Ohio Dems tap 1st female chair, 1st Black executive director

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Posted at 7:07 PM, Jan 18, 2021

COLUMBUS — The Ohio Democratic Party is hoping that two historic picks last week — its first female chair and its first Black executive director — can restore its candidates’ fortunes against the state’s dominant Republicans while also healing internal party divisions.

The choices of Summit County councilmember Liz Walters as chair and Malik Hubbard as interim executive director followed a bitter clash with groups representing the party’s Black legislators and youth voters.

The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus and Ohio Young Black Democrats accused the party of taking advantage of Black Ohioans, as one lawmaker put it, as “just a hook-up for votes,” without giving them a significant role in party decisions. They insisted on representation within party leadership.

Walters’ election Thursday means both Ohio’s major political parties are now run by women. Republicans elected Jane Timken to a third term as chair on Friday.

Under Timken’s leadership, the GOP has retained control of both state legislative chambers and every statewide executive office, as well as delivering Ohio’s 18 electoral votes to President Donald Trump, who won the state by 8 percentage points last year.

Walters, of Akron, inherits a party that hasn’t claimed a single statewide executive office since 2006. She succeeds retiring Democratic Chair David Pepper. She pledged, in selecting Hubbard on Friday, to “hit the ground running on day one, fighting for a better, more inclusive Ohio” and to strengthen the party from the inside.

Andre Washington, a union field representative and president of the A. Philip Randolph Institute’s state chapter who is also Black, was elected first vice chair.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, the state’s top elected Democrat, called Hubbard “an impressive hire” with the knowledge and experience the party needs to begin its “next chapter.” Hubbard worked for Brown during the senator’s “Dignity of Work” listening tour in 2019.

Hubbard was hired to quickly ramp up a transparent transition process that will include the hiring of a permanent director, Walters said.

Timken, a loyal ally of outgoing Republican President Donald Trump, also leads a party sharply divided. The wedge created by Trump’s actions ahead of the Jan. 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol, which led to his second impeachment last week, was evident in the fact that a statement announcing Timken’s reelection did not even mention the president by name.

Timken said she is taking nothing for granted.

“Despite those successes,” she said in a statement, “Ohio is still a battleground state and there is much work to be done.”