The Beginning: The Party of Everyday People
For more than 200 years, the Democratic Party has represented the interests of working families, fighting for equality and justice for all Americans. Party founders believed that wealth and social status were not an entitlement to rule, but rather that a stable government could only be successful if built upon a broad, popular base.
From its inception, the Democratic Party emphasized the rights of everyday people — a message that resonated well with farmers and factory workers. Ohioans identified with these principles and for the first quarter century of statehood, the majority of candidates running for office were Democrats.
Changing Political Landscape: Democratic Politics in the 20th Century
In January 1902, the Ohio Democratic Party opened its first permanent state headquarters in Columbus. Building a strong statewide organization proved to be instrumental when Democrats won the following four consecutive gubernatorial elections.
In 1912, Ohio voted for Woodrow Wilson, the first Democratic president in the 20th century. Economic and social hardships during the Great Depression resulted in a national political realignment. The coalition of labor unions, people of color, and progressives allowed Democrats to gain even more prominence in Ohio electoral politics.
The steady growth of organized labor paired with an increasingly diverse population helped the Democratic Party grow during the next few decades. In 1958, Democrats made their biggest gains in 20 years, winning every statewide office on the ballot except Secretary of State. Democrats also won control of the state legislature.
With former Governor John Gilligan at the top of the 1970 ticket, the Ohio Democratic Party entered a two-decade period of unprecedented success. Democrats won four statewide offices: Governor, Attorney General, State Auditor, and State Treasurer. In 1972, Democrats won control of the Ohio House and would remain the majority for eleven consecutive sessions. In 1974, astronaut John Glenn was elected to the United States Senate; two years later, Howard Metzenbaum beat Bob Taft and joined Glenn in Washington. For the next 18 years, Glenn and Metzenbaum held the state’s two seats in the U.S. Senate.
Richard Celeste was elected governor in 1982, a landslide year for Democrats. Democrats held control of the Ohio House, won back the Ohio Senate from Republicans, and swept all statewide offices. In 1986, Celeste won re-election, and Democrats held control of all statewide offices. During his eight years in office, Governor Celeste worked with Ohio Democratic Party Chairman James Ruvolo to build an extremely effective Democratic state organization that raised a tremendous amount of money to support party operations and candidates.
A New Vision: Democrats’ Resurgence in Ohio
In 2005, State Representative Chris Redfern became Chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party. Under his leadership, the Party focused on building an 88-county statewide organization with the capability to win in every part of Ohio. In 2006, the Ohio Democratic Party made history, shattering sixteen years of Republican rule and electing a Democratic U.S. Senator, Governor and Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, and State Treasurer. Democrats won at every level, including a seven seat pick up in the Ohio House of Representatives.
In 2007, the Ohio Democratic Party relocated its headquarters to 340 East Fulton Street in Columbus to better accommodate volunteers and the largest permanent staff in Party history. Ohio was called for Barack Obama at 9:23pm on election night in 2008, and at that time everyone around the world knew that Barack Obama would be the next President of the United States. Democrats also took back the Ohio House of Representatives for the first time in 14 years. It was the first time in Ohio history that a Party won back a chamber under district lines drawn by the opposing Party.
Looking Ahead: The Roadmap to Victory
The Ohio Democratic Party has focused its efforts on creating a Roadmap to Victory in 2010, which involves building grassroots support in all 88 counties, energizing and empowering local communities, and developing a powerful infrastructure to deliver Democratic victories up and down the ticket.
Building on the success of the 2006 and 2008 election cycles, the Ohio Democratic Party is determined to deliver the same kind of winning results to all Democratic candidates in 2010 and beyond.