The Voters Deserve a Choice

Columbus residents are voicing their concerns about the Franklin County Democratic Party's refusal to wait until after primary elections to endorse Democratic candidates for local races.

Jen Gable, an activist involved with Yes We Can Columbus, an organization supporting a slate of progressive candidates for School Board and City Council, expressed her disappointment with the decision. Gable said, "Our candidates deserve a voice. All of the candidates care deeply about our city. The endorsement goes against the very foundation of the democratic process. The voters deserve a choice."

Jen is one of dozens of frustrated voters who contacted the FCDP Party Chair to urge him to let Columbus voters decide in the primary election. The FCDP announced their endorsed candidates for the 2017 election, a decision that was finalized during Wednesday’s Executive Committee meeting. They made a decision to endorse all the Democratic incumbents for Columbus School Board and Columbus City Council.

Will Petrik, an FCDP Central Committee member representing Ward 18, asked the Executive Committee to give members of the party and the voters an opportunity to get to know all of the Democratic candidates, rather than just rubber-stamping incumbents. Petrik said, "Our democracy is broken. Rather than a handful of people tipping the scales, I’m asking the Franklin County Democratic Party to wait to make endorsements for city council and school board until after the primary.  All candidates deserve a fair shot at being part of the conversation to shape the future of our schools and our city."

The FCDP's decision to endorse incumbents before all Democratic candidates have the opportunity to officially launch their own campaigns stands in stark contrast to a recent statement from David Pepper, Chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party (ODP). He has been actively encouraging everyday people and community leaders to run for office as part of ODP’s Main Street Initiative. In a recent interview for Democratic Voices (at 13:40) Pepper states, "We want to help encourage people to run. By running you are doing a great service, you're helping carry the Party's message, [and] you're giving voters a choice."

Puja Datta of Yes We Can Columbus agrees. Datta said, "I’d like to see the party put resources and support behind the candidates our communities choose, not choose candidates for our communities." She added, "I want to see a more welcoming and inclusive Democratic party."

Yes We Can Columbus is supporting a slate of progressive candidates to shift the conversation and transform Columbus. Its majority female slate supports getting big money out of politics, criminal justice reform, a living wage, more and better public transportation, and transforming our City Schools so that all children, regardless of zip code, receive a high quality education.

While the recent election moved our nation in a frightening direction, progressive candidates are emerging to fight for policy changes that improve people’s quality of life. Stay tuned for more information about the candidates Yes We Can Columbus is supporting. We’ll be introducing each of them in the next couple weeks.

Update as of 10:00 pm on Thurs, Jan 26
Democratic voters are calling for increased transparency after the Franklin County Democratic Party (FCDP) deleted over 150 comments from their official Facebook post announcing their endorsements for City Council and School Board. The FCDP eventually blocked all comments and a number of people were banned completely from posting on the FCDP Facebook page.

Update as of 6:00 pm on Fri, Jan 27
Michael Sexton, Chair of the Franklin County Democratic Party, released an apology on the Franklin County Democratic Party FB page:

This afternoon, I learned that comments had been deleted on the FCDP Facebook page, as well as commenters being banned. I'm very disappointed this happened and have corrected the issue. To those whose voices were closed off, I offer my sincere apology. This doesn't reflect who we are as a party or who I am as FCDP Chair.

You can read the full statement here.

Yes We Can Columbus appreciates the response and the apology. We want the party to uphold values of transparency, accountability, inclusiveness and free speech. We hope all of the Democratic candidates will be treated with kindness and respect.  We are cautiously optimistic that concrete steps are being taken to encourage all voices to be part of the conversation.

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