County Democrats say they want to turn Butler County bluer over the next five years, and on Thursday the party will unveil its strategic plan for making that happen.
The Democrats’ plan involves more than just finding candidates to run for countywide and state offices; it focuses on integrating members of the party into the fabric of key communities in the county, said Jocelyn Bucaro, executive director of the Butler County Democratic Party.
“It’s first identifying the places we feel in the next five years we can be really competitive,” said Bucaro. “And it’s identifying community leaders who may not be publicly out as Democrats and nurturing them and inviting them into the fold.”
The Republican Party has had a stranglehold on county politics for years. As it stands, only one Democrat currently holds an elected county office in Butler County.
Critics have argued that one-party rule is not a good thing for Butler County. But the GOP has soundly beaten Democratic candidates in county head-to-head races in recent years, and in some cases Republican officeholders have run uncontested.
Bucaro said the eventual goal is to put Democrats in elected county positions, but in 2016 the party wants to see the presidential and U.S. Senate races competitive.
“The goal won’t be to win in Butler County (this year), but to lose better,” Bucaro said, adding that if the party’s candidates win 35 to 38 percent of Butler County’s votes in the upcoming federal elections, the burden will be lessened in other Democratic-heavy counties.
John Forren, a political science professor at Miami University Hamilton, called it “an uphill climb” for Democrats to reverse the image of this part of the state as being Republican red. He said in order for Butler County to become more competitive politically, the Democratic Party must start building a bench, or a slate of candidates capable of challenging Republican opponents.
But building that bench is a “long-term task,” he said.
“It’s possible to overcome,” Forren said. “It’s a challenge, but it’s certainly doable.”
County Democrats will meet Thursday night at 7 p.m. in the D. Russel Lee auditorium at Butler Tech, 3603 Hamilton-Middletown Road in Fairfield Twp., to discuss its 2020 Vision Plan.
Bucaro said the plan would incorporate member engagement, building the party’s infrastructure, recruiting and training candidates for office, and improving communications and message. The strategy also includes expanding and coordinating with all the Democratic organizations in Butler County “because it’s more than just the party,” she said.
Bucaro said Butler County, which is Ohio’s 8th largest state, was the 10th largest county with voting Democrats in the state in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, which 2012 also saw the re-election of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. In 2012, more than 13,100 Democrats registered to vote, a quarter of the county’s registered Republicans (50,300-plus), but more than 62,300 people voted for Obama in 2012, and nearly 62,000 people voted for Brown.
Middletown Vice Mayor Dora Bronston said 2016 is going to be a “big election year” with several political seats open. She said it’s “going to be a critical year” for get-out-the-vote drives and efforts.
Bronston is one of the few Democrats holding an elected office in Butler County — though city council races are non-partisan — and feels the party needs to, and will, step up.
“They should be more visible,” she said. “Get out into the community a little more, and I think they plan to (do so).”
And that is part of the plan for the Democrats, Bucaro said. One of the goals to be outlined Thursday is to be more involved within the community, such as participating in civic and service clubs, such as Rotary, or being more involved within the school districts.
That will build name recognition for future local-level political campaigns.
“We want to be ready to take advantage of opportunities,” said Bucaro. “The county is changing, the Republican Party is changing, and the voter mindset is becoming frustrated with the Republican Party stymieing growth in the middle and only focusing on the people at the top.”
in the D. Russel Lee auditorium at Butler Tech, 3603 Hamilton-Middletown Road in Fairfield Twp.