Darrell Rowland: Ohio Democrats lukewarm to Bernie Sanders

By Darrel Rowland - The Columbus Dispatch

More Ohio Democrats are starting to warm to the idea of Bernie Sanders winning the presidential nomination — even if he wasn’t their first choice.

With the Vermont senator’s momentum mounting after the caucuses and primaries in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, Democrats across the state say they’re prepared to support Sanders should he win the nomination.

And while many still harbor concerns about the electability of an avowed democratic socialist, there seemed to be more optimism about his chances in the general election against President Donald Trump, who carried Ohio by more than 8 points in 2016.

Democrats should stop worrying about finding the perfect candidate, said state Rep. David Leland of Columbus, former chairman of the state party.

“We should work like hell for our eventual nominee and defeat the greatest threat to democracy in our lifetime, Donald Trump,” Leland said.

Former Hamilton County Democratic chairman Tim Burke said, “It’s still a long way to go in a political process where a month feels like a decade.”

Will Democrats rally behind Sanders if he’s the nominee? Burke said he will.

“You’re going to get a mixed bag from local Democrats, some folks who are absolutely committed to Bernie, some people who are worried about Bernie,” Burke said. “And you have some like me who are absolutely committed to whoever is running against the president.”

He still questions whether Sanders can beat Trump in November.

“I’ve read a couple of editorials where they make a good argument that Bernie can win this thing,” Burke said. “I think it’s theoretically possible.”

Janet Carson, president of the Ohio Democratic County Chairs Association who is running as a delegate for Joe Biden, is not so sure. While she said she will support whoever wins the nomination, she worries that Democrats could lose control of the House and fall short in their effort to regain the Senate if Sanders becomes the party’s leader.

“I understand the attraction of Sanders being the nominee,” Carson said. “But I’m not sure as I travel across Ohio and talk to voters in all areas of the state that he is the candidate that can win nationally, and that he can win the Electoral College states to beat Trump in 2020.”

But former Mahoning County Democratic Chairman David Betras says Sanders is the only candidate who can grow the Democrats’ base.

“Establishment Democrats aren’t afraid Bernie will lose, they are terrified he will win,” Betras said. “Why? Because if he does he will take on the big banks and other monied interests that have controlled the Democratic Party since (President Bill) Clinton was elected, and he will throw out the entrenched Obama/Clinton/DNC industrial complex that has enabled a select group of consultants to make tens of millions of dollars election cycle after election cycle.”

Ohio Democratic Chairman David Pepper is hopeful the party will come together to support the nominee after the July convention. If they don’t, “then shame on us.”

Pepper said he’s staying neutral in the primary race. But he said he didn’t like what he saw in the last Democratic debate.

“They were much more focused on each other than on Trump,” Pepper said. “People don’t want to hear a food fight between us. They want to be inspired to beat Trump.”


By Darrel Rowland

The Columbus Dispatch

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