Ohio Democratic Party Chair David Pepper on meeting Putin: ‘This is sort of the Forrest Gump part of my existence’ — Ohio Matters podcast Episode 30
CLEVELAND, Ohio — It may not surprise you that David Pepper thinks Ohio Democrats are going to have a good election come November.
But in a recent interview, Pepper, chair of the Ohio Democratic Party since 2014, went over some things that may surprise you. Such as:
- While working in his early 20s for a think-tank in St. Petersburg, Russia, Pepper repeatedly interacted with Vladimir Putin, then an obscure aide to the city’s mayor.
“This is sort of the Forrest Gump part of my existence,” Pepper said.
- In 2002, not long after he was elected to Cincinnati city council, Pepper was kidnapped, made to drive to multiple ATMs and withdraw money by two robbers.
Pepper said he remembered reading that the best way to survive a kidnapping is to make your captors feel sympathy for you, so he tried his best to be friendly. (He even plugged a major police-reform effort he’d worked on as a member of city council.)
“I joke, a lot of people do police ride-alongs. I did a crime ride-along,” Pepper said. “So I know what it’s like.”
- Pepper is a novelist, with a pair of political thrillers under his belt. His 2016 self-published debut, “The People’s House,” drew additional interest because of its plot dealing with a Russian conspiracy to influence the 2016 U.S. election.
“My first attempt at fiction failed because it came true,” Pepper said.
Pepper is this week’s guest on Ohio Matters, cleveland.com’s politics podcast. On Ohio Matters, political reporters Andrew Tobias and Seth Richardson and women’s issues reporter Mary Kilpatrick each week sit down with political figures from around the state for in-depth discussions.
Pepper also talked about what he learned from his failed stints for statewide office in 2010 and 2014, what he thinks Democrats need to do better to compete in a right-leaning state like Ohio, and of course, how he sees the November election playing out. He also discussed his time as managing editor at the Yale Daily news, and how his experience in journalism informed his idea to make a newspaper reporter the protagonist of his novels.
Past Ohio Matters guests include Republican congressional candidate and former Ohio State football player Anthony Gonzalez, Republican governor candidate Mike DeWine and Democratic Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley. Previous episodes can be found here.
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