New Franklin County Central Committee Members Skeptical of Appointment Process
Earlier this year, a number of new faces to the Franklin County Democratic Party ran for the county’s Central Committee under the grassroots group RepYourBlock2020, in an effort to see a more fair, transparent and engaged body.
Of the over 80 candidates who ran for various wards with the group, 26 were elected during the primary election.
Now, some of those newly-elected members are expressing disappointment in a process that had Franklin County Democratic Party Chairman Michael Sexton suggest an additional 80 members (of the 151 possible) be appointed to Executive Committee, a body with equal voting power to members of Central Committee.
Many of those appointed members are elected officials — Mayor Andrew Ginther, Congresswoman Joyce Beatty, Franklin County Commissioner Kevin Boyce, four Columbus City Council members and many others — as well as a few individuals who actually lost their Central Committee races.
“I found it a little disappointing,” says Marla Davis, who represents Columbus Ward 19. “I ran against a candidate who then just gets appointed to be on the committee? And that happened to multiple people.”
Davis says the move felt “counterproductive to the democratic process,” adding that once Central Committee members had the opportunity to vote during a virtual meeting earlier this month for or against the appointed Executive Committee at large and basically on the spot, she voted against.
Some other members also voted against, while others abstained, but the vote passed.
Davis says she would understand the need to appointed to this larger voting body for diversity or representation’s sake. However, she says, in Franklin County, she feels it’s just another way to put the same people in the “old boys’ club” in power.
She says Democrats who have been “vocally adversarial” to other local Democrats were appointed, which is her main issue.
“Some of the people that he appoints have had lifelong volunteering for the Democratic Party and fundraising and getting out the vote…but not always in a friendly way that invites more people to the table, which is my biggest problem with it,” she says.
Davis admits the party chairman gave Central Committee members the opportunity to send him a list for people to be considered for Executive Committee. She says of the 48 people RepYourBlock members suggested, nine of them were picked.
“That was, like, a nice thing to do to show some goodwill. But at the same time, it feels like the whole process is a little bit undermining to the democratic process,” she says. “I don’t really see the point of appointing all these other folks unless you’re trying to tip the scales on how elections go.”
Newly-elected county party Vice-Chair Patrick Deering, however, says he understands it from both sides. He understands the frustration with the process, especially with Central Committee candidates who lost their races ending up receiving appointments.
“That is something I hope that, in my role as vice-chair, I can get us away from doing in the future,” he says.
However, in general, he sees the process as fair given that much of the Executive Committee are elected officials themselves, as well as local union leaders and organizers within the county party.
“There are people who are out there doing a lot of the day-to-day work that keeps the party functioning,” he says. “They should have some type of voice on how the party is run and the administration of the party, in particular our union leaders and our electives. Our electives are the reason the party’s here. We’re here to support them.”
Deering, who represents Columbus Ward 55, was elected vice-chair of Central Committee along with Adrienne Hood, both of whom ran with RepYourBlock. There are six vice-chairs in total, and Deering says the role is accountable for a number of key responsibilities for the county party, including assisting with campaigning, fundraising, party organization and influencing the party’s platform.
Deering, who has been involved with the county party previously through parallel organizations, notes that a number of the people appointed to Executive Committee have been previous Yes We Can organizers, a Liberal grassroots group similar in philosophy to RepYourBlock, or are local “far left-leaning” activists.
“A lot of the people that were put into the Executive Committee do share this notion that we need new people in leadership,” he says. “We need young people in leadership. We need energetic people in leadership. So I am very excited about that.”
Deering says that politics is messy, and disagreements are to be expected. But he believes from what he’s seen, there will be a lot of positive things to come out of the county party over the next few years.
“Of course, though, the first thing we’ve got to do is get through this election in November,” he says.
As for Davis, she says with all the talk about unification and getting all Democrats on the same page, this process seems counterproductive.
Despite that, seeing some new faces, at least, is encouraging.
“I was really excited to see that even with the appointments, there’s still a group of people that want to see the changes happen,” she says. “If you’re not inviting new faces to the table, then you’re just going to end up with the same faces and nothing will change in the city.”
For more information, visit fcdp.org.