Jane Timken was re-elected state Republican chairwoman.
Timken was first elected in January 2017 after the Republican central committee deadlocked on two votes between her and incumbent Chairman Matt Borges. Timken, who was backed by President Donald Trump, emerged as the winner after negotiations behind closed doors.
It was a lot easier Friday with Timken being the only candidate and winning another four-year term.
“I’m honored and humbled for your continued support,” Timken told the Republican central committee. “We’ve accomplished so much together and we have so much more to accomplish.”
Also re-elected — and running unopposed — were Bryan Williams as vice chairman, Monica Robb Blasdel of Columbiana County as secretary and Columbiana County Republican Party Chairman Dave Johnson as treasurer.
Walters, a former state party executive and political director, and Antoinette Wilson, a Columbus political consultant, were the two candidates to receive nominations for Democratic Party leader.
But at the end of Wilson’s nomination speech, she said she was withdrawing as a candidate to unite the party and urged the executive committee to select Walters for the job.
The committee did just that, making Walters the first woman elected to run the party.
If the committee had voted, Walters was the heavy favorite to win as she had lined up key support among organized labor, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, the Ohio Young Democrats and the Ohio Young Black Democrats.
“The work ahead for our party will be hard and no doubt we will have many tough conversations and many detailed plans about our strategy and our tactics,” Walters said. “But ultimately, our work is about people. We must keep people at the center of our organization and our plans, make space for and honor their stories.”
Brown, D-Cleveland, said of Walters: “I know she will serve our state well and I look forward to working together as we fight in every community, honor the dignity of work and show working Ohioans that we’re on their side.”
Walters’ biggest task will be finding candidates to run for statewide offices and a challenger to U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, a Cincinnati-area Republican, in the 2022 election.
Since 1990, Democrats have won only statewide executive branch races in 2006 and 2008. Since 2013, Republicans have had a 12-4 majority among U.S. House members and for years have controlled the Ohio House and Senate.
The position became available when David Pepper, chairman for five years, resigned Jan. 1. The term expires in mid-2022.
Rhine McLin, the party’s vice chairwoman and a former Dayton mayor, served on an acting basis as the party’s leader until Thursday’s vote for Walters.
The Democratic National Committee’s rules require the first vice chair to be the opposite gender from the chair so McLin had to be replaced.
The only nomination from the floor was Andre Washington, president of the Ohio state chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, an African-American trade unionists organization, and a field representative / special projects coordinator for the Ohio Association of Public School Employees.
“I have spent my career serving others and I am honored to continue that service in this new position,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do, but I have never been afraid to roll up my sleeves and get to work.”