Montgomery County Democratic Party leaders approved endorsements Thursday night for this year’s Dayton mayoral and city commission races, backing Nan Whaley for mayor, plus Joey Williams and Jeffrey Mims for commission.
The endorsement of current City Commissioner Whaley for mayor comes as little surprise, as she’s a member of the Ohio Democratic Party’s central committee and was the only candidate to actively seek the nod.
A.J. Wagner, a former Democratic judge and county auditor also running for mayor, said he’s running as a nonpartisan candidate. Whaley and Wagner will challenge incumbent Mayor Gary Leitzell, an independent. Larry Ealy, Derek Folley, Eric Gregory and Diane Sloan also have taken out mayoral petitions to run, according to the Board of Elections.
County Democratic Party Chairman Mark Owens said he doesn’t think having two well-known Democrats in the mayoral race will split the party.
“I think most people in this room respect A.J., but they’re solidly behind Nan,” Owens said.
Races for city office are still in the early stages. Petitions to run for office must be turned in to the Montgomery County Board of Elections by March 8. If at least three candidates qualify for the ballot for mayor, or at least five for city commissioner, primary elections would be May 7. Those primaries would narrow the Nov. 5 field to two mayoral candidates and four commission candidates.
Montgomery County Republican Party Chairman Rob Scott said Thursday that if his party endorses anyone, it won’t happen until after March 8. Scott said the Republicans would only consider candidates who request the party’s endorsement, likely excluding Leitzell, who has declared himself “an independent candidate with no party affiliation.”
The race for two commission seats – one being defended by Williams and one being vacated by Whaley – could be an active one. More than a dozen Dayton residents took out petitions to run, but four have already reconsidered.
Prominent local minister Darryl Fairchild announced Thursday, after failing to win the Democratic endorsement, that he will end his campaign and support Williams and Mims instead, drawing a loud ovation from party members. But there are several notable names planning to run.
Williams is a third-term incumbent and former Dayton school board member. Mims is a state school board member who previously served on Dayton’s school board. Others running include David K. Greer, chairman of the city’s Northwest Priority Board, and David Esrati, a longtime activist and candidate who runs a local ad agency.
Attorney Mark Manovich and William Pace, who ran active races for city commission in 2011, have pulled petitions, as has Tim O’Bryant, a minister and real estate agent who ran for county recorder in November. Tim Zecchini, Donald Domineck Jr. and Willie Dion Walker also took out petitions.
Mims said he enjoyed the screening process before the Democratic Party’s executive committee.
“You get a bunch of questions, and you go in nervous as all get-out, and sorta humble, hoping that people understand what you’ve done in the past that reflects the Democratic values and valuing all people,” Mims said.
Esrati criticized the screening process, arguing the party should encourage as many Democrats to run in the primary as possible, rather than endorsing a select few.