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March 01, 2005

Burning a Bridge (OH-16)

Posted by Tim Tagaris

I intended to write about Jeff Seemann's announcement today that he is running again for the seat currently held by 80 year old congressman Ralph Regula in the 16th district of Ohio. As some of you know, I worked for Jeff in 2004, heading up the communications department. In large part, the campaign helped pioneer Internet outreach on the congressional level, but stalled offline.

This race can go one of two ways:

1.) Ralph Regula runs again and Jeff is the sole challenger. In that case, I can only hope that he learns the personal and professional lessons taught in 2004. We need to make gains, because that is a winnable congressional district down-the-line. Jeff has a rare combination of charisma and every-day Americana that can become infectious and is capable of making those inroads.

2.) Ralph doesn't run: If that happens, one of my top priorities will be making sure Stark County Democratic Chairman Johnnie Maier does not get the nomination. Maier has been stalking this seat for years, patiently waiting for Regula to retire to make his bid.

In 2004, Maier pulled off the superfecta (one more than the trifecta). He managed to piss off John Kerry coordinators, ACT Ohio, much of the local Democratic base, and the largest federal level campaign in Stark County. Ours.

While he has done some decent things for the party like expanding the size and scope of the local Democratic Party mission, his lust for personal gain set us back more than it was worth. He doesn't get it.

In a CD that Republicans have dominated for decades, despite a reasonable DPI, Maier has done nothing to recruit a credible Democratic challenger for years. Instead, it almost seems like he was content to put up sacrificial lambs as to ensure he would have a shot at the seat when the race was open again.

In the eight months I worked on the Seemann campaign, he never attended one of our events. Think about that? Because of the online community, we had the seed money to make some serious in-roads in the district, but he refused to help, at all. You see, Maier plays checkers, not chess.

Even with all the local help in the world that Johnnie COULD have mustered, we probably still would have lost in 2004. Fine. But there is no vision, no foresight, no lightbulb that went off indicating that we could make some real in-roads for the future. Down-ballot races suffered as a result--County Commissioners and Judges lost by the slimmest of margins.

It isn't even that Johnnie Maier didn't help, he actively worked against candidates. I wish I was kidding.

He kept candidates off the stage and speaking lists when John Kerry and John Edwards came to town. He sent out emails bashing local candidates (I saw them). He propagated rumors about candidates within the local party. Finally, a number of people also informed me that he helped LEAK NEGATIVE STORIES TO THE PRESS about Jeff Seemann.

Maier and his incestuous band of brothers gleefully lock candidates out of the process in order to remain the big fish in the small pond. In no small part, he embodies many of the problems within the local party keep us stalled, or worse, heading in reverse across the country.

Johnnie, if you run, I will work actively against such a bid from wherever I am in the country. I believe we reclaim this party by fighting in the primaries, and your brand of politics do not represent my Democratic Party.

Posted by Tim Tagaris at March 1, 2005 12:36 PM


It's great that Jeff's running again - it's something that doesn't happen often enough . . .

To quote Lisa Simpson: "I don't understand why we only try things once . . ."

Running the same viable candidate again and again, making small gains each time, is a good way to take back so-called Republican districts. Now if only someone will do the same in the 12th.

Posted by: Brew [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 2, 2005 01:37 PM | Permalink

Too bad the Seemann campaign has decided to burn this bridge. Declaring war on a very popular, organized, and financially savvy party leader is surely not the way to win friends and influence people.

Here are just a few of Johnnie Maier's successes in Stark County:

*John Kerry WON the county.
*Party HQ is organized, staffed, and computerized.

*The local party is in the BEST financial position of its history.

*The party fielded a slate of excellent candidates, and those who lost did so by narrow margins.

*Maier reached out to the grassroots and encouraged newcomers to jump on board and make a difference.

Does Maier want to run for Regula's seat? Everyone has a different opinion on that issue, but the consensus is that he would easily win in the primary and could actually take this congressional seat for the Dems. In fact, he's our best hope for freeing this district from decades of Republican destruction.

Advice for candidate Seemann:

*Lose the "peace coalition" bullshit. It doesn't play well in the press and it makes you look anti-military. The Repository never missed a chance to call you a "peace activist," and that only helped them create a negative image in voters' minds. Does the average Joe really want to vote for someone whose supporters go to protests wearing nose rings and dreadlocks, looking like they spent the morning dumpster-diving?

Yes, I know this is crass, but it's also political reality. You can pretend to live in a utopian world where there's no such thing as war, and appearance and PR don't matter. But
you're running for office in NE OHIO, which is not exactly the land of the left - take a good look at Stark County voters, and make sure you look and sound like them. We all want peace and progress, but you have to WIN, and that means playing the game.

*Consider running for a lower-level office where you can build a track record and credibility.

*Listen to local Dems who have run for office, and heed their advice. They have a great deal of practical knowledge and they know the political landscape of Stark County - don't discount their suggestions. And that includes Johnnie Maier.

*Take responsibility for your campaign's actions. Those negative stories were not started by Maier; they came from the Republicans, your own disaffected staff, and people who dealt with your campaign.

Good luck in '06, I'll be watching.

Posted by: DemUnity [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 31, 2005 01:53 PM | Permalink

That's funny.

Let me be clear; it is me that decided to burn that bridge, and I have nothing to do with the Seemann campaign any longer. And assuming your closeness with Johnnie, you probably remember me from 2004. It would be nice to know who you were.

That said, let me address your points:

The bridge was already burned. Johnnie was a complete non-help (at best) during the 2004 campaign. Like he was going to help anything Jeff decided to do in 2006, or beyond. To open your comment the way you did was very disengenuous.

Whoever you are, Johnnie's short-sightedness in 2004 set the Democratic Party back when Ralph's seat comes up for grabs. He is lucky that it looks like Ralph is going to run again in 2006, that gives you a chance to right the wrong of 2004, and start building support AT A CONGRESSIONAL LEVEL!

We need to start training Democrats to come out and vote for the candidate whose last name is not Regula, specifically the Democratic candidate in that race.

You think the people that filled the office for Kerry in 2004 are going to do the same for Johnnie in 2006 or 2008? Please. It's a completely different race. And you had best hope its 2008 that Ralph retires, because good luck getting Dem. HQ as moving as it was in a midterm.

But Johnnie doesn't get it. He plays checkers, not chess. Like Jeff Seemann's campaign was ever a threat to him. And because of that, he can start without the organization he should have been helping to build during 2004.

And by the way, your list of Johnnie accomplishments is an exaggerated littany of half-truths. You are not talking to someone who lived in Stark County for a week.

Does Johnnie want to run for Ralph's seat? You know the answer to that. The answer is yes. And that is fine. He would be a VERY qualified candidate. Much more qualified than Jeff or most of the other names being tossed about.

But don't pretend that isn't the case and that many of his motivations stem from that question and answer. It is obvious from your knowledge that you know better.

We will see how easily he wins the primary. I can promise you this much; if it is contested, I know where my support, however much it is worth, is going.

As for your advice. Take it up with Jeff.

But your first piece was pretty ignorant. Your playing it politcally safe bullshit in the hopes of getting "swing voters" that have not voted Democratic in the 16th for U.S. House over the past 5 decades plus won't work.

Activate your base, don't alienate them. And "Team Maier's" "crass" attitude is transparent offline, and now apparently online as well.

Yeah, Jeff chose to run for House, because other candidates with their sites set on the seat are afraid to do so. Maybe we should have just left the seat open from our side and set us back even further?

No one discounted the suggestions of local party people.

Let me share with you one piece of information. Do you know that Johnnie didn't come to a single Jeff Seemann event?

Did you? Seriously. NOT ONE! What does that say to you? That anyone in the "establishment" gave a single shit about the effort?

As far as the negative stories go. I know where many of them started. And it was that "organized, staffed, and computerized" buidling you referenced above. The bottom line is, there is no reason to talk negative about your own candidates, for ANY reason, in local Dem. HQ. And it happened, don't kid yourself.

Wish Johnnie luck in 06 for me. I'll be watching as well.

Posted by: Tim Tagaris [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 31, 2005 04:28 PM | Permalink