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People gathered Saturday in an effort to draft former state Sen. Nina Turner as the Democratic candidate for Ohio governor. (FILE)

Ohio Democrats seeking a more progressive path want Nina Turner in the governor's office

About 21 people gathered at a Quaker meeting house Saturday as part of an early effort to draft former state Sen. Nina Turner as the Democratic candidate for Ohio governor and to renew a grassroots progressive movement in the state.

The “Nina for Governor” event, held at the Athens Friends Meeting House in Chauncey, highlighted the divide in the Democratic Party that bubbled to the surface of last year’s election. Many attendees expressed frustration with both the national and state party.

“I think she can be a very powerful voice for the little man in Ohio,” Stephanie Hayes, an Athens resident who attended the meeting, said.

Turner has not yet announced whether she will run for governor, but events around the state have been held to show support for a potential candidacy.

The group identified tangible goals for the near future: to attend the next Athens County Democratic Party meeting and to try to contact or meet with Turner herself.

“She really has the charisma we need for a candidate,” Sally Jo Wiley, who has long been involved in political organizing, said. “She has the motivation, and she has the drive.”

Lawrence Greene, a local business owner who helped organize the event, said the party often implements a top-down approach and puts forth establishment candidates who look to movements to tailor their message, rather than having candidates with support from those movements rise organically.

“I think it’s our obligation to tell the Democratic Party in the state of Ohio who they should be running,” Milena Miller, who supported Sen. Bernie Sanders in 2016, said.

Greene said many who voted for former President Barack Obama drifted over to Trump because his economic message, and not necessarily his plan, appealed to them. He added that Democrats can’t run on identity politics anymore, and Turner could appeal broadly to Ohioans.

Damien Bawn, the technology director for Federal Hocking schools and a former superintendent, said he found himself questioning whether he should remain in the party or not. 

“We don’t just need town halls with Stivers, we need them with Pepper,” Bawn said, referring U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers and Ohio Democratic Party Chair David Pepper.

Miller, who campaigned for Obama and has actively supported Democrats for most of her life, said electing a Democrat for governor would require an assertive “county by county” effort.

Greene said there would be more meetings like the one Saturday and noted the passion of the attendees.

“They’re not going to sit back quietly after this,” Greene said.


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