CLE Chatter: Cuyahoga County Democrats jockey for party chair

BY MARK NAYMIK, CLEVELAND.COM 

mnaymik@cleveland.com

Changing the change agent: Cuyahoga County Democratic Party Chairman Stuart Garson's term isn't up until June 2018. But he will likely pass the torch -- and the headaches of running a party with a "deep state" of insiders working against him -- before year's end. Look for the change right after the November election. Party insiders have been complaining about Garson for two years, plotting coups while encouraging him to step aside. Garson was elected in in 2010 to be the boring adult in charge following the 16-year tenure of Jimmy Dimora, who was the life of the party but played too much old-guard politics (and went to prison for public corruption). While Garson helped the party regain financial stability and returned integrity to the chairmanship, he never warmed to the idea of playing umpire among party factions and candidates vying for small seats. Even the people who backed him for the unpaid job, including U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudgeand former Cuyahoga County Party Prosecutor Bill Mason, are said to want change. In anticipation of Garson's departure, several Democrats have been jockeying for the job, or at least testing the waters, including Newburgh Heights Mayor Trevor K. Elkins. He told me Tuesday that he is "actively working on building a coalition." Party leaders have also floated the names of Cleveland Council President Kevin Kelley, Bedford Municipal Court Clerk Tom Day, former Bedford Mayor Dan Pocek, and labor leader Dave Wondolowski. Mason, who still holds sway in the party, is not after the job but he is vetting possible Garson replacements. The county party is holding its annual dinner on Sunday, where guests should expect to see plenty of campaigning for Garson's job.