Desperate to dethrone President Trump and a recalcitrant
Republican-led U.S. Senate, the Lucas County Democratic
Party has a critical decision to make. With voters being
told to avoid crowds and practice social distancing because
of COVID-19, the Dems face a potential disruption in the
looming 2020 general election process while the local Party
is reeling from its internal leadership crisis.
In politics, turnout is everything, and 30,000 Democrats in
Lucas County failed to participate in the 2018 midterm
elections. The number who disengage from the electoral
process could swell in November 2020 as voters will have to
weigh the benefits of voting over risking their health.
Lucas County Dems, facing the clear and present danger of
COVID-19, will need to fill their leadership void by
selecting an experienced Party chair who can lead the Party
in a time of crisis.
Who is the right person for this time, position, and place?
I caught up with former state representative Michael
Ashford, who makes his case to become chairman of the Lucas
County Democratic Party for such a time as this.
Perryman: First of all, why
are you running for the Chair of the Lucas County Democratic
Ashford: Iím running
because Iíve been part of the Democratic Party for over 20
years. We have so much at stake, especially during the 2020
Presidential election and given the fact that we are living
amid a pandemic. It will be a challenge to elect Democratic
Party candidates. They need the help and new leadership to
make sure that we continue to win these races in Lucas
County and elsewhere.
At one point, the Lucas
County Democratic Party was the most prominent Party in the
State of Ohio. Still, we noticed that many people had walked
away. We need to change. We need new leadership. My overall
experience will bring that to help the Party grow and move
Perryman: What is your
assessment of the Partyís effectiveness, culture, goals, and
stance on the issues?
Ashford: I have not seen
the Party have goals in the past; thatís why I decided to
run. I plan to put together a dynamic team to rebuild the
Party and its infrastructure to get a lot of people engaged.
So, I will put goals in place to ensure that we are
recruiting right; goals to make sure that we are identifying
great candidates; and fundraising goals. I then, will put
benchmarks in place to make sure that people are being held
qualifications for the position do you bring with you?
Ashford: Anybody can apply
if they are 18 years old and a registered voter. However,
what you want is somebody who has the overall experience to
come in and understand what it takes to move the Party
forward. Unfortunately, my opponent doesnít have that
experience. Iíve been part of a gubernatorial campaign and
part of a presidential campaign. Iíve been part of state
repsí campaigns that I have personally run. So, you should
have experience. And I like the current guy, heís a nice
guy, but he doesnít have that depth or breadth of knowledge
The other most important
critical part is that as a candidate and as an elected
official, I have overall experience and the knowledge to
work with people who are running and bring them resources.
My opponent doesnít have that. Heís never held political
office, so he canít tell people how to run a campaign. So
thatís the advantage I got, to bring my level of experience
to the table.
Perryman: Please expand
upon the importance of fundraising.
Ashford: I was the top
fundraiser in Toledo when I was on city council, and I was
also one of the top fundraisers in Columbus. Fundraising is
vital because it helps you get your message out. People
have to clearly understand that politicians or candidates
donít get anything free. They have to pay for the yard
signs, pay for the print ads, and have to pay for TV, radio,
etc. So, for you to get your message out, you would have to
raise money to get to that point.
Not only do candidates
have to raise money, the Party has to raise money to make
sure that we support candidates and get our message out
too. So fundraising is equally important as everything
else, and I have the experience of fundraising. When I was
a minority whip in Columbus, I raised about $400,000 in a
little over two years. I also, in my eight years there,
wrote up to about $125,000 worth of checks. In my role as
city councilperson I raised over six figures in
contributions. Being a leader means you write checks for
everybody, you just donít keep it for yourself, you make
sure other Democratic candidates or incumbents get elected
by supporting their campaign. So thatís the importance of
fundraising. If youíve never done fundraising, donít get in
Perryman: One of the knocks
on Mike Ashford has been that you are often seen as
Ashford: Well, let me
respond to that. Iíve been involved in over 70 campaigns,
and when people start throwing things out there, that means
theyíre nervous. Iíve learned early on in my career I donít
worry about name-calling any other candidate or any other
opponent because itís not worth it. But let me answer
because I want people to understand this.
Divisive? My opponent has
openly told people he would not work with the unions. Heís
anti-union. How much more divisive can you get than that?
My successful track record speaks for itself. Iíve been
able to work with everybody, Democrats and Republicans. The
Pew Institute honored me for being the first Democrat in the
last 30 years that passed the number one comprehensive
consumer protection bill in Ohio. It was House Bill 123,
called payday lending. I helped over a million people in the
State of Ohio get free of this predatory lending practice.
And, I got more than half the Republicans to support that
bill in Columbus, more than half. And if youíre divisive
like they say I am, you wouldnít get 100 percent of the
Democratic support and 50 percent of the Republican support
on a bill that the Republican governor immediately signed
when it hit his desk.
When I was on city
council, I worked with everybody, both Democrats and
Republicans, to address a lot of issues. I worked on Issue
79, that was the Toledo Waterways Initiative. We worked
together on that to get that passed. I was the chair of the
initiative to make sure that we got it off the ground and
started a committee. I was the chair of Neighborhoods, and
we worked with everybody in administration because we
experienced a $2.5 million shortfall from the federal
government, we had to work together. We addressed flooded
basements. I worked with a lot of people in that area. So,
I have a successful track record. Iíve been able to work
with many, many people.
Perryman: Why do you
believe that you are a better candidate for these times than
Keith Mitchell, your opponent?
Ashford: Because my
experience and understanding of politics are much greater.
The past two leaders we had are kind and friendly, but they
havenít been in the political circles to understand how
things work and operate. It would be best if you had
someone with the experience of having gone to Cincinnati,
Cleveland, and Columbus or going to the State Legislators of
the Midwest Institute in Chicago to dialog with other
political operatives. You need the experience of being
engaged in a political race or campaign. I have that track
record. My opponent doesnít.
Perryman: Before we go,
please talk about your support.
Ashford: We have put
together a great team of the private sector, public sector,
elected officials, and volunteers, and weíre working very
Perryman: Is there anything
you would like to add?
Ashford: Let me close by
saying this. The Party needs change, and everybody knows we
need change. Thirty thousand people, 30,000 Democrats in
Northwest Ohio, stayed home in 2018 for the governorís
race. I like Keith Mitchell and heís a nice guy, but being
in a leadership position over the last five years, he has
been a problem. He has had opportunities to make changes but
never did. In fact, as chair of the screening committee, he
gave the Party an embarrassing black eye because he did not
do his homework and ask the right question. He was
ineffective, failed to fulfill his previous responsibility
and left the organization with egg on its face.
And so, we need to return
people to the Party and support the core Democratic Party
values. I see that happening only with Mike Ashford as chair
of the Lucas County Democrats.
Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, D.Min, at