Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Ohio 14 -- An Early Test for Redfern's "Vision"

Newly ascended King of All Democrats Chris Redfern released last week a looks-good-on-paper "Vision for the Ohio Democratic Party." The lynchpin is an 88-county strategy, similar to the Howard Dean 50-state strategy -- build up each county party and recruit strong candidates for each race.

Having attended a Summit County Progressive Democrats meeting at which the two Democratic candidates vying to take on Steve LaTourette in the 14th District squared off, I'd say Redfern has some recruiting to do.

I took ample notes to write a detailed critique, but I can't. It would be like a theatre critic going after my daughter's elementary school Christmas pageant. Both are nice guys, smart guys, guys with heart and guts, but I saw nothing of the policy chops or speaking ability to make a real run. These guys simply aren't close to being viable candidates for Congress. Understand that Palmer Peterson is a friend from SCPD and some other friends attended to support Professor Lew Katz. I would like nothing better than to be able to say "I have seen the future of Ohio 14th and he is . . ." I just can't.

For the record, Katz wins on points. He at least has a stump speech with a hook ("I'm tired of a Bush Administration that . . ."), but he appeared awkward every time he delivered it. To his credit, he sounded passionate and plain spoken rather than wonky, but he looked like he longed to be wonky, like he'd so much rather run down the finer points of O'Connor's opinion in the Hamedi decision.

The good news is that the two are running amicable side-by-side campaigns against LaTourette in the primary. On policy the two sound nearly identical. They each sound too liberal to win in the 14th, but that's a whole other post. The primary won't be ugly, though thanks to the harmony between the candidates and their lack of resources, it probably won't be noticed either.

Given the increasing evidence that '04 LaTourette challenger Capri Cafaro's Tour of Districts Not Held By Tim Ryan will next stop here in the 13th, these guys are it for now. LaTourette looks vulnerable as a sitting Representative. He succumbed to 11th hour arm-twisting on both CAFTA and the budget bill, screwing constituents in the process. A decent candidate can make the case that he was Tom Delay's personal poodle without breaking a sweat.

Yes, the 14th was gerrymandered after LaTourette won it in '94. It may well be an impossible district for Dems to win. Personally, I think a lot of the Republicans in the district are blue collar Reagan converts who could be reached, but maybe not. The point is this: if Redfern is serious about his viable-candidate-in-every-race vision thing, he needs to start with the races where the candidate would have something to say.

A real race in the 14th is an opportunity to repeatedly bash the entire Republican Congressional apparatus. LaTourette is the poster boy for DeLay's high-handed scorched-earth corruption. Leaving it to these guys to make that case isn't fair to them and is a wasted opportunity.

If Redfern's vision means something beyond "I just got elected, I have to say something," he has some phone calling to do.


FamineHorse said...

I have to respectfully disagree with Pho here. Let me start by saying I am biased--I am a Katz supporter. But, I know talent when I see it (which is why I am supporting Katz). Pho calls him awkward; I call him well-spoken. You will rarely hear an "um" or an "ah" come out of Katz' mouth. He is about as well-spoken as anyone I've heard. Does he talk in sound-bites? No. He's not a professional politician which I think is tremendously appealing in 2006-- the year of Abramoff & DeLay. Katz is intelligent & a quick study. His biggest challenge is money; however, I know he has a staff in place & they are working to raise it. He is a credible challenger; an attractive alternative to LaTourette & his entrenched monied interests & lobbyist wife. Once people start to get to know Lew he will win them over.

Anonymous said...


I'm extremely biased, but I'm not here to talk so much about your opinions of Lew and myself. I just wanted to point out that perhaps the finger of blame, as it were, is pointed in the wrong direction.

The ODP, as I understand it, is mainly concerned with statewide candidates. The DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) or as I like to call it (Democrats Courting Centrist Candidates) is the one who should be involved in finding a "viable" candidate for the 14th District, specifically Rep. Rahm Emanuel, ex-Clintonista.

He and the DCCC are the ones who are supposed to be recruiting "viable" candidates for U.S. Congressional Races, while making brave stands such as not having any opinion on the war in Iraq, and are actively looking for candidates which the same nebulous views.

Lew and I both appear on the DCCC website:


But the only contact I've had with Rahm Emanuel is e-mails asking for more money. I can't speak for Lew's campaign.

Redfern already has enough on his plate trying to get statewide candidates to run.

IMO, the title of this post should be "A test of Emanuel's 'Vision'", rather than Redfern's.

As it stands, in my incredibly biased and rose-colored "vision", I believe there are two viable Democratic candidates running in the 14th.

Just my 2 cents.

Palmer J. Peterson

Scott Piepho said...

First off, thanks to both of you for commenting and for maintaining a civil tone in light of my post. This was the hardest post I have written yet. I swore when starting this blog to that I would call 'em like I see 'em and this was the result.

And I have never been so eager to be proven wrong. Blow me away. Make me eat a meal of the sweetest crow imaginable. If either guy can do it, I will be duly impressed; both have a long way to go.

As to Palmer's point, I will defer to anyone with more knowledge than myself, but I've always heard that state party chairs were the first line for recruiting candidates at all levels -- after all, they are supposed to know their state better than guys in DC. DCCC is more about support and a bit of king-making.

Certainly I've never heard of a state chair demuring from recruiting Congressional candidates because it is DCCC turf. My point remains -- the LaTourette race is the most important race involving a sitting member A) because he is vulnerable and B because a strong campaign against Steve "11th Hour" LaTourette has potential to spill over as an indictment of the Rebublican Congress generally.

I have nothing against political rookies getting their feet wet in this race. But I want a veteran campaigner and fundraiser to carry the flag in the general. Emmanual may be on the hook for this, but so is Redfern.