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Politics




Ohio Dems give chairman another term
Chris Redfern beats back a challenge from a Lorain County attorney
by WKSU's STATEHOUSE BUREAU CHIEF KAREN KASLER
This story is part of a special series.


Reporter
Karen Kasler
 
The fight between Chairman Chris Redfern (pictured) and unsuccessful challenger Tony Giardini was tinted with shades of the 2014 race for Ohio governor.
Courtesy of Karen Kasler
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Ohio Democratic Party chairman Chris Redfern keeps that position for another two years, after beating back a challenge from a Lorain County attorney. But Ohio Public Radio’s Karen Kasler reports, he may have his work cut out for him.

Redfern gets another term

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New two-year term
The Ohio Democratic Party’s organizational meeting, which stayed informal but relatively orderly, even during the biggest item on the agenda – the election of the chairman to a two-year term. Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory stood up and introduced one of the two candidates – the current chair. 

“I firmly believe that he is the right person to lead us to victory as we re-elect U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and President of the United States Barack Obama. Ladies and gentlemen, I place into nomination the name Christopher Redfern.”

Redfern supporters applaud
Redfern’s supporters tried to drown out with thunderous applause the smattering of boos from the backers of the other candidate, Lorain County Democratic Party chair Anthony Giardini. In nominating Giardini, Andrea Norris of Barberton shouted her main reason for backing him – her belief that he can bring together union members who are angry at Redfern. 

“We can’t afford to have a leader that doesn’t have the support of the unions and voters that have so vocally spoke out against Mr. Redfern.”

But if union members were angry, they didn’t show it in the vote. Redfern won re-election handily, 51-10. Giardini says he hopes his supporters can get behind Redfern – though he admits he still has concerns about the Redfern’s strategy. 

“I like Chris personally, so I don’t – it’s not like I dislike him. I still disagree with the top-down approach, I still believe we need to build our party from the bottom up and that’s not going to change.”

Redfern's detractors  
Mike Kelly of Columbus is with the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union, which backed Giardini. He says the results of the election in 2010 – which were disastrous for Democrats showed Redfern didn’t properly spend more than $1 million his union gave that year. 

“His egotistic and really flamboyant attitude is something we don’t care for. He indifferent to labor.”

Moving forward 
Redfern said after the vote that he’s not bothered by the criticism and that he’s not going to apologize for being "brash." 

Redfern shook off concerns about how he’ll handle serving as both the party chair and in his old Ohio House seat to which he’s likely to be elected this fall. And he says while he didn’t solicit anyone in elected office or in labor unions for support, his door is open. 

“We’ll work hard to reach out to our friends in labor, whether they be affiliated in the private sector or those in the public sector. We’ll continue to push forward an agenda that reflects the membership and the membership’s wishes, and I’m confident that those who have a difference of opinion about the party or the party’s management will work together to elect and re-elect Democrats.”

Republicans meet next
Redfern also had harsh words for Republicans as they head into a meeting tomorrow, where Chairman Kevin DeWine says he will resign following the election of a new chairman, the result of a long struggle between DeWine with allies of Gov. John Kasich. Making a reference to a comment Kasich made not long after his election as governor, Redfern said Kasich "drove the bus over DeWine – at the order of Columbus lobbyist Doug Preisse, the chair of the Franklin County Republican Party."

Redfern also claimed the battle within the GOP isn’t about strategy, as it was with his re-election bid – it’s about access to money.

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