Former Butler County congressional candidate running to lead Ohio Democratic Party

Vanessa Enoch 2018 candidate for the 8th Congressional District in Ohio
Vanessa Enoch 2018 candidate for the 8th Congressional District in Ohio

A two-time congressional candidate from Butler County wants to lead the state’s Democratic Party in order to disrupt the status quo.

West Chester Twp. resident Vanessa Enoch said there needs to be new leadership that will not only have an analytic eye when it comes to a new strategy but to not “leave parts of the state behind.”

“The status quo has not worked, and they continue to elect the same kinds of people to lead the organization and it has not worked,” said Enoch. “If the party is looking for new leadership, then I think it’s important that this time around they identify a non-traditional candidate who can bring some fresh perspective and who can be strategic in looking at things I believe the party needs in order to change.”

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Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper will resign his position at the end of the month, ending his five-year tenure. Enoch is one of six candidates who have declared candidacy to replace Pepper, though additional candidates could emerge before Jan. 14 when the executive committee will vote.

Other candidates, according to, include Columbus Democratic strategist Antoinette Wilson, former state senator Lou Gentile, Summit County councilwoman Liz Walters, former union organizer Gary Josephson, and Columbus activist Will Klatt.

Under Pepper, the party lost high profile contests, including all the statewide executive posts in 2018, a U.S. senate race in 2016 and two presidential races in 2016 and 2020.

Enoch lost in 2018 and 2020 to Congressman Warren Davidson, a Republican from Troy, but said the party didn’t give her support because in 2020 it wasn’t a “winnable” race.

Enoch received 110,766 votes in 2020 in a district that includes Butler, Clark, Darke, Miami and Preble counties, and the southernmost portion of Mercer County. Biden’s 122,606 votes in those counties include all of Mercer County.

Enoch says the Democratic Party has “written off” the rural communities, such as Mercer County.But she said the party gave money to other races, and outside of winning one more seat on the Ohio Supreme Court, has nothing to show for those investments.

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“I ran (in 2018 and 2020) because I wanted to see a change in the rural areas,” she said. “I organized my own teams, and we couldn’t get the support of national organizations because they said that the party was not really focusing on my district, and as a result of that it made it very, very difficult.”

Enoch said Democrats won’t be able to gain any control from the Republican-controlled state ― the GOP holds all statewide executive offices and majorities in Ohio’s House and Senate — unless they try to reach people outside the party.

“They’re not attempting to even secure votes from anybody outside the Democratic Party,” she said. “You can’t grow that way.”

Enoch said if she’s elected by the party in January, she also wants to take a page out of the Republican Party’s book when it comes to recruiting the youth into the party.

“I think the party needs a strategy that includes the rural counties, but the party needs a plan to raise up young people, for bringing young people into the party who are hungry for change,” she said. That includes engaging the youth while in high school.

“If they keep electing the status quo, they’ll keep getting the same results.”

Staff writer Laura Bischoff contributed to this report

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