Butler County Democrats elect new party leader following a close vote

The Butler County Democratic Party has a new executive director, and he says the party is “on a path to fight back, to organize and yes, to win.”

In a close vote — 57-55 — Brian Hester beat out Ronnie Wardrup to succeed Jocelyn Bucaro as the party’s top Democrat.

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Bucaro was the party’s top Democrat for eight years and made the decision last year not to seek re-election. Earlier this year she was hired by the Denver Elections Division to be its Deputy Director of Voter Services.

In his pitch to the Central Committee, Hester said signs of a blue wave are evident in Butler County.

“The last time Ohio saw a blue wave in a gubernatorial election was in 2006,” said Hester, referencing the year Democrat Ted Strickland was elected governor. “The number of Republican ballots cast last month in this county hasn’t been this low in a primary since 2006.”

He also said Butler County had more than 3,000 voters become registered Democrats in May compared to 900 for the Republican Party. Hester wants to build on that momentum.

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“Whether you support me or not, we leave here together in the common cause of the county party committed to building a welcoming party to develop progressive activism, leadership, and naturally, successful Democratic candidate and campaigns,” he said.

Hester said to improve the party, “we must turn the page away from past disagreements.”

“We have to move on. Too much is at stake if we don’t,” he said.

Other things he’ll work toward is adopting an attendance policy similar to the Ohio Democratic Partyand increase digital and social media efforts.

“It’s time for Democrats in this county to get loud, proud and ready to build a crowd,” he said.

Hester narrowly beat out Wardrup, who was the party’s executive vice chair for the past four years and a former party executive chair. Wardrup said he will still be involved in how the party moves forward, looking at the 2018 and 2020 elections.

“I’ll continue to do the same things I’ve been doing all along, just trying to get good Democrats elected and work with candidates,” said Wardrup, a labor leader with the United Steelworkers of America. “We’ll just try to see what we can put together. I certainly want to try to continue to do the right things.”

Other leaders to the Butler County Democrat Party elected by the Central Committee Thursday include Mariann Penska and Dominic Lijoi being elected as the Central Committee’s chair and vice chair, respectively, and Suzi Rubin elected as the executive committee’s vice chair.

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