The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus met with candidates for the next Ohio Democratic Party Chairmanship yesterday for a frank discussion on the issues affecting African Americans. “African Americans have been a loyal voting base for the Democratic Party, but feel left behind and disenfranchised on the issues that are affecting their communities such as police community relations, economic and social justice, and a permanent fix to voting rights like a constitutional amendment. We must move from what we call the 2% model- where the party invests less than 2% in the African American voter agenda and expects a 90% turnout. At a time when our base is turning off and tuning out, we must have an “Action Agenda that bridges the growing gap between our party and the voters,” says Rep. Alicia Reece, President of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, former Vice Mayor of Cincinnati, member of the State Executive Committee, and served in the Strickland Administration’s Tourism Division.
OLBC Members Released the following Statement of Principles: On December 16th our Party will make a critical decision in electing the next Chairperson of the Ohio Democratic Party. This decision should not be taken lightly with the backdrop of the disappointing losses in this year’s mid-term elections. These losses created the largest Republican super majority in the Ohio General Assembly, and the lowest mid election turnout in the state’s history. Both of which indicate a gap between our party, and the voters. We are at a cross road in our country with strained race relations and in our party where African Americans who have been a loyal voting base are tuning out and in some cases turning away from our party – like in Missouri where African American Democrats formed the Fannie Lou Hamer Democratic Party. Missouri blacks leave party; form Fannie Lou Hamer Party
The members of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus support a process of inclusion in the selection of the next leader of the Ohio Democratic Party. Part of which is engaging in a dialogue with as many of the Democratic constituencies whose hard work and dedication have moved this party toward significant gains of equality, inclusion, and opportunity in the state of Ohio. The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus has been listening to the concerns, issues and ideas that our constituents, the 1.4 million African-American Ohioans throughout the state, clergy, and civil rights leaders have shared with us. Thus, the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus sets out the following principles for consideration of adoption by the next chairperson of the Ohio Democratic Party.
1. Establishing an Office of African-American Participation and Engagement.
– Staffing a team that works full time to engage the party’s most loyal voters in order to ensure consistent voter turnout, whose duties would include year round voter registration and education programs.
– The staff would further engage in constant and regular contact with elected officials, clergy, civil rights leaders, community leaders, and local party advocates in African-American and urban communities.
2.Investing in Minority Communities
– Increasing the number of contracts with African-American owned and operated business. (Consulting, printing, advertisement, public relations and media buys, convention services, pollsters, catering, etc.)
– A recent study showed that of all the contracts awarded by the DNC, only 2% of all contracts were awarded to African-African companies. The Ohio Democratic Party should lead the nation by showing how we support African-American communities by investing in them.
3. Voter Protection – A commitment to passing a state Constitutional amendment for voting rights. The Ohio Voter Bill of Rights has already been approved by the ballot board, now the issue needs support from ODP to ensure that it makes it onto the ballot. This includes gathering the needed signatures to place the amendment on the ballot.
– Recruiting election workers in urban areas, where there are the most Election Day discrepancies, who are competent and prepared to trouble-shoot issues in a manner that discourages disenfranchisement.
4. Civil Rights Advocacy – The Ohio Democratic Party should be the leader in civil rights advocacy for all Ohioans, including African-Americans. As such, the Ohio Democratic Party should be in the forefront of all civil rights issues and matters that impact equal protection under the law.
– The Ohio Democratic Party must be willing to speak out against systematic injustices and be an ally that is ready and willing to stand on the front lines with the voters who support the principles of our Party.
5. Candidate Recruitment and Development
– The state of Ohio has never elected an African-American Democrat to statewide office in its entire history. While there are many qualified and talented African-Americans who should have been elected to statewide office, the Ohio Democratic Party has failed to invest in their development and campaigns in order to make them successful.
-The Ohio Democratic must make a significant investment in recruiting talented African-American candidates who will be prepared to elected office of every level.
As our Party represents many constituencies, the change in leadership is an opportunity to re-engage our most loyal and consistent supporters, African-Americans. African-Americans are tired of being taken for granted and look forward to the opportunity to become a significant part of the structure and function of the Ohio Democratic Party, not just an afterthought in the final week or two of an election cycle. If the party does not act now, the consequences may be grave as the most loyal base for the Party is being courted by aggressive GOP recruiting and engagement. Democrats need as many people as possible who are engaged, activated, and supporting the Party. Let us not waste this opportunity to regain the support of the African-American community that Democrats have been losing by not adequately investing.