Tillery: Divide party's top job

Wednesday, May 20, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Cincinnati Councilman Dwight Tillery and his supporters, who have been feuding with Hamilton County Democratic Party chairman Tim Burke, say they want an African-American to share the chairmanship with him.

But Mr. Burke said that while he is willing to discuss the plan released by Mr. Tillery and his supporters Tuesday, he has no intention of agreeing to a co-chairmanship.

Mr. Tillery's plan grew out of a meeting he called last month inviting African-American voters to discuss whether they should continue to support the Democratic Party.

Mr. Tillery has been critical of Mr. Burke's leadership since last fall, charging that blacks -- who make up the largest single voting bloc for the Democratic Party and about 40 percent of the Cincinnati vote -- have been excluded from decision-making.

Tuesday, Mr. Tillery and his supporters announced a plan that they hope to discuss with Mr. Burke before the party's June 1 central committee meeting. It includes:

Appointment of an African-American co-chairman for the party -- specifically, former Cincinnati Board of Education member Howard Bond.

A commitment from party leaders that the next vacancy on the Hamilton County Board of Elections will go to an African-American. 50 percent representation of African-Americans on all party committees.

Drafting a party platform that addresses the needs of African-Americans. "We want to work constructively on this," Mr. Tillery said. "We believe there are serious problems in the party, and we want to address them."

Mr. Tillery's group includes Councilwoman Minette Cooper, Mr. Bond, former State Sen. William Bowen, a number of members of the Baptist Ministers Conference and many community activists. Mr. Burke said Tuesday he is willing to meet with Mr. Tillery and his supporters "at any time they want."

But Mr. Burke said he thinks that having a co-chairman would not work.

"I want to hear people out, but I will not do a co-chairmanship because, in the end, somebody has to make the decisions. If somebody wants to run against me at the central committee and can win the chairmanship, so be it," he said.

Mr. Tillery said the party has had co-chairmen in the past, most recently in the late 1980s, when then-State Rep. William Mallory, an African-American, and Don Driehaus headed the party together. Mr. Burke said he is willing to review the makeup of party committees. About 25 percent of the party's executive committee, Mr. Burke said, is made up of African-Americans, while about 40 percent of the Cincinnati Democratic Committee -- the committee that endorses council slates -- is African-American.

Mr. Burke said Mr. Tillery's suggestion that the next board of elections appointment go to an African-American '"is very legitimate." CP:Councilman Dwight Tillery and supporters hold a news conference Tuesday at Corinthian Baptist Church to outline a plan for changes to the Hamilton County Democratic Party.

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