Who’s Behind Blue Ohio

Blue Ohio is a joint project between former Ohio Democratic party chair David Pepper and It Starts Today.

David’s highly-acclaimed book Laboratories of Autocracy: A Wake-Up Call From Behind the Lines details the risk anti-democratic statehouses (like Ohio’s) pose to our democracy. If you’ve not read it, you should; Hillary Rodham Clinton recommends it, and so do we. You can get it HERE.

It Starts Today was founded after the 2016 election by Jonathan Zucker, former COO and CEO of ActBlue. Convinced that the power of the Democrats’ grassroots community coupled with small-dollar recurring donations could change fundraising forever, he got to work creating groundbreaking national and state-based programs.

Together, we’re going to change Ohio.

David Pepper

David Pepper

David is a lawyer, accomplished author, political activist, and former elected official. He also teaches election law and voting rights.

He served as the Chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party between 2015 and 2021. During law school he was named “most likely to be president … of the Cincinnati Board of Tourism.”

​His highly-acclaimed book Laboratories of Autocracy details the risk anti-democratic statehouses pose to our democracy.

Jonathan Zucker

Jonathan Zucker

Jonathan Zucker is a political technology entrepreneur and campaign finance attorney. He was the first COO and second CEO of ActBlue.

He has also served at the DNC as National Director of Operations for Finance.

More recently, he has founded or advised several political tech start-ups, including Democracy Engine, It Starts Today, ruck.us, Rep’d and Crowdpac.

Michele Hornish

Michele Hornish

Michele is a lawyer, highly sought-after communications consultant, and the Executive Director of It Starts Today.

She founded Small Deeds Done, a political action site featured in the New York Times bestseller Good And Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger.

Since 2017 she has focused on It Starts Today‘s state-based projects, culminating in the development of Blue Ohio.

What You Get When You Join Blue Ohio

• Membership in the only grassroots community that’s focused on making sure every Democratic nominee for Ohio state legislature has resources to run a campaign.

At the $10/month level (or more), automatic participation in our monthly Team Blue Ohio calls with author and former Ohio Democratic Party Chair, David Pepper.

• Knowledge – backed up with data – that you’re boosting the vote share for the top of the ticket and local turnout, while helping reach the 5,367,872 Ohioans who were left behind in 2020. (See our Washington University study results!).

• Pride that no matter what else you have going on, you’re doing something that’s meaningful and impactful.

• Peace of mind that you’re fighting for a better future for yourself and your loved ones.

• Satisfaction that just by being part of our community you’re telling the Ohio GOP that you’re on to them. You’re not letting their corruption and lawlessness slide, and you won’t let them sell out your democracy without a fight.

• Gratification that you play a role in holding people in
the statehouse accountable.

How Blue Ohio Works

Think of us as crowdfunders – for Ohio’s Democratic nominees for state legislature.

We make it easy for you to join thousands of other people and crowdsource democracy – supporting our nominees for a few dollars a month (which, these days, is less than you might spend on a fancy cup of coffee). And, as a monthly program, you just set it and forget it, knowing that you’re doing your part – no matter what else you have going on.


By joining Blue Ohio, you’re supporting down-ballot Democrats across Ohio – without breaking a sweat. Kicking in a few bucks a month is doable, and powerful, over the long term.

+ Thousands Like You

Thousands of people just like you want a Blue Ohio too, and understand that chipping in a few dollars a month (our average is $10/mo) is a small price to pay to protect democracy. Together, you’re amassing power to support Ohio Democrats in every corner of the state.

= Massive People Power

After the primary, Blue Ohio distributes 100% of the community funds directly to the Democratic state legislative nominees, who desperately need your help. And you rest easy, knowing that you are part of the solution. Job done.

How Blue Ohio Helps

We have the data to prove it.

(C’mon, we’re Democrats. Of course we did a study!)

Running Nominees Matters

Just having a nominee for state house on the ballot increases the vote share for the top of the ticket by 1.5%.


But in 2020, 19 Ohio Districts had no Democratic nominee on the ballot.


The over 2.2 million Ohioans live in those 19 districts didn’t have the option to vote for a Democrat for state house … because there wasn’t one on the ballot.

Districts with no Democratic nominee

Ohioans in Districts with no nominee

Funding Nominees Matters

There’s more: Funding nominees boosts turnout, too. In fact, funding a challenger at $0.36 per eligible voter increases turnout by 1%.


But in 2020, another 27 Districts were underfunded – averaging just $13,400 to reach over 115,000 people.


Those 27 Districts include another 3.1 million Ohioans, who probably didn’t hear from their cash-strapped Democratic nominee. 

Underfunded Districts

Ohioans in Districts with an underfunded nominee

Running Funded Nominees = Massive, Data-Backed Impact

That’s over 5.3 million Ohioans left behind – either because they didn’t have the option to vote for a Democrat for state legislature, or because the nominee didn’t have what they needed to run a real campaign.


If we don’t run supported nominees in every Ohio district, we are leaving votes on the table.

Ohioans Left Behind

Here’s the good news:

Reaching those 5.3 million forgotten Ohioans is as simple as running and supporting Democratic nominees for Ohio state legislature.

You can help make that happen. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How does supporting down-ballot Ohio Democrats boost results statewide?

In 2020, we ran a study and found that having a Democratic nominee for state legislature on the ballot increased the vote share for the top of the ticket by 1.5%. We know from a peer-reviewed study of 20 states that funding a challenger at $0.36 per eligible voter adds a whopping 1% boost to voter turnout!

So there’s a potential 2.5% bump for the top of the ticket if we run and support a Democratic nominee. Statewide, that leads to massive gains up and down the ticket! Bottom line: we can elect more Ohio Democrats. We just need to work together. Ready to get started? We’re glad to have you on board. Click here to join>>

Which nominees does Blue Ohio fund and how?
Blue Ohio uses a “bathtub” method of funding, where the community funds are used to lift the nominees from the bottom up. After the primary, we’ll look to the Democratic primary winners’ most recent campaign finance filings, and distribute community funds until the nominees all have at least $1,000. Then we’ll raise the “water level” to $2,000 … then $3,000 and so on and so on until the Blue Ohio community funds are exhausted. Only nominees (the Democratic primary winners) are eligible for funding. We do not fund candidates in the primary or make endorsements – this is a project to make sure Democrats have support to fight fiercely in the general election. While it is difficult for us to imagine a situation in which the primary voters would choose a nominee who our Blue Ohio community would find legally or morally objectionable (i.e., a white supremacist), should a situation like that arise it would be put to a vote of the community members.
What are some of the "soft benefits" of running a supported Democratic nominee in every Ohio district?

Just by supporting the Democratic nominees that are running for state legislature, Ohio Democrats can build a bigger bench, build up local Democratic infrastructure, make Republicans fight (and spend) everywhere, and spread a progressive message through a local lens.

If we’re serious about reaching voters across all 99 Ohio Districts (and we are), then supporting the Democrats already doing the hard work is the most efficient and effective way to do it.

How much do most people contribute?

The average is just over $10/month. As an added bonus, everyone who contributes at $10/month is eligible to join our monthly team call, featuring David Pepper! They’re always informative and often entertaining – and a great time to ask any questions you have about Ohio politics.

What do I get for contributing?

Most importantly, you know that you’re part of the solution, and you’re doing something really powerful every single month. And – if you’re contributing at $10/month or above, you’re also added to our monthly Blue Ohio Team call, where we get together on Zoom with our Blue Ohio family to talk about recent events, progress, and all things Ohio. It’s a great time to ask David Pepper, former Ohio Democratic Party Chair and Blue Ohio founder, any questions about politics! All donors are added to our Blue Ohio Update email.

What percentage of my donation will Ohio Democratic nominees receive?

100% of your donation to the nominees goes to the nominees. Blue Ohio does not take a percentage. We rely upon tips revenue to grow this movement, and those tips are greatly appreciated! (Hint: Please leave one if you can!)

We’re also completely transparent about credit card processing fees. You may not realize it, but entities like ActBlue deduct credit card processing fees from your donation before sending it to candidates. So the candidate you’re supporting is getting less than you intended! Not with us – 100% of your donation goes exactly where you intended it to go. So if you want your donation to be $10/month, it is $10/month; the $0.57 in processing fees is added to your donation total for a monthly charge of $10.57. If you want your monthly charge to be a flat $10, no problem – just enter $9.44 into the donation field, and together with the processing fees that will all come out to $10/mo.

We also use a processor, Democracy Engine, LLC, that charges a lower percentage in processing fees. While ActBlue collects 3.95% and Kickstarter keeps 5% on top of processing fees, Democracy Engine collects a 3.75% + $0.20 processing fee.

Are you part of the Ohio Democratic party?

No. While we support the efforts of the collection of national, state, and local organizations that make up the Democratic Party, we do not coordinate with them. Our goal is to break radical Republican control, support and elect more Ohio Democrats, and preserve democracy.

Are you doing this kind of project in any other states?

Yes! We have an active project in Missouri and are hard at working bringing this project to other states that could use the same short-term electoral benefit and long-term investment. (The states on our short list of expansion projects include AZ, GA, MI, NC, PA, TX, and WI. If you are interested in discussing any of those states, we’d love to hear from you. Just send an email to info@blueohio.org.)

How does guaranteed funding help us run more nominees?

Fundraising is one of the toughest, and most detested, parts of running for office. It’s even worse for nominees who are in challenging, conservative districts. Eliminating the fundraising barrier means more people are willing to run, which makes recruitment much easier.

How can I help?

Glad you asked! First, you should join! (Do that HERE.) Second, we need people like you from all over the state (and country) to help spread the word. If everyone who asked this question could get five friends to join, we’d be well on our way to amassing the power that Ohio Democrats need.

Also: if you would like us to speak to your local group or organization, just reach out to us at info@blueohio.org.

When will my subscription end?

Democracy is a long game, and we’re in this for the long haul. So unlike most Democratic organizations, we’re not focused on any one cycle. Your subscription will continue until you tell us to stop. Just contact us at info@blueohio.org at any time. We’re very approachable!

How do I stop or change my recurring donation?

Easy! Just contact us at info@blueohio.org at any time. We’re very approachable!

How do I contact you?

You can contact us at info@blueohio.org at any time. We’d love to hear from you. 

Read the Report

Enter your email for a copy of our whitepaper, which explains:

• why downballot races are the most powerful, untapped resource for Democrats,

• how supporting downballot nominees will transform statewide and national races,

• what impact our model would have had on crucial elections (2016 and 2020)

And more!

Wonderful! The report is on its way...