If you missed it on Friday I’d highly recommend you check out the BuzzFeed piece on the poorly executed putsch organized to oust Chris Redfern as chair of the Ohio Democratic Party. The author, Rosie Gray, does a good job highlighting the behind-the-scenes action as orchestrated by Rich Cordray’s long-time friend and fundraiser Melissa Barnhart.

Barnhart’s goal was fairly simple: take control of the party and set up Rich Cordray as the likely candidate for Governor in 2014. Barnhart recruited Anthony Giardini to run against Redfern and actively worked behind the scenes to gather backers and support among Democratic donors and committee members.

As we now know, she was unsuccessful, with Redfern easily winning reelection in a 53 to 10 vote. As Mellisa slinks away slowly, and Rich actively works on damage control to keep his name from being associated with this incident, the rest of the party is lining up behind the Chairman to focus on the important races of 2012. Everyone, that is, except Jennifer Brunner.

Brunner has been noticeably absent from most of the coverage about the run up to the coup d’central committee. It appears she only became involved once the plan became public. But once she did, she jumped in with both feet.

A few days before the meeting of the central committee Brunner sent out an email to the her Courage PAC list questioning the way the the Committee’s votes would be conducted and asking that “the vote be by secret ballot” despite the fact that DNC rules specifically forbid secret ballots. She also implied that Redfern was attempting to use an unfair and undemocratic process to maintain power, while using bullying and promises to committee members of “things of value” in order to get their vote.

A few days later she officially endorsed Giardini over Redfern. And she was even offering to provide bus transportation to people around the state wishing to come to Columbus to support her candidate.

On the day of the meeting, no buses arrived (at least none that I saw). And neither did Jennifer, even though her office is right down the road from ODP HQ.

The meeting – and the election – were over quickly and with little drama. With the vote wrapped up, and Redfern declared the winner, Giardini told Joe Vardon of the Dispatch that “he would ask the labor unions who supported him to commit their support fully to the party.”

Over and done and ready to move on to November, Right?

Not for Jennifer apparently.

The next day Brunner sent out ANOTHER email. This one was a little more tame. At the end she appears to be recruiting candidates to run for Central Committee in 2014, but the rest of the email was focused on making the same implication as the first: if people were allowed to vote on paper ballots they wouldn’t have felt compelled to vote for Chris Redfern. Of course this ‘sounds’ reasonable, in the same way many conspiracy theories do, but again she provides no evidence that way the vote was counted impacted the results.

Jennifer Brunner has a history of defending voting rights. She cleaned up the Secretary of State’s office following the disastrous rein of Ken Blackwell (Think missing voting machines in Democratic districts. Think Diebold). She’s been a foe of voter ID laws. She’s considered somewhat of an expert in the area, so for her to publicly question the results of last Wednesday’s election for chairman without having any evidence to back her up is just bizarre, to put it politely.

But bizarre is actually a good way to describe many of the things Jennifer Brunner does these days. Like supporting Independents to run against Democrats. Or supporting Republican Governor Kasich. Or hosting fundraisers for Republican Judges with guys like conservative Mark G. Mangie who spends his spare time railing against health care reforms designed to expand coverage to millions of Americans.

At least with Barnhart, the motives seem pretty obvious: clear a path for her candidate to run for Governor in 2014 and gain control the funds and endorsements that help make that possible. It was poorly timed, extremely selfish and “frankly stupid politically” according to Mahoning County party chair Dave Betras. “Anyone that would spearhead this and get the ass kicking that they took doesn’t know much about politics.” But at least she HAD a goal.

With Jennifer Brunner, it’s much more difficult to nail down her end game – assuming she even has one. I’ve supported Jennifer in the past – and I’d be open to supporting her again. But I can’t imagine doing that until she gets focused and figures out what SHE wants out of politics. I realize she’s still disappointed about her Senate primary loss in 2010, but could she really be doing this all because of a grudge?

Whatever the reasons, the battle is over now. The party is uniting behind our candidates for the fall. And I sincerely hope that maybe, just for the next 7 months, we can all agree to focus on what’s important: getting Democrats like Barack Obama and Sherrod Brown elected in November 2012.

  • missskeptic

    I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that Jennifer is hoping for a Liet. Gov. nod if (and when) Cordrey gets the nomination for Gov.  I can’t think of anyone else who would be a better candidate in ’14 – and maybe JB was thinking of payback if this coup had succeeded.  Our State Central Committee person told me and many other people that he was going to vote for Redfern, a week before it happened.  I mean, seriously, too intimidated to vote for Redfern?  After the year and half long circus that Kasich has put Democrats through?  I dont’ think so.

  • Is it just me or has Brunner been getting more and more wacky the past two years?

  • Jrmiller6020

    Brunner has lost my support.  Her toying with Kasich and other weird political maneuvers tells me she is off on her own (unknown) path.  Hard to understand why Rich got involved in the Redfern challenge.  You would think he would know better.  We ALL need to pull together and focus solely on BO’s re-election.  If he loses Ohio, he most likely will be a one-termer…Jim, Columbus

  • stryx

    So Brunner has wandered off.

    Does this mean that we’ll see a better performance from the ODP this fall?

    People were rightfully pissed at Redfern in ’10. Obviously some still are.

    The question isn’t whether Brunner is still a Dem icon.

    It’s will Redfern be able to lead the Dems to some sort of victory in the fall.

    All our collective hopes are riding on Redfern’s assurances that he’s the pirate to lead the ship.

    Forgive me if I seem nervous.

  • Anastasjoy

    I”m as perplexed as you are. But I am also perplexed as to why any supporters of Cordray for governor would risk something like this. Cordray is an attractive candidate with a ton of pluses who could easily garner a lot of support across the state without necessitating a coup in the party. He could make a strong case without that.

  • Obama and Brown are about all there is to rally around, since voters have been handcuffed by gerrymandering.  I’m not saying I was for all this behind-the-scenes BS, but Redfern has made some questionable moves.

  • Scout484

    This challenge annoyed me, why do this 7 months before this very important election? I am glad it was over quickly and don’t appreciate Jennifer Brunner’s attempts to prolong it. Do this after the election, concentrate now on Democrats winning this year.

  • Um…no. We may have our differences with Jennifer’s actions, but Sarah Palin she is not. That you even put the word Sarah Palin and smart in the same sentence tells me you’re opinion on this matter is ill-informed. She left the SOS in shambles? Again…no. Please be more informed before commenting Johnny.

  • Portia A. Boulger

     What is up with Jennifer Brunner? Has she gone to the dark side?

  • Portia A. Boulger

    Is Melissa Barnhart hoping for a cushy appointment from Cordray?

  • Portia A. Boulger

    How could Cordray do ANYTHING to distract from the importance of re-electing President Obama and Sherrod Brown!  BOOOOO!!!!!!! SHAME!!!!!!

  • Portia A. Boulger

     The people should be pissed off at themselves. Many did not put their feet on the ground to help in 2012. Many didn’t even vote! It was “We the People” who didn’t do our part, not Redfern.

  • Portia A. Boulger

     I too am so shocked that Cordray would be involved in this disgusting situation.

  • Portia A. Boulger

     Sure does look like she is a turncoat and most of the time it means a lined pocket.

  • Anastasjoy

    A lot of that can be traced back to some questionable decisions by Ted Strickland, not Redfern. But the party as a whole needs to start taking ALL its constituents seriously, not just some of them.

  • Anastasjoy

    Not sure how THAT would work. Can you explain exactly what money would flow from Kasich to Brunner? He gave her an obscure appointment to a seat he is required to fill with a Democrat. The stipend attached to that appointment is tiny. Given Kasich’s penchant for punishing REPUBLICANS who disagree with him, I can’t even remotely imagine him doing any fundraising favors for a Democrat. Jennifer’s behavior may be strange & her motives hard to figure out, but this is a stretch to me.

  • Portia A. Boulger

     I have no faith that Jennifer Brunner wouldn’t take a payoff. Backroom deals are cut in mysterious ways – in the dark – so, I cannot tell one how they may or may not follow the money. However, it is very clear that she is a turncoat and it is very disappointing.

    If she was a strong Democrat, she would NOT do anything to hinder unity within the Democratic Party and would be working her hiney off to make sure that our President and Sherrod Brown are re-elected. NOTHING is more important right now. She clearly thinks that her agenda is and that is disgraceful.

  • Anastasjoy

    Even if you assume she would TAKE the money, what money would that be? Where would it come form? Who would pay it? Kasich and his crew are absolutely NOT in the business of funding Democrats. I don’t believe any payoff was involved.

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