The CUYAHOGA COUNTY DEMOCRATIC PARTY, dominant in the City of Cleveland since the New Deal, gradually organized as the national Democratic party began to take shape in the early 1800s. The first recorded Cuyahoga County meeting was held 18 Sept. 1818 at the Commercial Coffee House to nominate candidates for the 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 Democrat and Ohio senator REUBEN WOOD when he was elected governor in 1850. With the growing antislavery sentiment in Cleveland during the 1850s, the Democratic party declined in influence as the fledgling CUYAHOGA COUNTY REPUBLICAN PARTY grew in the 1850s. 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, and between 1891-1901 it divided mayoralty honors with the Republicans. In 1895 the local Democrats split over the tariff issue and the free coinage of silver. Solid gold Democrats, led by Plain Dealer publisher LIBERTY E. HOLDEN and JOHN FARLEY, opposed Democratic leader CHARLES SALEN, and the silverites—a split that allowed the Republicans to win the mayoral election. 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.
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 Dist. 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 membership 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 Dec. 1993. Roosevelt Coats, the party's vice-chair, was acting chair until Jan. 1994, when Jimmy Dimora was elected to the unexpired term. Dimora was elected to a full 4-year term in June of 1994.
In 1995 the Cuyahoga County Democratic party consisted of ward or precinct committee members elected in the primaries by the registered Democrats in each ward or precinct in the county. The committee members made up the County Central Committee, who in turn elected the county chairman and 400 of the 750-member Executive Committee—the remaining 350 members were selected by the county chairman. The Executive Committee was the decision-making body of the party and formally met twice a year to endorse Democratic candidates for the primary elections.
Powell, Thomas Edward. The Democratic Party in the State of Ohio (1913).