Wood County Democratic Executive Committee chairman resigns

Cobranchi denies ‘anti-Christian rhetoric’ accusation

PARKERSBURG — Although he denies speaking “anti-Christian rhetoric,” the chairman of the Wood County Democratic Executive Committee said he’s stepping down for the good of the party.

Daryl Cobranchi, elected chairman of the committee earlier this year, said he’s concerned his presence on the committee will affect perception of the party among voters after Parkersburg City Councilman Eric Barber accused him of using anti-Christian rhetoric in recent weeks.

Cobranchi has challenged Parkersburg City Council’s recitation of the Lord’s prayer at and before meetings and said it seemed members who voted against a recently rejected nondiscrimination ordinance did so because of the Christian beliefs cited by opponents of the measure.

“The accusation of anti-Christian rhetoric was incorrect,” Cobranchi said Tuesday. Even so, “I felt that I was a hindrance to getting Democrats elected in 2018. My presence was hurting the party.”

Barber changed his registration from Democrat to non-partisan last month, citing the “current platform and messages being promoted” by Cobranchi.

“I achieved my goal,” Barber said Tuesday of Cobranchi’s resignation. “I think this puts the community on notice that … not every Democrat is a liberal. There are still traditional Democrats in this area.”

At the Oct. 10 council meeting, Barber said “liberal activism and agitation” surrounding the nondiscrimination ordinance led council to alter the format of its public forums twice this year.

On Tuesday, Barber said he plans to change his registration again.

“Just as soon as I can get a moment to get into (Wood County Clerk) Mark Rhodes’ office, I’ll be switching back to Democrat,” he said.

The Democratic executive committee has called a special meeting for 6:30 p.m. Oct. 26 to discuss selection of a new chairman, as well as planning for the upcoming spring election. Vice Chairwoman Karen Campbell said she expects a replacement for Cobranchi to be chosen at that meeting.

Campbell said that while she understands Cobranchi’s reasoning, she’s disappointed in his decision to step down. Not all Democrats have to follow the same script, she said.

“We try to be a large-tent party,” Campbell said. “On specific issues, we differ. We respect each others’ First Amendment rights.”