Democratic executive director resigns over party mailers attacking city commission candidates

Kurt Hatcher has served as Executive Director of the Montgomery County Democratic Party and member of the Board of Elections since 2019. Prior to that, he was the first Sustainability Manager at the University of Dayton, managing change toward a greener campus since 2008.
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Kurt Hatcher has served as Executive Director of the Montgomery County Democratic Party and member of the Board of Elections since 2019. Prior to that, he was the first Sustainability Manager at the University of Dayton, managing change toward a greener campus since 2008.

Montgomery County Democratic Party executive director Kurt Hatcher resigned Friday night over mailers sent by the party attacking two candidates for Dayton city commission, the county party’s chair Mark Owens confirmed.

The Dayton Daily News obtained Hatcher’s resignation email where he says the Montgomery County Democratic Party did not commission the mailers.

“It was approved by Chairman Owens and an Ohio Democratic Party staffer over my personal objections,” Hatcher said.

Hatcher didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from the Dayton Daily News.

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Owens said Saturday he received a resignation from Hatcher, but had not spoken to him.

Hatcher is also a member of the Montgomery County Board of Elections.

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Mark Owens, Montgomery County Democratic Party Chairman and Dayton Municipal Court Clerk

Credit: Handout

Mark Owens, Montgomery County Democratic Party Chairman and Dayton Municipal Court Clerk
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Mark Owens, Montgomery County Democratic Party Chairman and Dayton Municipal Court Clerk

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

The mailers in question said Dayton City Commissioner Rev. Darryl Fairchild and candidate Shenise Turner-Sloss “opposed measures to keep us safe from violent crime,” and the other says Turner-Sloss can’t be trusted because she was endorsed by the Dayton/Miami Valley Democratic Socialists of America.

Hatcher said he forwarded the materials to Owens to review, but also expressed his concerns over the issue before doing so.

“Lastly, for the role I played in this situation, I sincerely apologize,” Hatcher said. “I deeply regret my involvement in something that has created so much pain and contributed to the propagation of racist stereotypes.”

Turner-Sloss is Black.

On Thursday, the party’s central committee voted to apologize to Fairchild and Turner-Sloss.

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Shenise Turner-Sloss

Credit: Knack Video + Photo

Shenise Turner-Sloss
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Shenise Turner-Sloss

Credit: Knack Video + Photo

Credit: Knack Video + Photo

The apology says: “The Montgomery County Democratic Party deeply regrets its role in approving two political mailers that were sent this week to some Dayton voters regarding the Dayton City Commission race. The negative mailers, which were submitted by the campaigns of the party-endorsed candidates, made unfair and offensive claims against two Democratic candidates who were not endorsed by the party.”

The committee also voted to “make a clear statement that Commissioner Fairchild and candidate Turner-Sloss – and all their supporters – are valued members of the county party,” according to the statement released by Owens.

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Credit: Knack Video + Photo

Ohio Democratic Party Chairwoman Elizabeth Walters has already apologized to the candidates after the mailers were sent using the state party’s bulk mail rate and with the state party’s name and address on them.

Dayton Commission candidates Stacey Benson-Taylor and Scott Sliver said they were responsible for the mailings.

“Our teams all worked on the mailings. They sent them out. We worked on them as a team, and the goal was to really identify the differences in the political or policy approaches to safety,” Benson-Taylor said. “Nothing in the information was untrue.”

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Benson-Taylor said it is legitimate to point out differences between candidates but in retrospect the mailers were a mistake.

“We understand that it caused controversy. It was a mistake that that information went out in that format,” she said.

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Sliver said, “I want it to be clear that I personally take full responsibility as I also saw the pieces before they were mailed. Clearly, we went too far, and for that, I sincerely apologize.”

Sliver said he would personally apologize to Turner-Sloss and Fairchild at the appropriate time.

While the city commission race is officially nonpartisan, all four of the candidates are Democrats. Benson-Taylor and Sliver are the county party’s endorsed candidates for the two commission seats on the Nov. 2 ballot.

Owens took responsibility for the county party forwarding the mailers to the Ohio Democratic Party to be sent out via the party’s bulk rate mailing system.

That violated state party rules because “there are strict policies in place that mail pieces can’t attack other Democrats,” said Matt Keyes, spokesman for the state party.

“The mail pieces should never have been submitted by the local county party, nor approved, but they unfortunately went out by mistake amid a staff transition at ODP in oversight of the mail program,” Keyes said.

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Scott Sliver. CONTRIBUTED

Credit: DAYTON VINEYARD CREATIVE

Scott Sliver. CONTRIBUTED
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Scott Sliver. CONTRIBUTED

Credit: DAYTON VINEYARD CREATIVE

Credit: DAYTON VINEYARD CREATIVE

He said oversight of the program will be strengthened, and the county party was asked to outline what steps will be taken to ensure it does not happen again. Future violations could result in the county party losing access to the state party’s bulk mail rate, Keyes said.

“In the future, we will not allow negative mailings to go out against candidates who are registered Democrats,” Owens said.

Eric Moyer, Turner-Sloss’s campaign manager, said what is being forgotten in this situation is that Fairchild and Turner-Sloss are people, and these attacks could hurt their reputations.

“I got into this race because I think the City Commission can do more to improve the safety and well-being of our community,” Turner-Sloss said. “These attacks are just a distraction from focusing on the issues.”

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