Dayton Commission mailers rope state party into fight between progressives and centrists

By: - October 28, 2021 12:45 am

Stacks of boxes holding mail are seen at a U.S. Post Office sorting center. (Photo by Justin Sullivan | Getty Images.)

From Congress to city councils, progressives and centrists in the Democratic party are wrestling over whose vision should define the party’s future. In Dayton, that fight is playing out in the race for city commission, and a pair of mailers attacking two progressives have roped in the state Democratic party.

The mailers attack commission candidates Darryl Fairchild, who is an incumbent, and Shenise Turner-Sloss. The first suggests both candidates “don’t support our safety” stamped over images of police lights and a bullet hole through glass. The other, splashed with dark reds and vaguely soviet imagery, condemns Turner-Sloss specifically because she was endorsed by the local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America.

​Neither of the mailers include text describing who paid for the advertisement — just the return address of the Ohio Democratic Party.

In a statement, spokesman Matt Keyes distanced the party from the mailers.

“This week, two mail pieces were sent to Dayton voters in violation of several of ODP’s mail policies,” Keyes said. “The mail pieces should never have been submitted by the local county party, nor approved, but they unfortunately went out by mistake amid a staff transition at ODP in oversight of the mail program.”

The state party gets reduced rates for bulk mailing so local parties often work in coordination with the state party on mailings. The Montgomery County Democratic Party has yet to respond to a request for comment. Keyes said the party is taking steps to avoid similar mistakes happening in the future.

For their part, Fairchild and Turner-Sloss seem more frustrated than worried about their electoral chances. Fairchild described the mailer as “dirty tricks,” Turner-Sloss as “fearmongering” and “cowardly.”

“The baseless claim that I am not in support of safety, or the protection of our community is egregious,” Turner-Sloss said dismissively.

The first mailer tries to back up its argument by including the web address for a Dayton Daily News story about city council’s vote to extend a contract for ShotSpotter, a technology that uses microphones to alert police when someone fires a gun. Fairchild was the lone vote against the plan and he stood by that decision.

“ShotSpotter simply pays officers to chase around empty casings,” Fairchild argued. “It’s a reactive piece with little evidence that it actually reduces crime.”

Tuner-Sloss, of course, wasn’t on council when that vote was taken, and she pointed to a recent review by WYSO raising doubts about the system’s efficacy. She also pointed to cities like Charlotte, NC, San Antonio, TX and Troy, NY were local officials have nixed the program.

Fairchild said his chief concern about extending the system was that the city was using Community Development Block Grant funding to pay for it.

“My issue on that vote was that we were diverting dollars from something that works to keep neighborhoods safe and spending it on something that chases after the symptom of crime,” Fairchild said.

And he seemed exasperated at the idea that his vote on the technology somehow indicates he doesn’t care about safety. He noted he has an 11-year-old daughter and that they live within the territory monitored by ShotSpotter.

“To suggest that we don’t want safety is just ludicrous,” he said.

Turner-Sloss also dismisses the mailer portraying her as a socialist, calling it “racist dog whistles and lies to divide and distract us.” She said she’s been a part of the Democratic Party from “day one,” and recalled casting her first vote in a presidential election for Al Gore.

“It’s just appalling, and it just goes to show that in fact they’re threatened by our candidacy, and honestly I think it’s a badge of honor.”



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Nick Evans
Nick Evans

Nick Evans has spent the past seven years reporting for NPR member stations in Florida and Ohio. He got his start in Tallahassee, covering issues like redistricting, same sex marriage and medical marijuana. Since arriving in Columbus in 2018, he has covered everything from city council to football. His work on Ohio politics and local policing have been featured numerous times on NPR.