Firefighter Doug Stern of Cincinnati speaks at the Democratic National… (Tannen Maury / European…)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Conventions can be a long slog of speakers – five straight hours on Tuesday night, for example. But delegates perked up when a lifelong Republican firefighter named Doug Stern stood in front of a crowded arena and said he planned to vote for President Obama.
“For the vast majority of my life, I’ve been a Republican,” Stern said. “But somewhere along the way, being a public employee – someone who works for my community – made me a scapegoat for the GOP.”
Stern said he decided to vote for Obama after he saw the debilitating results of efforts to end collective bargaining for public employees in Ohio and other states. Other onetime Republicans in Ohio have also said they would vote Democratic after seeing Republican efforts to cut back bargaining, including the president of Ohio’s Fraternal Order of Police.
“Enough of this disrespect for the middle class. Enough of their far-right agenda,” Stern said, as the crowd rose to its feet and started to cheer, especially in the corner of the arena reserved for Ohio’s delegates. “We support those who support us. That’s why this Republican – sorry, former Republican – stands here today.”
Ohio was one of the few states where public employees were able to reverse efforts to cut their collective bargaining rights. After Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed the bill, unions organized a massive effort to reverse the law, getting an initiative on the ballot, Issue 2, to reverse it. In November, they won by a 2-to-1 majority. Some analysts said the organization that unions put together to reverse the bill might help the president win Ohio in November.
Stern isn’t the only onetime Republican to speak at the convention – former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist will also speak.