Who We Are

The Cuyahoga County Democratic party, dominant in Cleveland since the New Deal, gradually grew and organized as the national Democratic Party began to take shape in the late 1790s and the early 1800s. The first recorded Cuyahoga County Democratic Party meeting was held September 18, 1818, at the Commercial Coffee House, in Cleveland, to nominate candidates for the Ohio state legislature. The early party, a spontaneous group of township delegates, assembled in convention several weeks before the October elections to select nominees for county and state offices and the federal Congress. Nominations were published in the local newspaper and most residents knew the local candidates personally. Elections were usually held in the courthouse or schoolhouse until the city was incorporated in 1836, when voting places were designated in each of the 3 wards. In the 1830s and 1840s, the Democratic and Whig parties divided the city's governing between them. The Plain Dealer, founded in 1842, served as the voice of the Democratic Party and supported local Cleveland, OHDemocrat and Ohio senator Reuben Wood, when he was elected governor in 1850. After the Civil War, Cleveland politics became a year-round endeavor, as Democratic Clubs were formed to maintain party activities between elections. The party regained strength in the late 1880s and 1890s, sending Martin Foran and then Tom L. Johnson to Congress. The Democrats made the party dominant with the 1901 election of Mayor Tom Johnson, who controlled city council as well as the city and county party committees. Newton D. Baker succeeded Johnson as head of the Cuyahoga County Democratic party in 1910, relinquishing active party leadership to his chief lieutenant, W. Burr Gongwer, in 1924.

What we do

The Democrats were a minority party during the years of the city manager plan however, with the plan's demise in 1931 Democrat Ray T. Miller was elected mayor. In the 1930s the party split into factions as Miller and Martin L. Sweeney fought for control. Ultimately, Miller was declared party chairman in 1940, and aided by the success of the New Deal he made Cleveland a Democratic stronghold by securing the political allegiance of both the African Americans and the nationality groups and consolidating the party organization. As more Democrats moved to the suburbs in the early 1960s, the party began to organize its latent strength there. Party unity was challenged when the 21st District Caucus was organized by a group of black Democrats in 1970 to provide unified backing for the candidates of their choice. The caucus's name and Cleveland, OHmembership boundaries came from the congressional district of Louis Stokes, who was elected chairman. In an effort to reestablish party unity, the regular Cuyahoga County Democratic party named 3 co-chairmen, George Forbes, Anthony Garofoli, and Hugh Corrigan in 1972. When Corrigan resigned in 1976, Forbes and Garofoli ran the party until Timothy Hagan was elected chairman in 1978. In 1982 John M. Coyne succeeded him as party chairman. Coyne resigned in December 1993. Roosevelt Coats, the party's vice-chair, was acting chair until January 1994, when Jimmy Dimora was elected to the unexpired term. Dimora was elected to a full 4-year term in June of 1994.

Since 1995 the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party consists of precinct committee members elected in the primaries by the registered Democrats in each precinct in the county. The committee members make up the County Central Committee, who in turn elected the county chairman and 400 of the 750-member Executive Committee; the remaining 350 members of the Executive Committee are selected by the county chairman. The Executive Committee is the decision-making body of the party and formally mets twice a year to endorse Democratic candidates for the primary elections.