Last week Colorado Democrats woke up to a great piece of news. For the first time in a long time, the Colorado Democratic party had found a candidate to run in every single race up and down the ticket! This is no small organizational hurdle. We live in a gerrymandered country where, as President Obama put it, candidates are picking their voters as opposed to voters picking their candidates. This is a long-term problem that if we work effectively throughout the next several election cycles can be remedied through solid organizing all over the country. Colorado should be held up as the example of what the Democratic parties should be trying to produce nationwide!
Which is why we at the Model Majority Podcast have come to be very disappointed with Ohio’s Franklin County Democratic Party.
On episode 66 of our podcast, Kevin had the great pleasure to interview Tina Maharath, the only Democrat who has qualified to be on the primary ballot for Ohio’s 3rd State Senate District.
A little bit of background on that district: It’s ruby red! Ohio’s 3rd state senate district has been represented by a Republican since the Korean War was going on! The district encompasses the suburbs surrounding Columbus, Ohio, and contains eastern Franklin County. Hillary Clinton carried Franklin County by 11% in 2016. However, Ohio’s 3rd State Senate district is only a third of the county. If I still had national voter database access I would take a more granular look at the partisan breakdowns of the precincts within the district (PS if you want to help us get national data access you can become a member of the Crazy 88 club on Patreon and donate to the podcast—data is expensive), but lacking those tools, I am left to assume from Google Maps alone that this is a largely suburban verging or rural district on the outskirts of Franklin County, home to the Ohio State University. No doubt any Democrat who runs in Ohio’s 3rd State Senate District will face a difficult general election matchup no matter who that candidate is.
The election of Donald Trump has disrupted American politics, causing millions of Americans to rise up in protest of this “illegitimate” presidency, and as a result, more Democrats have signed up to run for offices all across the country than have in some time. And this sentiment has to lead many Democrats to believe, myself included, that we have a much larger electoral map that we can play on that we have had since Barack Obama’s first Presidential run in 2008. In other words: THE BLUE WAVE IS COMING!
Which is why it is so sad to me that at time of extreme Democratic enthusiasm, that the Franklin County Democratic party has chosen to back a write-in candidate over the only Democrat who mustered up the organizational wherewithal to actually get herself on the ballot.
Tina Maharath, the 27-year-old daughter of Laotian refugees, who is a single mother, put herself through college and got a bachelor’s degree in political science. She has interned for both the US Senate and the Ohio State House of Representatives, and in 2016, she was named a national field fellow for the Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote. To be fair, she lacks the experience many might look for in a candidate. But what she lacks in experience she makes up for with enthusiasm. And most impressively she took the initiative and seized the grassroots opportunity presented when the Franklin County Democratic Party’s preferred nominee, Army veteran Nathan Dowd, failed to qualify for the primary ballot. The local party infrastructure failed to get the FIFTY signatures required to put Dowd’s name on the ballot. In my humble opinion, this constitutes a YUGE organizational fail on behalf of the Franklin Dems. But where the Franklin County Democrats failed, Tina Maharath went door to door and qualified herself for the primary ballot. And in the wake of this, the Franklin County Democrats have decided to endorse a write-in candidate Katherine Chipps instead.
This blog is not meant to be a knock on Katherine Chipps, who I am sure is a good candidate and would be a good Ohio State Senator. But as Donald Rumsfeld said, “you go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time.”
Now look, 2018 might be a once in a generation chance to change the electoral makeup of the US and balance the scales of representation. Trump’s illegitimacy has produced a very favorable climate for Democrats as is evident by the election of candidates like Connor Lamb, and the more than 50 seats that Democrats have flipped since Trump’s electoral college victory. This environment has produced a strong stench of FOMO for ambitious liberals everywhere.
Enthusiasm is a wonderful thing. These tailwinds are going to be tremendous this November. But if a local party can’t get its act together to gather the fifty signatures it would have taken to get the establishment candidate on the ballot; you have to question whether or not new leadership is needed. Tina Maharath has more than just shown up. She accomplished her first goal, actually being qualified to run by state law. She is by no means a perfect candidate, and should she win the nomination she will face off against a polished Republican candidate, a white lady who is currently a member of the State House of Representatives – again a YUGE uphill climb. But Tina had the gall to actually do the legwork. We should support her, despite how hard it might be for a woman like her to win. Don’t fall into the trap of election FOMO Franklin County Dems! Just because she’s Laotian, a single mom, lacks “political experience,” and has gone through several personal tragedies doesn’t mean that she won’t be a good State Senator! It is our faults and how we respond to personal tragedies which makes people far more relatable as human beings. And relatable human beings always make better candidates. Let’s be honest, one of the reasons why the Electoral College awarded Trump the Presidency over Hillary in 2016 was because many Americans found Trump more relatable as a person than Hillary. #Sadface