Ohio’s Democratic Party chair is stepping down after six years during which Republicans, including Donald Trump, dominated statewide elections.
David Pepper, a former Hamilton County commissioner and Cincinnati council member, sent a letter to party officials saying he will resign at year’s end.
Always friendly and optimistic, Pepper expressed hope today that Democrats will be able to undo GOP gerrymandering of congressional and legislative districts.
He says whoever comes in should do grass roots organizing to increase voter turnout in cities, and to reconnect the party with small towns that have been left behind.
“The party and Democratic officials on the Democratic side need to go to places like Mansfield and Manchester and other smaller communities, most of whom have lost so much in the past 30 years and show the Democrats have a plan for them,” Pepper said.
Once considered a bellwether and swing state, Ohio has swung to the GOP, which won the last three elections for governor and nearly all other statewide offices.
Trump carried it twice, by some 8 percentage points each time.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown won reelection in 2018, but Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman handily won 2016 reelection and Republicans swept state executive offices in 2018.
Between 2018 and 2020, Democrats re-elected U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and picked up three seats on the Ohio Supreme Court – a push Pepper hopes will help to fend off gerrymandered maps going forward.
Brown has not yet endorsed a successor, but released a statement praising Pepper.
“David and his team at ODP have served our state and our party honorably, and I’m grateful to David for his service,” Brown said in the statement. “I look forward to working with the next chair as Ohio Democrats continue fighting to put Ohio workers first and restore the dignity of work in our state.”
Like Missouri, Ohio’s days as a true swingstate in presidential elections may be over.
This is the first election since John F. Kennedy in 1960 where Buckeye State voters supported the losing presidential candidate, and there is every indication that Democrats will have a tougher time carrying the state in the future.
Pepper lost two statewide races, auditor in 2010 and attorney general in 2014, before taking over the Ohio Democratic Party in 2015.
Besides politics, Pepper, 49, the son of former Procter & Gamble CEO John Pepper, is an author.
His book, The People’s House, is a political thriller that received praise from former President Bill Clinton and The Wall Street Journal.