After an election where polls showed Democrats would do well in Ohio but largely didn’t, the leader of Ohio’s Democratic Party is resigning. David Pepper says he’ll step down from his post at the end of this year.
Pepper, a former Hamilton County commissioner and Cincinnati council member, sent a letter Monday to party officials saying he will resign at year's end.
Pepper has been at the helm of the party for six years, but now says it’s time for new leadership. He says whoever leads the party next should do grassroots 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 says.
Pepper says the party has made inroads in claiming judicial seats statewide and helped to get more local leaders elected.
"The party has a full plate in 2021, 2022 and beyond – fighting for local wins, for fair districts, and to make statewide gains (including more Supreme Court gains) in 2022," Pepper writes in his letter. "I look forward to the ideas, energy and perspectives a new leader can bring to the fore, building on important foundations we have laid while taking needed new directions as well."
Though polls showed Democrats could win Ohio this year, President Trump won the state by eight points, just slightly less than he did in 2016. Democrats lost a total of two seats in the Ohio House and one in the Senate, with another Senate race currently under a recount.
Under Pepper, Democrats have also lost significant ground in state politics – losing all three of the last races for governor, and falling to an even smaller majority of a Republican-supermarjority legislature. Democrats have not won a single statewide executive office since 2012.
After redistricting in 2010 led to gerrymandered congressional districts, Democrats have been stuck at a minority of Ohio's U.S. House members as well. This election, Democratic challengers again failed to oust a single Republican incumbent, resulting in the same 12-4 divide. However, Democrats have reclaimed three of seven Ohio Supreme Court seats in the last two years.