Democratic National Convention
Monday, August 14, 2000

Ohio needs new stars

        LOS ANGELES — The last time the Democrats held a convention in this orange blossom and fantasy land it was 1960 and they were nominating a vigorous young senator from Massachusetts named John F. Kennedy.

        Back then Ohio was in the thick of it. The governor was a Democrat named Mike DiSalle from Toledo, and he was one of the first big-state governors to back the senator for the nomination against the likes of party heavyweights like Lyndon Johnson and Adlai Stevenson.

        In 1976 at the New York convention that nominated a peanut farmer/nuclear engineer from Georgia named Jimmy Carter, Ohio was front and center.

        John Glenn, then a freshman senator from Ohio, was the keynote speaker. He had the misfortune of following one of the great orators of the latter half of the 20th century, Barbara Jordan of Texas, and no one ever mistook Mr. Glenn for William Jennings Bryan when it came to speechifying. The astronaut-turned-senator bored the crowd to tears; still, it was a moment Ohio Democrats remember.

        This year, gathered in the swank Century Plaza Hotel on the Avenue of the Stars, the Ohio delegation to the Democratic National Convention finds it doesn't have any.

        Stars, that is.

        Both U.S. senators from Ohio are Republican, and the Ohio Democratic Party hasn't had one of its candidates elected as governor, attorney general, treasurer, secretary of state or auditor since 1990, when Lee Fisher won the attorney general's race.

        Of course, he lost it four years later to Republican Betty Montgomery and went on to lose the governor's race two years ago to Bob Taft.

        This year, the Ohio Democratic Party is not fielding a major-league team. It does, however, have some decent single A and double A players who someday might make the Big Show.

        What the Ohio Democratic Party needs more than anything is to develop its farm system of statewide candidates, the way the Republican Party did in the late 1980s and early 1990s with Mr. Taft, Ken Blackwell, Joe Deters and others.

        And they have some potential. There is Michael Coleman, the first African-American mayor of Columbus, who some see as a gubernatorial candidate two years hence. There is Jane Campbell, a former state representative now Cuyahoga County commissioner said to hanker for statewide office.

        And there is Cincinnati's Alicia Reece, who won a council seat in her first go-round last year, and Mark Mallory, the state senator.

        What all these people have in common is that they are essentially urban politicians — candidates who would have strong appeal in Ohio's cities, but not necessarily in the sprawling suburban tracts where Ohio races are won these days.

        The Ohio Democratic Party has the farm team but it's fresh out of Mercury astronauts.


Lucas' absence clouds delegation
CROWLEY: Dems: Back your party
Filmmakers focus on Ohio delegates
- WILKINSON: Ohio needs new stars
Convention schedule of events