Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Are local Dem leaders risking a Senate race?

I am here to report that the Summit County Democrats are alive and routinely contrary as we get down to business in this election year. Acting solely as individuals without state party support,  the county's  and city's  top Democratic officeholders gathered Tuesday to endorse  P.G. Sittenfeld, the young (31) Cincinnati councilman, against former Gov. Ted Strickland (74) in the party's senate primary.  Without  having  to connect the dots, the locals' primary concern was the obvious age difference and the need for the party to recruit younger folks into the playing field.

Of itself, such logic is old-fashioned inasmuch as it couldn't have occurred at a worse time in the party's attempt to dislodge Republican Sen. Rob Portman in a year  when some gurus  are saying the Democrats  could could gain control of the U.S. senate with a few more victories in November.  But Summit Democrats have enjoyed a long contentious city-county history of   doing  things that don't always make the ends meet.

As of this moment, Strickland, who has been endorsed by the state party ,  is leading Sittenfeld in the polls and is slightly ahead of Portman. In the latter race, Strickland could gain some ground from a unified party, but based on yesterday's pageant it  seems the locals  aren't considering that possibility.

The new Summit Democratic chairman, Jeff Fusco, whatever his preference, stayed away from the Sittenfeld rollout.  The party doesn't endorse  in primaries.  Still,  Tuesday's meeting,  said  to be called for by Summit Executive Russ Pry,   left little doubt where energy, fund-raising, and voting power will lead in the primary.

But to raise a cliche, they may win the battle, but lose the war in November while costing the  party one vote in the U..S. Senate.  It's a truism to argue that the state party has  suffered from its own incompetence over the years in building a farm system of fresh faces.  But Sittenfeld won't solve the problem with a dress rehearsal.   He has a long political life ahead of him and his high value to the party could put him at the top of the list  - the day after the November election.

Maybe I'm too fussy about the higher stakes  here .  But  I only know what the polls are telling me.   Meantime, I recall what  the late  Ray Bliss once told me: he wouldn't endorse his own brother if he didn't think he could win.

Being old-fashioned in that respect, I painfully agree in playing the current  odds.

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