Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper announced Monday that he will step down at the end of the year.
Democrats now have a month to decide the future of their party and who will lead it. The assignment is a tough one: revive the party in rural Ohio, improve on victories in metropolitan counties and raise enough money to unseat Republicans who control every branch of Ohio government.
The uphill climb will start immediately. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Terrace Park, and Gov. Mike DeWine are running for re-election in 2022, and they will need credible, well-funded challengers.
Pepper took over the Ohio Democratic Party in 2015 after the party lost every statewide race in 2014, including Pepper's bid against DeWine for attorney general. Former chairman Chris Redfern resigned after losing his Statehouse seat as well.
Pepper, a former Cincinnati City councilman and Hamilton County commissioner, emphasized building up the party's bench with a diverse group of local candidates. During his tenure, Democrats improved their showing in metropolitan counties, gaining control of the Hamilton County Commission and winning Statehouse seats in Columbus' Franklin County.
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.
Pepper's failure wasn't total and complete, in other words, but the guy presided over the absolute death of Ohio Democrats as a going concern. It's not as dire as Kentucky Democrats, who have recently elected Colmon Eldridge, the first Black man to lead the party, or Indiana Democrats, who have already buried themselves along with party chair John Zody, but it's rough being a Democrat out here in the Midwest.
Hopefully Biden will help Dems out here.
Lord knows we need it.