Four-way race for Democratic national committeeman

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Four candidates have emerged for one of the top leadership roles in the state Democratic Party.

A former statehouse candidate, a disability rights lawyer, a businessman born in Bangladesh and a Wyandotte County businessman are vying for national committeeman for the state Democratic Party.

Larry Dreiling, who ran unsuccessfully for the state Senate last year; lawyer Ben Cohen; businessman Rehan Reza; and Hank Chamberlain, treasurer of the party’s 3rd Congressional District, are running to become the party’s national committeeman.

The winner would replace Christopher Reeves, who recently stepped down from his position so he could have more freedom to work on campaigns.

The candidates will be introduced at the state committee meeting Wednesday night, when they make their appeal for the position.

Ballots will go out Thursday, and votes must be submitted electronically by June 7. The winner will be announced June 8.

Here are a few biographical nuggets of the candidates:

Ben Cohen

Cohen currently works as a disability rights attorney in Topeka.

He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kansas and a law degree from Washburn University.

He also worked for Kansas Legal Services in Emporia, practicing criminal defense as well as  domestic and family law.

He is former vice chair of the Shawnee County Democratic Party. He now chairs the Jewish Caucus for Young Democrats of America.

Ben Cohen

He chairs the 2nd Congressional District for the Kansas Young Democrats and previously was president of the Kansas Young Democrats.

“Whoever takes over this role has to be ready to not only attend meetings, but to use it to build,” Cohen said in announcing his candidacy.

“Kansas elections in 2022 are going to be a street fight. Redistricting is going to cause chaos, especially in the 3rd District.

“And Republicans feel entitled to the Governor’s office to the point that we know they’ll pull out every stop to defeat Laura Kelly.

“My first priority as your national committeeman will be to ensure that our colleagues around the nation know we are going to fight like there’s no tomorrow to hold on to the gains we’ve made, and build on them…,” he said.

“After all, a foothold in Kansas means a giant crack in the Republican base. Success here is success for Democrats across the nation,” he said.

Hank Chamberlain

The founder and chairman of Allied Glass Experts joins the race with a series of union endorsements, including the Tri-County Labor Council of Eastern Kansas and the AFL-CIO United Auto Workers-Central Region.

Chamberlain declared his support for federal legislation that’s aimed at protecting workers trying to organize, otherwise known as the PRO Act, short for the Protecting the Right to Organize Act.

Hank Chamberlain

“I believe that the fate of unions, the Democratic Party, and that of our nation are inextricably connected,” he said in his announcement.

“The PRO Act is our best remedy for the economic and social ailments of this country.”

He also backed the comprehensive votings rights bill pending in Congress.

“There are so many opportunities now for us to enhance the future of the USA that it is tragic that we must divert resources to protect our basic rights,” Chamberlain said in making his announcement.

“Yet, we must work to secure and protect our right to vote, our right to organize, our right to equal economic opportunity, and our right to fair treatment under the law.

“All are currently under attack.”

He added:

“We have to concentrate on helping people — and explain that in a way that is simple, clear, and true. I believe in truth. I believe in science. I believe in public education.
I believe in properly regulated free enterprise. I believe in equal and fair treatment according to the law. I believe in the United States of America.

“Let’s go to work.”

Larry Dreiling

Dreiling is a former longtime agriculture reporter from Hays, Kansas.

He worked as chief farm policy reporter for the High Plains Journal from 1989 to 2019. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Fort Hays State University.

He ran unsuccessfully against Republican incumbent state Sen. Rick Billinger last year.

Larry Dreiling

“I want to make it OK to be a Kansas Democrat in a 105-county party,” Dreiling said in his announcement.

“Most importantly, I want to unite urban and rural Kansans under our party’s philosophy of social justice and charity, of seeking peace for all the world, under a government based on moral integrity.

“For some time, our party’s strategy has been to count on our largest counties to take us over the top in statewide elections, leaving rural areas to fend for themselves.

“That’s not right.”

He added:

“I’m not a member of any clique within the party. I’m just a Kansan who is a Democrat.

“All I want is to bring urban and rural interests together, to mend whatever fissures there are that keep us from uniting against the continuing threats against those who do the working and paying and living and dying in our society.”

Rehan Reza

A native of Bangladesh, Reza came to the United States in 1985 and continued his higher education work, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in California.

He later he joined Church’s Chicken corporate office as a regional training manager.

In 1995, Reza opened a Church’s Chicken restaurant in Topeka. Reza now runs about 25 Church’s Chicken restaurants in Kansas and Texas.

Three years ago, Reza filled the party’s vacant position for secretary.

Rehan Reza

He also founded and chaired the party’s Asian American Pacific Islander Caucus and served as vice chair of the 2nd Congressional District and chaired the Shawnee County Democratic Party.

“The DNC Committeeman is someone who needs experience and strength to keep Kansas involved in key discussions, that is why I am running,” Reza said in announcing his candidacy.

“I am the most experienced and involved candidate in this race, dedicating the last 30 years of my life towards building a better Democratic party here in the state.

“Now I have the opportunity to help represent that party to our National peers, and I believe I can do this with much success.

“We need a National Committeeman who can lead discussions and create strong networks throughout the country,” he wrote.

“My community and party activism throughout the years have turned me into a strong communicator, and I believe I can replicate this at the DNC,”  he wrote.