Viewers Guide: What to watch for from Ohio Democrats


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio’s Democrats head to Philadelphia for their national convention hopeful their party will build unity after a Republican convention in Cleveland that showed some scars lingering from primary season.

Story lines to watch for the delegation range from whether they can do that to who is positioning for 2018 statewide office after a painful 2014 election for state Democrats:

UNIFIED FRONT?

Ohio Democratic Chairman David Pepper says divisions between the Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders camps will certainly be evident at the convention, but “the mission will be unification.”

Clinton won the Ohio primary in March with 56 percent of the vote, to 43 percent for the Vermont senator. She earned 80 delegates to 63 for Sanders, and nearly all of the 17 officially uncommitted “superdelegates” had promised to support her.

“There are some very passionate Bernie Sanders supporters who want to make sure their hard work is recognized and respected,” said Pepper, a Clinton supporter. “But there’s a call for unity. Overall, obviously the most important part of the convention is explaining why Trump is such a terrible option.”

Pepper said Republicans never got beyond revisiting their crowded and fractious presidential primary battle during convention week.

State Sen. Mike Skindell is a Sanders delegate. He says the Vermont senator’s supporters look to leverage the energy from the primary to get rules and platform concessions from Clinton.

“I don’t think you’ll see that it’s fractured, but it’s going to be a lively event,” he said.

OHIOANS IN THE SPOTLIGHT

While Ohio Gov. John Kasich took a high-profile pass on the Republican convention, three Ohio officials have been announced as convention speakers for Philadelphia.

The state’s highest-ranking Democratic officeholder, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, is among them. A strong Clinton supporter, Brown was considered a possible running mate, but the party doesn’t want to lose his seat in the Senate. Under Ohio rules, Kasich would have picked Brown’s successor.

Also speaking is U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty, an impassioned black congresswoman from Columbus who was an early endorser of Clinton.

The third, Chillicothe Mayor Luke Feeney, is on the farm team of promising candidates the party is developing at the local level. Feeney returned the mayor’s office of Chillicothe, in the swing region of southern Ohio, to Democratic hands with his election victory last November.

EYE ON 2018

Look for many of the potential contenders for statewide office in 2018 to be working the convention hall and delegation gatherings.

Both U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, from the Mahoning Valley, and former state Rep. Connie Pillich, a 2014 candidate for state treasurer, have official roles at the event and are considered potential gubernatorial contenders in two years. Other governor possibilities include former Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner and former Attorney General Richard Cordray. Cordray is not expected to attend the convention because politics conflicts with his role as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

State Rep. Kathleen Clyde, a convention superdelegate, is considered a likely secretary of state candidate as Democrats try to come back from the Republican sweep led by Kasich.

STRICKLAND’S WEEK

Absent from the convention dais will be former Gov. Ted Strickland, who’s engaged in a rough battle to unseat Republican Sen. Rob Portman.

Strickland delivered a rousing speech at Democrats’ 2012 convention. Already two years out from his re-election defeat, Strickland nonetheless was able to bring Democrats’ efforts for the working class in the battleground state into the limelight on President Barack Obama’s behalf as Republicans dominated state government.

Strickland’s help is needed less this time around, as he faces millions in attack ads in his race and Clinton polls about even in Ohio against Donald Trump in hers.

Strickland plans to attend some Ohio delegation events among other convention activities during the week.

Portman didn’t speak at the Republican convention, and drew a lot of national media attention for his schedule that kept him away from the convention hall most of the week, including kayaking to support wounded veterans and working in a Habitat for Humanity project. Portman has expressed support for Trump, which both Strickland’s campaign and the Ohio Democratic Party have taunted him about.

Strickland, meanwhile, was an early endorser of Clinton’s first presidential run and has campaigned with her repeatedly in the last decade.

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Sewell reported from Cincinnati.

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