Young Democrats of America Great Lakes Region Biennial Conference

By: Corey J Trusso

On Saturday, June 8, 2013 the Great Lakes Region consisting of Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio met for the first time in person in nearly a decade. Great Lakes Region Director, Nick DeCenzo, hosted the conference with over twenty members in attendance in Ohio City of Cleveland, Ohio. The program was a combination of conversations with local public figures, state debriefings, and voting.

The Conference started with a welcome from Ohio City Executive Director, Thomas McNair. McNair spoke about the history of Ohio City and the redevelopment over the past five years including the Cleveland Hostel where our event was held. The Cleveland Hostel’s story parallels Ohio City’s, as they were rugged, underdeveloped, but rich in history. Mark Raymond, owner of the Cleveland Hostel saw an old furniture warehouse and turned it into a trendy, modern, sixty-bed hostel for young travelers like himself. Ohio City is under renovation by young entrepreneurs and democrats similar to Raymond who want Ohio City to turn back into a vibrant community. McNair stated, “Ohio City is what we would like to see the City of Cleveland turn into great public transit, cultural diversity, economic development, and building upon our history like the West Side Market.” With continued support of YDs the transformation of Cleveland will continue.

Nick Martin, Cuyahoga County Party Executive Director, continued the meeting with a seminar about what Ohio and more importantly the I-80 corridor means for presidential elections. The northern section of Ohio gave President Obama nearly half of the votes needed to win Ohio and the 2012 election. Cuyahoga County alone gave President Obama a margin of 256,000 votes as he carried the state by 166,000 votes. Martin’s presentation put Ohio’s voting power into perspective, encouraging Young Dems of America to continue expanding the Democratic Party. He proceeded to discuss the roles of Young Dems and how YDs are not just the future of the party, but are currently helping shape the party’s agenda.

After the morning welcome by McNair and Martin, Director DeCenzo continued the event by going over the day’s agenda and kicking off each state’s address to the region. Each states’ progress over the past two years and outlook were somewhat similar. The consistency was that chapters were growing their membership, finding young active members to run for office, organizing groups to support progressive movements, and fundraising. The two speeches that stood out were Indiana’s Daqavise Winston and Susan Fruth’s of Illinois. Winston reported that in 2012 the Indiana Young Dems were able to recruit YDs to run in a majority of state legislator races and they would like to have a YD in every race for 2014. Fruth of Illinois was happy to report they have continued to have a strong following, but would like to expand their membership throughout the state. Ohio and Michigan were alike in redeveloping their state chapters and growing alongside YDA.

Following state presentations a local public leader Kent Smith led a discussion on how to get members more active. His 11 activities for strengthening chapters were created by over twenty years of experience politics, working on campaigns in five states, serving in public office, and developing a strong democratic club in Euclid, Ohio. An hour-long workshop with input and discussion from YDA members was very informative and educational. One activity that was discussed related to, “D on D violence,” or organizations fighting internally. Smith’s advice of negotiating peace for the greater good of the group was on of the most enlightening and enjoyable sections. The dialogs provided a great segue into discussions of the future of YDA.

The first half of the conference concluded with a round of campaign speeches by YDA candidates for national office. Those who spoke were Atima Omara-Alwala, YDA Progress candidate for President, Erin Carlstrom, YDA Progress candidate for Executive Vice President, Cassi Peters, One YDA candidate for Vice President, and Chris Algera, One YDA candidate for Secretary.  Great Lakes Region was happy to have all of the candidates for national office speak to us about their vision and travel from across the nation to do so. Their visions for the future of YDA were all consistent in wanting to grow the organization and voice the concerns of young adults throughout the country and world.

The finial presentation of the conference was a panel discussion with State Representatives Nickie Antonio and Dan Ramos of Ohio with Nick DeCenzo moderating. The hour long seminar addressed the topics of running for office as a YD, being a freshman legislator, and not just being the future of the Democratic Party but being an active member now. The talk gave great light on where to start a campaign plan, raising money, who to speak with, and keeping faith. Educational events like this and throughout the Great Lakes Conference are helping mold young leaders for the Democratic Party.

The day was capped off by voting for new leadership of the Great Lakes Region of YDA. The newly elected officials are:

  • Regional Director Susan Fruth
  • Deputy Regional Director Corey J Trusso
  • Secretary/Treasure Erik J Clarke
  • Judicial Council Representative Daqavise Winston
  • Judicial Council Alternate Liz Walters

They will begin their new roles at the conclusion of the National Convention. YDA National Convention will take place August 8-11 and the Early Bird Registration Fee end on June 28th. For more information please go to