CLEVELAND - When Ohio democrats wax nostalgic about the good old days they need only go back to 2006 when they won the U.S. Senate seat, governor's seat and three of the four statewide row offices not to mention control of the Ohio House of Representatives. It was an edge, with the exception of the Sherrod Brown six-year term Senate seat, that they would relinquish just four years later.
Barack Obama may have won the state in 2008 and 2012 but it wasn't always easy fielding a slate of candidates said Ohio Democratic Party Chair David Pepper, who himself ran twice statewide, until this year.
"We have 99 house districts in Ohio, we have a candidate in every one of them, we have a candidate in every one of the 17 senate districts, we have a candidate in every one of the congressional districts. That hasn't happened in years," Pepper said.
"Our mindset is the sports term flood the zone, give voters a choice at every level," he said. "That candidate at every level approach is how you win not just those local races, it's how you build energy for all of the races."
Pepper sees many similarities between 2006 and 2018 both nationally and at the state level. Republicans in Columbus had "coingate" hanging over their races and Pepper believes the recent resignation of Republican House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger in the shadow of an FBI investigation and the current situation with ECOT, the electronic classroom of tomorrow, could hurt the GOP this year.
"ECOT, this for profit charter school is sort of coingate on steroids," Pepper said.
For the first time since Jerry Springer battled with Dick Celeste for the Democratic nomination for governor in 1982 the party has more than two candidates vying for the nomination with former Attorney General Richard Cordray, former Congressman Dennis Kucinich, former State Supreme Court Justice Bill O'Neill and State Senator Joe Schiavoni. The party's endorsed candidate? No one.
"We've stayed neutral and we've said to the voters hey this is your call," he said. "But we've also decided to make it a high profile primary with debates all over the state... our goal was to allow our voters to see a real dialogue about ideas and about the challenges of Ohio and that's exactly what they've seen."
Pepper believes the decision of Republicans to endorse Mike DeWine early was a bad one for the party and led to a more divisive primary process. "Ironically it didn't end their primary, it's only made their primary more nasty."
"They're running as far to the right as possible, half of the primary is attacking John Kasich, in the Republican primary! And I think that's what happens when the party weighs in too early and tries to annoint one person and tries to shove the other one to the side I think it makes it actually more ugly."
The party's slate for November will be set in just over a week when Ohioans go to the polls May 8.