In a surprise shift, Newburgh Heights Mayor Trevor Elkins and former judge and Cuyahoga County Councilwoman C. Ellen Connally announced Friday afternoon that Connally, not Elkins, would be running for chair of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party. Elkins, who had been the face of a progressive challenge to powerful party factions, will run alongside Connally as vice-chair.
“Because I believe Judge Connally’s steadiness, wisdom, experience, and accomplished record of service are exactly the unifying qualities our party needs, I asked her to step into the lead role for our party," Elkins said in a press release. "She and I have tremendous chemistry and we are committed to reforms intended to nurture activist energy to win elections."
C. Ellen Connally added, “We have had many conversations about the future of our party and I’m excited to take the lead role of unifying it with a focus on getting Democrats elected. We are going to make a great team and cannot wait to get started.”
Since losing to interim chairwoman Shontel Brown last summer, Elkins has worked alongside the Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus to build a coalition and incorporate activist energy into the party by recruiting progressive Democrats to run for seats on the party's central committee. That body will elect a chair at Euclid High School on June 9.
Shontel Brown has the backing of Congresswoman Marcia Fudge and other elected leaders. Her vice-chair is Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley.
Elkins’ campaign for party chair consisted of a series of procedural recommendations. He called them “a set of essential rule changes designed to eliminate backroom horse trading” in a press statement announcing his candidacy last week. Those include electing the full membership of the party's executive committee (nearly half of whose members are currently appointed), and refraining from endorsing candidates in primary races with open seats.
Elkins told Scene that he and Connally work well together and that they would treat their roles more or less as co-chairs. They are both committed to what they're calling the Unity platform.
"This was never about Trevor Elkins being King," he said. "And it isn't about C. Ellen Connally being Queen. This is about making the party stronger."