Pepper speaks at Dems’ Dinner


David Pepper

Frances Strickland

Kelsey Swindler

WILMINGTON — Ohio Democratic Party Chair David Pepper spoke at the Clinton County Democratic Party’s dinner event Monday evening, along with Kelsey Swindler, a Democrat running for Wilmington City Council member at large, and Frances Strickland, wife of former governor and current U.S. Senate candidate Ted Strickland.

Pepper said the state’s Democrats needed to learn from the 2014 mid-term elections, which he called “unacceptable” and “not good enough.”

“People are suffering when we lose, folks,” Pepper said. “That’s why it’s unacceptable.”

He spoke of a “’16/’18” strategy.

The strategy is so called, he explained, because the plan is to focus on both the 2016 presidential election year and the 2018 mid-term election year.

One leg of that plan called for running and supporting candidates who, if elected, build reputations as public servants at all levels of government. Those public servants, he said, would encourage people to turn out to vote.

The other two legs of that plan include performing public service and letting others know about it.

“We have to brag about the service that we do,” he said.

Pepper also lamented a lack of debates, saying there wasn’t one debate for a statewide office and partially blaming it for low voter turnout.

“When I was young, I thought you actually had to earn getting re-elected,” Pepper said.

Though Gov. John Kasich and Democrat challenger Edward Fitzgerald famously didn’t debate, a 36-year first for the gubernatorial seat, the three candidates for state auditor debated at the City Club of Cleveland in September. The Wilmington News Journal could not identify any other statewide debates.

The ’18 part of that plan means carrying over efforts from ’16.

The plan also includes using data to “build a map of a blue Ohio,” showing how many votes would be needed in different counties and districts.

Swindler said she was running for council “because I believe in Wilmington, and I want to invest my time and energy into its future.

“But I’m also running because of something my dad taught me a long time ago: That we shouldn’t leave something undone simply because no one has asked us to do it yet,” she said.

Swindler, whose parents own Swindler and Sons, a florist business, joked about how her dad didn’t like to catch them sitting.

“Because owning a business means being entrusted with the livelihoods of other people, for my dad it meant never, ever sitting down on the job,” she said.

Swindler said Wilmington needs to create a “sustainable” plan for infrastructure, develop in a way that prioritizes future revenue over new construction, encourage education that leads to careers and develop a community that people want to become part of.

“I believe we need proactive problem solvers in our local government,” said Swindler. “We need people who can reach across the aisle to come up with creative solutions that will get us through the next 50 years, and not just the next budget cycle.”

Swindler, like Pepper, laid out a three-point plan.

The first is to create a “community of choice,” Swindler said. “To make Wilmington the community of choice for young professionals, families and companies, we have to think strategically about quality of life, education and growth.”

Second is to maintain public infrastructure in the long term. She said Wilmington council’s recent move to spend $500,000 for repairs was a “stop gap … but it’s not a solution. This is a problem we will face every single years until we start thinking long term.

Third is to plan forward.

“I’ll be blunt,” Swindler said. “Wilmington needs Democrats. … This community is ready for people who think differently, who have progressive ideas and a lot of energy. This community is ready for more Democrats.”

Pepper praised Swindler, saying she is “exactly what we need to make all this (the ’16/’18 plan) happen.”

Frances Strickland said her husband, Ted Strickland, chose to run for the U.S. Senate against Republican Rob Portman because the country is at a tipping point “and we don’t want it to tip over into an oligarchy, where the few are running the country for the many.”

She said Pepper’s efforts and Swindler’s “youth and freshness” were exciting and suggested that government needs a balance of mature, older people and younger, more energetic people.

“When the people start getting involved, then the oligarchy are in trouble because people can outdo money any day of the week,” Frances Strickland said. “The most precious thing you have if you’re trying to protect your country is a vote.”

Reach Nathan Kraatz at 937-382-2574, ext. 2510 or on Twitter @NathanKraatz.