NO TED STRICKLAND NOR AFRICAN-AMERICANS,By Louise Annarino,January 10,2012
Sutton, Ryan, Fitgerald. What do they have in common? Each is considered a potential candidate for governor of Ohio. Each is white. The Democratic Party often chides the Republican Party for its lack of diversity. Maybe Democrats should look at the glass ceiling within their own party. Why are no African-American candidates mentioned as potential candidates, now that Governor Strickland has announced his disinterest in the position?
It cannot be said that Democrats have no potential African-American candidates capable of serving as governor. There are several ready to take that position today:
-Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory who has served in both the Ohio House and Ohio Senate, where he served as the Assistant Minority Leader.
-4th term by a landslide, Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman, the first African-American mayor of Ohio’s capitol.
-State of Ohio Senator Nina Turner (SD25), who has gained national attention for her strong defense of voting rights and women’s rights.
While it is true that racism impedes the election of African-Americans in Ohio, the problem is much more complex. http://www.cleveland.com/open/index.ssf/2012/11/electing_black_statewide_offic.html No African-American Democratic candidate has been elected to statewide office; but, three African-American Republicans have done so.
Democrats must ask, what are we doing wrong? Instead we seem to accept this dilemma as a reason to shy away from promoting African-American candidates for statewide office. U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty is an anomaly, running in a newly-created safe district, perhaps the safest in the state of Ohio. Could she have defeated Senator Portman, which would have required sate-wide support? The Democratic Party must address its own racism, and find a strategy which allows African-Americans to succeed in state-wide political races.
The first step is to NAME African-Americans as potential candidates for EVERY position;to APPOINT them to highly visible committee and leadership positions and lead ISSUE promulgation efforts, and elect them as PARTY LEADERS. What we need is affirmative action, not passive acceptance. Democrats cannot continue to take African-Americans for granted as voters, as party members, nor as candidates. Still, this is not enough.
The same shortcomings which affect white candidates affect African-American candidates, but with greater impact. Campaigns are won street by street, ward by ward. Most citizens have never met a Democratic ward leader, would not even think to contact that person for assistance. Most citizens make no regular contribution to their County Democratic Party because they see no day-to-day return for their investment. Outreach is non-existent,marketing haphazard at best. Sharing information within closed party circles has its place but is only a small part of a communications effort. When was the last time the party organized a community service project? Advertised it as a party effort? First serve, then ask for donations to party coffers.
First Lady Michele Obama recently asked for participation in a Day of Service to honor Martin Luther King,Jr. Could not the Franklin County Democratic Party do something similar? Every month? What are we doing to create an image of a party who cares for each and every citizen across the state? We cannot ask for support from a community which we make no effort to support.
How does the Democratic Party advertise what we do accomplish? Yes, it takes money. Are there not enough Democrats with wealth to support specific projects? Using social media is not a panacea. Simply having a web page or Facebook page is insufficient. Newsletters must reach beyond the party faithful. Radio,television,community paper promoting Democrats? Non-existent in central Ohio.
Advertising requires a subtle message which emphasizes what the party is doing for Ohioans. The big message should be helping, with a footnote identifying the party as the helper. An example would be signs posted on infrastructure projects explaining what the project is accomplishing for citizens, and thanks to the party candidate bringing the project to the state. Then, Republican Governor Kasich could not claim credit for projects he initially opposed.
The party can win over voters whose racism may lessen support for African-American candidates if the party itself has ingrained a sense that Democrats are the community’s strongest supporters. Such passion for the party would benefit all Democratic candidates. In the meantime, African-American candidates must be groomed, promoted, supported and positioned for the next campaign. Past failure is no excuse for doing nothing;it is a reason to learn from our mistakes.