GOP Seeking Support in Cleveland. Nina Turner's Countermeasure: "Find that Heart-Soul Connection" with Voters


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Nina Turner, teller of truths. - SAM ALLARD / SCENE
  • Sam Allard / Scene
  • Nina Turner, teller of truths.
Ohio State Senator Nina Turner took her turn at the lectern Thursday afternoon during a Democratic National Committee press conference at the downtown Cleveland Radisson Hotel. The presser was designed, it seemed pretty clear, to bash the GOP candidates participating in Thursday night's debate and to distinguish the official Democratic platform from the Republicans'.

"I appreciate the opportunity to do some truth-telling about the GOP presidential candidates," Turner said.

The particular object of Turner's ire was Republicans' "pure, unadulterated gall" to praise those who fought for the Voting Rights Act on the occasion of its 50th Anniversary while actively campaigning for restricted access to the polls.

"I thought it was absolutely ridiculous when I saw the tweet go out from the RNC this morning," she said.

"Seriously? I am sure that the freedom fighters of the 60s, those who have gone on and those who are with us today, are not enjoying that irony," Turned said. "[Republicans] still don't get it. They can't win over new voters by changing the tone of their message. They need to change the content of their message, their policies and their actions toward our community."

Turner told Scene in a conversation after the press conference that as an African-American elected official, she feels an extra duty to remind the local black community that the Democratic party is still the party for them, despite what she deems a brazen tactical move by the GOP to appeal to Cleveland's (traditionally left-leaning) African-American base. 

"They mean business," she said, of the Republican machine. "We are going to be out there, Chairman [David] Pepper and I, out there among the people. It is going to be our job to have a heart-soul connection. We've got to get out there and have a heart-soul connection and remind them who's standing up for them."

Republicans, she said, talk a big game, but remain committed to America's wealthiest. ("Fealty to the one percent," said Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, in one of the presser's more quotable moments).

"Republicans want to say that they're committed to community," she said, "but how you can say that when you try to scale back access to the ballot box that African-Americans died for? How can you say that you're committed to community when you don't believe in a woman making dollar for dollar? How can you say that you're committed to community when you've voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act 50 times?"

She said in her prepared remarks: "This is all part of the Republican calculation because they live by the creed: 'If we can't beat 'em, cheat 'em.'"

Turner's name, of course, has been mentioned repeatedly as a strong potential candidate for Mayor of Cleveland. During the DNC press conference, local reporter Scott Taylor tweeted that Frank Jackson has indicated he will run for an unprecedented fourth term.

Scene asked Turner if she'd given any more thought to running. Though she said she and Mayor Jackson were strong allies and that she admired him as a leader, she had indeed given the prospect some thought.

"I would not be completely honest if I said I haven't." she said. "But I've been pretty busy so I haven't had a chance to really sit down."

Until then, she's a valuable asset to the Democratic Party, locally and nationally — a "star running back," in the football analogies sprinkled among the Q&A — eager and willing to point out contradictions in her national counterparts across the aisle.

"These candidates have been worried about being left off the debate stage tonight," she said, "but they don't care about access to the ballot box.

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