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Battleground Voices: Nina Turner on the Urgency of Restoring the Voting Rights Act



In 2012, Congressman John Lewis came to the Buckeye state to encourage Ohioans to exercise their right to vote. At a dinner in Youngstown, Ohio he told the story of his march across the bridge from Selma to Montgomery. The Congressman recalled having a backpack filled with an apple, an orange, two books, a toothbrush and toothpaste. Having been part of this non-violent movement for social change for so long, he knew he was going to be arrested. Never did he imagine, however, the level of brutality that ascended upon him and his fellow marchers that day.   Congressman Lewis told us his story to remind us of the sacrifices of life and limb that were made for free and unfettered access to the ballot box.

A few weeks ago, on the 50th Anniversary of the Selma Civil Rights March (also known as Bloody Sunday), Congressman Lewis went back to that same bridge in Alabama to remind the country and the world of the sacrifices made to ensure the passage of the historic Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Tragically, the very gains made by these freedom fifty years ago was stripped away the moment the United States Supreme Court issued its ruling in Shelby vs. Holder in 2013. The decision to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act immediately opened the floodgates to voter suppression legislation targeting minority and low-income voters in Arizona, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

The manipulation of the electorate is nothing new, but in recent years its scope has expanded dramatically. And it’s no longer relegated to traditional southern states. In 2012, Ohio gained national attention for all the wrong reasons when our “Secretary of Suppression” Jon Husted appealed all the way to the US Supreme Court to take away the last three days of early voting. He wielded the power of his office to create an atmosphere of confusion, chaos and intimidation, intent upon discouraging participation in the electoral process.

In 2014, Husted and the GOP-controlled legislature doubled-down on their voter suppression tactics, from the use of directives that confused and complicated the voting process to the passage of legislation denying early voting opportunities.

These twenty-first century, Jim Crow-like attempts to thwart access to the ballot box must be stopped. The truth is, our democracy is stronger when more people participate and when everyone’s views are heard. Making it harder for the most vulnerable voters to participate in the political process inevitably leads to policies and policymakers that do not represent the interests of all people. This is why Congress must act to restore and strengthen the Voting Rights Act.

Our nation is eroding the progress made from battles fought and won generations ago. This is unacceptable. We are a nation built on the premise of justice and equality for all. The ballot box is the symbolic manifestation of that promise. It is the only place where our gender, race, sexual-orientation, religion, or socio-economic status does not matter. We must protect this great equalizer.

As President Lyndon B. Johnson said, “At times, history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man’s unending search for freedom.”

Fifty years later, we are at another turning point. Members of Congress can turn their backs on history, or they can continue the forward march that began in Selma, Alabama on March 7, 1965. We cannot rest until the Voting Rights Act is restored and strengthened. We owe this to ourselves, to future generations and to the men, women and children who sacrificed their bodies on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Click here to sign my friend State Representative Emilia Sykes’ petition to support voting rights.

Nina Turner is the Ohio Democratic Party Chair of Party Engagement

BATTLEGROUND VOICES: Ohio Students Call on Gov. Kasich To Line-Item Veto the GOP ‘Poll Tax’ Voting Provision

It is no secret that young people turn out to vote at lower rates than the population at large. About 35 percent of all eligible Ohio voters turned out for the 2014 general election, according to data from the United States Election Project—about par for a midterm election, but still dishearteningly low. However, according to an estimate from The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), national voter turnout among Americans age 18-29 was just 21.5 percent.
Think about that. Barely one-fifth of young people voted last fall. We should be encouraging young people to vote, not discouraging them! State and local politics arguably has more impact on our day-to-day lives than national politics, and young people deserve a say in our self-governance. And you can draw a direct line from youth voter turnout to how easy it is to vote: according to CIRCLE, seven of the top 10 youth turnout states last fall had ambitious pro-voting measures, including Election Day registration and voting by mail.
That’s why last week’s GOP rider to the state transportation budget is so problematic. It would require out-of-state college students to pay up to $150 dollars to get a new driver’s license and register their vehicle within 30 days after they register to vote. This smacks of a poll tax on some young people.
This does not have to be a partisan issue. The percentage of young voters who consider themselves liberals or Democrats is actually on the decline. Last year Pew Research found a new-high 50 percent of millennials identified themselves as political independents. This is an ever-more-knowledgeable demographic who’s votes Ohio Democrats and Republicans should be competing for on the basis of our platforms, not suppressing with 11th-hour amendments! Ohio Republicans suppress the youth vote at their peril.
Ohio is home to leading universities and businesses, flourishing-but-affordable cities, great culture and a high quality of life. We should want young people to come here and stay here, particularly if they were already attracted enough to seek their education here. Governor John Kasich was himself among just this group four decades ago, coming to The Ohio State University from Pennsylvania and staying to great success here. But passing restrictions that make it harder and more expensive to vote is exactly the opposite of rolling out the welcome mat.
We join the numerous organizations and editorial boards from around the state calling on Governor Kasich to line-item veto the GOP transportation budget provision aimed at blocking out-of-state students from voting.
Taylor Myers, Marietta College, Outgoing President of College Democrats of Ohio
Mike Brill, University of Dayton, Incoming President of College Democrats of Ohio 

The ODP Main Street Initiative is Underway


ODP Political Director Nelson Devezin

“All politics is local.”

This phrase, popularized by House Speaker Tip O’Neill, has so embedded itself in the political lexicon, we hardly stop to consider what it means. It means electoral success depends on staying responsive to constituents. But it also means achieving our goals depends on races all up and down the ballot: mayors, city council and school board members, local judges—the elected officials who most directly impact Ohioans’ day-to-day lives.

Winning these local offices is an important end in itself; the impact of local government is immediate, and a party with representation in local government is better positioned to work for its values, regardless of the situation at the statehouse or in Washington.

Winning local offices also strengthens a party’s ‘bench’—the pool of younger elected officials who are potential future candidates for higher office. A strong bench is a leading indicator of success down the road, like a Major League Baseball team with lots of good minor league prospects.


Winning these local offices is therefore vital to the success of the Ohio Democratic Party. That’s why three months ago, under the leadership and direction of our new Party Chair David Pepper, we announced the Main Street Initiative. Through this effort, we will focus on down-ballot races across Ohio, defend incumbents and open seats, pick up new positions, and develop and highlight the party’s brightest stars.

Last month, we hosted our first day-long training session in Columbus. The room was packed with Democrats from across the state: candidates for mayor, school board and city council. The group was diverse in background, but they had in common a high regard for public service and Democratic values—exactly the kind of people you want serving in your local government. Some are running their first-ever political campaign, but an opportunity to hear from experienced Party staff means no one will have to re-invent the wheel this fall. Everyone left excited to hit the trail and fight for our values.

We’re working to grow the Main Street Initiative and hold more training sessions for local Democratic candidates. Success in 2015 will position us to do well in 2016, 2018 and beyond. Investing time and effort in local politics may not get the most press or produce the flashiest campaign commercials, but those with an eye on the long term success know it generates among the highest returns. The future is bright for Ohio Democrats.

If you or someone you know is running at the local level and want to apply to get involved in our Main Street Initiative, please email me at nelson@ohiodems.org

Nelson Devezin is the Ohio Democratic Party Political Director

BATTLEGROUND VOICES: Support Equal Pay for Women


Every Woman Matters.

Every Dollar Matters.

The Wage Gap Matters.

 I write today to remind Ohioans about the important issue of not just fair wages, but equal wages.  The pay gap is one of THE MOST important issues facing women and families today.

So what IS the pay gap and WHY is it so important?  The pay gap is the disparity in pay based on a side-by side comparison of median wages of men and women’s typical earnings.  The hard truth is that Ohio women workers earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.  Which means it would also take the average woman an additional 100 days of work just to come out on equal financial footing as her male counterpart. Clearly, 77 cents is a shameful statistic when you consider that women make up half the total work force.  The pay gap only gets more dramatic if you are a minority woman – nationally, African American women earn 64 cents and Latinas only 56 for every dollar.

The pay gap is real and pervasive, and it affects all women.  Today is Equal Pay Day, Tuesday, April 14th, 2015 – is a symbolic date of action that points out the inequity that exists in our workforce.  And it won’t change unless we DO something about it.

equal pay badge

Many critics of the pay gap speak about choices women make that may have a direct effect on their earnings like working part-time, leaving the workforce to have children, or even their choice of college majors – these choices may account for some of the salary differences, but they aren’t the whole picture.  It is important to note that earnings do increase with advanced education, but it does not eliminate the pay gap.  Just think about how this gap in earnings short changes families.  The pay gap translates into $10,876 less annually which could mean a five month supply of groceries, three months of childcare, four months of student loan payments, or even all of these things combined.

Legislation like the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay act are so important.  The Paycheck Fairness Act would expand equal pay by requiring employers to prove that wage gaps between men and women exist, it would allow for wage comparisons between employees to determine fair wages and prohibit employer retaliation against workers who inquire about wage practices or disclose their own wages. AND 84% of voters supported a law that would provide women more tools to receive fair pay in the workplace.  Let’s get this done –Contact your member of Congress, or better yet, contact Congressional Leadership and tell them how important Fair Pay is to you.

We can make a difference by speaking up, and raising awareness.  Please take a moment to stand with Democrats in support of Equal Pay – share this badge on social media.  Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper (a sample letter can be found here).

Show your solidarity with women across the country by wearing red – a symbol of how far women are ‘in the red’ with their pay. 

You can also join the Fair Pay Campaign led by the American Association of University Women in conjunction with NOW, National Women’s Law Center and over 250 plus organizations.  There is no expiration date on your actions in support of Equal Pay, but if we don’t act now, at the rate of recent progress the pay gap won’t close for another 124 years, until 2139!  Demand change – urge Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Kathy DiCristofaro is Chair of the Ohio Democratic Women’s Caucus

David Pepper: The second half in Governor Kasich’s Ohio—an away game, a failed model


The most memorable TV ad Governor John Kasich ran in his re-election campaign last fall was ‘Halftime in Ohio’, and he assured us that the second half was going to be great.

Since he was standing in Ohio Stadium for the ad, Kasich made it look like the second half would take place in Ohio.

But it turns out, it’s an away game. As he toys with the idea of running for president, Governor Kasich has been touring the nation. Utah, Idaho, Montana, North and South Dakota, New Hampshire, Detroit, South Carolina, New Hampshire again. Today, he’s in Washington, D.C.

On his travels, Governor Kasich’s pitch for President rests largely on his ‘Ohio story’—the idea that the so-called “Ohio Model” has helped Ohio recover from the Great Recession. Unfortunately, the facts in Ohio don’t match up with Kasich’s political rhetoric.

Last Friday, while Kasich was campaigning in South Carolina, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services released the March jobs report. It wasn’t good. Over the last year, Ohio’s job growth rate has been only 1.5 percent, while the national rate over the same time is 2.3 percent. Because of that gap, while the country has recovered all the jobs it lost during the recession, Ohio has yet to reach that benchmark. Even worse, Ohio has now lagged the country in job growth for 29 straight months! And without smart investments in infrastructure, education and workers, many of the jobs Ohio has recovered have been low-wage jobs, the kind that make it difficult to raise a family.

Kasich’s “Ohio story” is a public relations campaign. The reality is…of course Ohio has benefitted from the national recovery (due to policies such as the auto recovery that Kasich and others opposed), but Kasich policies are stifling our pace of recovery. The “Ohio Model” is nothing more than the same trickle-down approach that has consistently failed nationwide: Tax cuts for those who make the most, paid for by the combination of 1) tax hikes on those Ohioans doing less well and 2) cuts to schools and local services all across our state (leading to even more tax hikes at the local level).

Bottom line: “the Ohio Model” may make for good Presidential primary rhetoric, but it is not a model that has served Ohio well, or would serve the country well at all.

It’s time that Ohio’s leaders focus on lifting wages and creating good jobs right here at home.

David Pepper is Chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party

Meet China’s New Best Friend: Rob Portman


COLUMBUS – Republican Senator Rob Portman isn’t fooling anyone with his newly concocted “tough on China” act. After throwing Ohio workers under the bus last week with his vote to fast track the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership, Portman claimed he “fought for a level-playing field” with an amendment to crack down on China’s currency manipulations.

What Rob Portman doesn’t want you to know, is that his amendment failed (read more) . . . and in response, Portman promptly turned around and voted to fast track TPP anyway – proof Portman’s supposed fight for a level-playing field was nothing more than a smokescreen designed to distract Ohio workers from his real agenda.

But, Portman’s “tough on China” act, isn’t just too little, it’s too late by a decade. The truth is, Portman has been on team China since his days as U.S. Trade Representative in 2005, and Ohio workers have paid the price.

Rob Portman’s Real Record on China

While Portman was U.S. Trade Representative from 2005-2006, the trade deficit with China soared up $228 billion, an increase of more than 20 percent. [PolitiFact, 9/9/10]

Yet Portman failed to crack down on China’s unfair trade practices, even drawing criticism for his inaction from the libertarian Cato Institute. [Cincinnati Enquirer, 6/22/12]

And as a result, Ohio workers lost jobs: A 2014 study showed that Ohio had lost more than 100,000 jobs due to the trade deficit with China that grew under Portman – 77,000 in manufacturing alone. [Cleveland Plain Dealer, 12/11/14; Economic Policy Institute, 12/11/14]


BATTLEGROUND VOICES: Latino Strong, Toledo Proud


The citizens of Lucas County are no strangers to hard work and determination. Nor do we have a shortage of pride for our home in Northwest Ohio.

As a Latina, I am especially proud of our region’s strong Hispanic/Latino community and our growing role in the future of our city, state and nation. We know from research conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center that our country’s demographics are changing and that those who identify themselves as “Hispanic/Latino” continue to increase. As our population grows, so does our ability to influence the outcome of local, state and national elections. The time to come together as a unified voice is now.

Our country’s demographic shift is particularly noticeable in the Toledo area where Hispanic/Latino pride is represented in the work we do through our vast network of civic-minded nonprofit organizations, our robust small business community, our dedicated media outlets, and in the thorough planning that goes into the wide range of social and educational events and opportunities available throughout our region.

When I was presented with the chance to lead the Lucas County Hispanic Latino Democratic Caucus two years ago, I embraced the opportunity because I truly understand how important it is for us to come together as a community and as a strong Democratic front – especially in the years ahead. But more than that, the Lucas County Hispanic/Latino community had a need for a group that could help fight for our voices to be heard within the Democratic Party. Our voices matter and our votes will make a difference when our city goes to the polls in the fall to elect Paula Hicks-Hudson as Toledo’s next mayor and in 2016 when we vote for the next President of the United States of America.


Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson accepts official endorsement from LCDHLC. With County Auditor Anita Lopez and Caucus President Lisa Canales.

Last night, Thursday, April 30th, we held our annual Cinco de Mayor Fundraiser, during which we celebrated our culture, heard from County Auditor Anita Lopez and State Representative Dan Ramos, and honored three distinguished leaders for the work they have done — and continue to do — within our community. This event is a shining example of the great things that can happen when we come together in support of something that is bigger than ourselves.


Members of ODP Hispanic/Latino Caucus Advisory Council from across the state came to support event.

As a caucus, we have worked hard to demonstrate the strength of our Hispanic/Latino community and the Democratic Party. I welcome you to learn more about the LCHLDC by visiting our website or our Facebook page. I hope we will have your support as we continue to promote the democratic ideals that make this country a truly amazing place to live.

Lisa Canales is President of the Lucas County Hispanic Latino Democratic Caucus.


Ohio Democratic Party Releases New Video, “NOT SO PRESIDENTIAL”


COLUMBUS — The Ohio Democratic Party today released a new video, “Not So Presidential,” highlighting some of Gov. John Kasich’s most controversial statements over the years.

“Governor John Kasich has spent a long time in the public eye, and he’s not always handled the spotlight very well,” said Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper. “From calling a law enforcement officer an ‘idiot’ to advocating for racial profiling, Kasich doesn’t seem very presidential when you look at his inflammatory comments over the years.”

Click here to watch:

Ohio Democratic Party Statement on the Passing of Former NAACP Chairman Julian Bond


COLUMBUS — The Ohio Democratic Party released the following statement this morning on the passing of former NAACP Chairman and civil rights leader, Julian Bond, at the age of 75.

“America has lost one of its greatest civil rights icons and public servants,” said Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper. “We at the Ohio Democratic Party remember and honor Julian Bond as a champion for change who fought against racial, social, and economic injustices in America.”

“Julian Bond was a gentle giant in the civil rights movement who dedicated his life to being a voice for the voiceless,” said former state Sen. and Ohio Democratic Party Engagement Chair Nina Turner. “He will be remembered in history books for centuries to come as a leader who was always on the front lines of the battle against racial injustice. I, as well as many other African American elected officials and activists, are indebted to him for his great work and will continue to carry the torch for justice in his honor.”

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Ohio Democratic Party Mourns the Loss of Former Congressman Louis Stokes


COLUMBUS — The Ohio Democratic Party released the following statement this morning on the passing of former U.S. Rep. Louis Stokes, Ohio’s first African-American member of Congress.

“Congressman Stokes was a true gentleman and statesman who challenged the status quo in order to uplift those that he proudly served,” said Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper. “He will be remembered as a humble and dedicated public servant who inspired many of us in service to this day. Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Stokes family as we together mourn this remarkable leader.”

“We have lost a champion with the passing of Congressman Stokes,” said former state Sen. and Ohio Democratic Party Engagement Chair Nina Turner. “ He was a bright and shining star who made history as Ohio’s first African-American member of Congress.  During his tenure he accomplished a great deal for the city of Cleveland and northern Ohio. He was a transformational figure, particularly in black Ohio politics, who lifted his citizens and aspiring young African-American politicians as he climbed. Even in his later years, he continued to work on behalf of the citizens as a member of the Ohio Task Force on Community-Police Relations. Congressman Stokes’ legacy is cemented in American history as a leader who broke many racial and social barriers.”