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La Liga de Las Americas

Democrats energize party faithful at Cleveland’s Flats


Commentary by Alan Abrams, La Prensa Senior Correspondent


Set against a glittering backdrop of Cleveland’s downtown skyline, the Ohio Democratic Party 2006 Road Tour took this city by storm last Friday night, Oct. 20, 2006.


The scene at the Cleveland Plain Dealer Pavilion at Nautica in the Flats was two-thirds rock concert and one-third revival meeting. The members of Ohio’s political dream team energized a crowd of 1,000-plus placard-waving and highly vocal mainly union members—including La Prensa’s Milagros Santiago and Rubén Torres—who braved the chill off the Cuyahoga River to show their support for the soon-to-be winning team. There was no doubt about it—the sweet scent of victory was clearly in the air.


For Latino Clevelanders, this rally was known as “Hispanos por Ted” where they “frolicked to paint Ohio blue!”—not the Wolverine variety, but Democratic. 


As if to underscore the rock concert image, all of the superstars of the dream team arrived on a private bus. Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland, Lee Fisher, Marc Dann, Barbara Sykes, Jennifer Brunner, and Richard Cordray.

But not Sherrod Brown.

The candidate for U.S. Senator was elsewhere that night. The crowd wasn’t alone in their disappointment; this reporter had been looking forward to an opportunity to actually get a personal answer about Brown’s now-infamous flip-flop in voting yes on Sept. 14, 2006 for HB 6061 [See La Prensa’s Sept. 27, 2006 Commentary, page 3, or on line at www.laprensa1.com].

Alan Abrams (right) with Bob Brown.
NC Abrams photo

Brown’s vote in favor of the right-wing proposal to build a double-layered wall (el gran muro) along 700 miles of the U.S.-Mexican border shocked and dismayed many of Brown’s Latino supporters. And they are still waiting for an explanation from the candidate. Obviously, it wasn’t going to happen that evening.


However the candidate provided an affable and competent surrogate in the form of his brother, Bob Brown.


Through the wonderful cooperation of Barbara Sykes, the Democratic Party’s candidate for state auditor, a La Prensa correspondent and photographer were able to board the campaign bus and ride with the candidates to the rally. We hooked up with them outside of the House of Blues where Stickland and Fisher had just completed a successful fundraiser.


A number of union leaders were also aboard the bus. Among them was Tom Short, who for the last twelve years has been the International President of the I.A.T.S.E.


That’s the union of professional stagehands, motion picture technicians and allied craft members. Although Short is one of the most powerful players in the entertainment world, few outside the industry recognize his name.

Born in
Cleveland, Short told us he had flown into Ohio that Wednesday and joined the bus tour. He spoke at a major rally in Columbus before heading back up to his home town.


The fact that a powerhouse union president such as  Short would take three days off his busy schedule to campaign for the Ohio Democratic ticket underscores the national importance of a victory in the state on Nov. 7. As Short explained it, there is no doubt that “Ohio will be a bellwether again.” However, this time around, no one is taking it for granted.

La Prensa’s Milagros Santiago with Ted Strickland at the Flats.
Photo by Rubén Torres of La Prensa.

Marc Dann, the Party’s candidate for attorney general, took a seat next to me to conduct a phone interview live on radio. Meanwhile, Jason Fisher, the son of Lt. Governor candidate Lee Fisher, was busily videotaping the excitement on the bus.


As we pulled into the large parking area, several union leaders commented upon the many cars that filled the parking lot. An aide mentioned that the rally was competing with the opening night of a circus, leading to several quips about whether Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell could be found there as the ringmaster—or circus clown. The elephant, after all, is the symbol of the GOP. It was a brief moment of shared joviality as the candidates departed the bus.


Even the warm-up acts were stellar that night. The crowd, which was comprised of representatives from the Firefighters Union, the I.A.T.S.E., Teacher’s Union, and Teamsters, among others, responded with cheers and applause to impassioned speeches by two of the area’s U.S. Representatives, Dennis J. Kucinich and Stephanie Tubbs Jones. When you can get that caliber of speaker as your opening act, you know you are a star. And when you see such strong union solidarity this year, you know it is all about jobs and living wages.


The musical breaks were equally as spectacular, especially a rousing performance by the members of United Drumline and an exciting gospel group.

Barbara Sykes has national presence


As they were introduced, the candidates walked down a catwalk from backstage. The setting couldn’t have been more conducive for Barbara Sykes.  Clearly the Diva of the Democrats, Sykes walks and talks with the poise and confidence of a top high-fashion model—which she could easily be. Dressed stunningly in pink, Sykes strode down the catwalk and pumped up the crowd with her message. Make no mistake about it, Sykes has superstar qualities and eloquently combines style with substance.


Over the weekend, network television commentators speculated that Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, the only African-American in the U.S. Senate, may be considering a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008.

Barbara Sykes

The networks rolled film of Obama’s electrifying address before the 2004 Democratic National Convention. From that moment on, he was an icon.


Barbara Sykes has that same charismatic star power and presence. This commentator hesitates to call her the female Barack Obama, but the comparison is going to be made sooner or later by someone. If she wins the auditor’s office and gains national exposure on shows such as Oprah, she will be a strong and formidable contender for national office. Mark my words down on that prediction.


Want to learn more about Barbara Sykes? See my cover story and profile of her in this week’s Sojourner's Truth, which is also available on line at www.thetruthtoledo.com


 Jennifer Brunner, the Party’s candidate for secretary of state, also electrified the crowd when she asked, “Are you ready for fair elections?” As secretary of state, the official who oversees all aspects of elections from voting machines to problems with long lines, she promised that elections in Ohio will again be fair and open. “It’s that clear and that simple,” she said, taking a sharp dig at current secretary of state and Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell’s shameful and clearly partisan performance during the 2004 elections. 

Ted Strickland with Tom Short, the president of the New York based international of the I.A.T.S.E. Union.  Born in Cleveland, Short has been president of the union for 12 years. 
Photos by NC Abrams.

Marc Dann ditched his suit jacket and came out in his shirtsleeves. He hit hard on Tom Noe, telling the audience he had attended a portion of Noe’s trial before Judge Thomas Osowik in the Lucas County Court House while he was campaigning in Toledo earlier in the week. Raised in Shaker Heights, it was a triumphant homecoming for Dann.


Candidate for treasurer Richard Cordray connected instantly with the audience when he asked if anyone had heard about the state’s problem with the coins.


The enthusiasm of the audience overflowed when Fisher and Strickland took their turn. They literally brought the house down.


Years ago, a publicist at the MGM movie studios boasted that the company had “more stars than there are in heaven.”


Last Friday, in Cleveland’s flats, the Ohio Democratic Party won that crown.






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