The Democratic Party has targeted Dayton in this year’s presidential campaign, according to internal party emails released by WikiLeaks that made several references to the city.
A May 5 email sent to regional press offices from party press assistant Rachel Palermo lists the “top 50 media markets (in order of size) within battleground states,” listing Dayton as 33rd. The list also includes Ohio’s other four largest cities.
“We will develop an in-state operation for each of these,” says the email, which strategized the party’s response to this month’s GOP convention in Cleveland.
No. 1 on the list is Philadelphia, possibly explaining why it was chosen as the site of this week’s Democratic National Convention, where some WikiLeaks emails are making a stir. DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned under pressure over emails that appear to show the Democratic National Committee plotting against Bernie Sanders’ campaign.
“It’s really evidence of what we already know,” said David Sparks, a Sanders delegate from Dayton who is in Philadelphia this week. “How would people feel if that was the referee at the Ohio State-Michigan game … they would want the game thrown out.”
Ohio Republican Party spokeswoman Brittany Warner said, “The Democratic Party is in chaos right now.”
“Anyone who says Bernie Sanders supporters are going to unite behind Clinton and Wasserman Schultz is using smoke and mirrors,” she said. “Their leaked emails speak the truth about the state of their party unity.”
Rounding out the top five most important cities targeted by the DNC: Washington, Boston, Atlanta, and Tampa-St. Pete-Sarasota.
Other references to Dayton in the WikiLeaks emails include plans for an Ohio Democratic Party event in May urging U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, to not support Donald Trump’s bid for the presidency.
An Ohio Democratic Party press release announcing an event outside Turner’s office notes a CNN interview in December 2015 in which Turner said, “Donald Trump is not qualified to be president of the United States or hold any elective office.”
Turner responded to the event with a statement saying, “I will be endorsing the Republican nominee because Hillary Clinton would be an awful president as she has shown a blatant disregard for our laws.”
The Democrats’ emails — obtained by hackers backed by the Russian government, according to Hillary Clinton — also list the presidential debate at Wright State University in their planning calendars, though that event has been cancelled.
Republicans say Dayton is a big part of their strategy as well.
“The presidential campaign is a national race, but it feels like many distinct regional races in a battleground state like Ohio,” Warner said. “Southwest Ohio is always one of the most targeted regions in the most important state in the country during the presidential election.”
Montgomery County Demoratic Party Chairman Mark Owens said he expects area airwaves to be beseiged with political ads as they were in election years past.
“Generally, if you can win Dayton you can win Ohio,” he said.
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