Progressive Dave Brock Succeeds Shontel Brown as Cuyahoga County Democratic Party Chair

click to enlarge ARTWORK BY JOHN G
Artwork by John G

West Park resident Dave Brock spent the early part of 2021 encouraging engaged Democrats to run for the Cuyahoga County Party central committee. Brock called the central committee "the backbone" of the statewide Democratic party in a January op-ed and said that a newly energized committee had "the potential to enact the reforms desperately needed to make Democrats competitive in Ohio again."

Nearly 500 members of that Central Committee, many of them newly minted, voted to elect Brock as the party's next chairperson Saturday. It took two rounds of in-person voting at Cuyahoga Community College for Brock to obtain the majority required.

He defeated state lawmaker Kent Smith in the second round. Smith had taken an early lead, but Brock consolidated support from the other candidates after they dropped out. Brock will now succeed Shontel Brown, whose embattled tenure in party leadership was marked by a precipitous decline in voter turnout, a cascade of Republican victories statewide, and her own ascension from Cuyahoga County Councilwoman to Congressperson in Ohio's 11th District.

Brock, 47, ran on a platform of increased voter engagement at the grassroots level and developing future Democratic leaders. He has called for heightened party visibility across the county and for a laser focus on the threat Republicans pose to everyday people.

"In a county monopolized by Democrats, you have to expect some level of infighting," Brock told Scene in a post-victory interview. "But I don't want Dems eating Dems. I don't care if you're a centrist or a progressive or a Communist, the focus needs to be on Republicans and how they're affecting kitchen-table issues."

Brock said he was thrilled by the result Saturday and credited the organizing work that emerged from both the Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus and the ad hoc Build Back Cuyahoga project. He said he was especially indebted to committee members from the City of Cleveland, roughly 70% of whom supported him Saturday. 

"It was never my intention to run for Chair of the party," Brock said. "But I think there was real energy and concern around voter engagement, and I think people saw the work I had been doing on the ground, and the success I was having, and thought this could be replicated countywide."

Ohio State Rep. Juanita Brent was one of the candidates Saturday as well. She dropped out after the first round of voting and threw her support behind Brock. Brock later nominated her for party vice-chair and said he couldn't wait to work alongside her.

Together, Brock and Brent will make voter outreach their top priority. Brock said that every effort will be made to canvass aggressively and "meet voters where they are," by knocking on doors, sending postcards, creating mailers, making phone calls, coordinating texting campaigns. Whatever it takes.

"We started this campaign for the people who felt that their voices haven't been heard within the party," he said. "But this was really a vindication of all we've been doing for the past few years engaging the public. We'll be reaching out. The last thing I want people to say when they walk away from a voter, either in person or electronically, is 'I'll be back. We'll be back. The Democrats will be back.'"

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About The Author

Sam Allard

Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...
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