100 Volunteers Removed From Cuyahoga County Democrats' Executive Committee

[Cuyahoga County Democratic Party]
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Nearly 100 volunteers were recently booted from their roles with the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party.

Most of them had no warning or justification for the change and the local party is now facing backlash from within.

The county’s party executive committee has a total of 750 Democrats who approve candidates for endorsement in local races, such as city and county council. Within the executive committee, 400 members are elected by their communities to serve a four-year term, and must pay an annual fee. The remaining 350 serve one-year terms and are appointed by the county’s party chair, based on recommendations from ward party leaders.

Those who were removed came from both the elected and the appointed groups within the executive committee.

“I would very much like to get some clear answers from the leadership of the party,” said Ward 3 Democratic Club President Paula Kampf, who was one of those removed. “I want people to be Democrats, I want people to be engaged and I want to be credible as a leader.”

Kampf and other local Democratic leaders, including Ward 3 Democratic party leader and Cleveland City Councilman Kerry McCormack, are pushing for memberships to be restored.

“Hopefully these folks are reinstated, that’s our goal,” McCormack said. “But if not, it’s really going to mute the voices of many city of Cleveland residents.”

McCormack, who drew attention to the purge this week on Twitter, is calling for party leaders to have an emergency meeting to discuss the issue and reinstate volunteers. The party’s changes removed all people of color and women from his ward, McCormack said, a move that goes against efforts to include diverse voices on the executive committee.

“A majority of folks that were purged were from East Side African-American neighborhoods,” McCormack said, “which I think is really problematic as we think about the conversation over the past year of elevating the voices of folks who have been disenfranchised.”

In an email to Ideastream Public Media, a party spokesperson said McCormack’s concerns are being heard.

“We appreciate Councilman McCormack taking an active role in the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party and his questions about the current makeup of the Executive Committee,” the statement said. “We are working to fill the Appointed Executive Committee as is done each year.”

The Cuyahoga County Democratic Party Chair Shontel Brown has the final say in who the 350 appointees are.

“[Appointments] are made at the discretion of the chair and that is the process in which we filed for since before I was elected into office,” Brown told Ideastream. “That is the process, and that’s the process we’ve been following.”

There’s no deadline for the appointments to be made, Brown said. The county party tried to streamline the process for 2021, she said. Local ward leaders were alerted to a new application process and a deadline of December 2020 for ward leaders to put forward names of potential appointees and get the paperwork filled out.

“I wanted to make sure that we were providing new members with opportunities,” Brown said. “Those who have been actively engaged in the party and may want to become more formal or official members, we have a pathway to do that.”

The statement from the party spokesperson said McCormack failed to submit recommendations for appointment before the deadline. McCormack said via email he did not have any communication from the party about the deadline.

At least some of the volunteers were removed because of a failure to pay dues, according to the statement from a party spokesperson.

McCormack said that in light of the pandemic, there should be some leniency for dues and members should not have been removed without notice.

For years in Ward 3, Kampf helped organize Democratic Party events – even during the pandemic. As one of those removed from the executive committee she would like some transparency as to how the decision was made and why.

“I work hard to make sure that we have lots of volunteers and anybody who is voting at all is ready to be a Democrat and understands why and how, and what things serve them and our society well,” Kampf said. “So it makes it particularly befuddling to be in this strange position this week.”

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