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.