Politics Extra
Enquirer reporters give the scoop on what your politicians are doing

Jessica Brown,
Hamilton County reporter

Jon Craig,
Enquirer statehouse bureau

Jane Prendergast,
Cincinnati City Hall reporter

Malia Rulon,
Enquirer Washington bureau

Carl Weiser,
Blog editor

Howard Wilkinson,
politics reporter

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Friday, October 21, 2005

Pepper maintains his fund-raising lead

Councilman David Pepper has widened his 3-to-1 fund-raising advantage over state Sen. Mark Mallory after the Sept. 13 mayoral primary, according to campaign finance reports filed this afternoon with the Hamilton County Board of Elections.

Pepper has raised a record $921,843 in his bid for mayor. Mallory has raised $275,238, according to the reports.

The figures don't include personal loans each has made to his campaign: $61,000 for Mallory and $35,000 for Pepper.

Judge allows elections probe to proceed

A judge has ruled against Rev. Donald Tye in his attempt to quash a Board of Elections investigation into his campaign activities.

Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Mark R. Schweikert ruled Wednesday that the Board of Elections does have jurisdiction to probe whether Tye violated Ohio law by paying for a postcard attacking mayoral candidate David Pepper before the primary. The judge lifted his temporary restraining order blocking a hearing into the affair.

Tye's lawyer, Kenneth L. Lawson, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Judge Schweikert's ruling (.pdf)

Ad watch: Crowley's 'The People'

AD: "The People," David C. Crowley for City Council, produced by Scott Seidewitz. Started Thursday in 30-second and 60-second edits. (Script is for 60-second version.)

Crowley: "When you enter public office after a lifetime of service, you bring a different perspective to the table. I've already served my country, served my state, even run international relief programs. I'm not looking to run for a higher office. I'm on City Council because I want to serve my hometown, the place where I grew up. From this perspective, I recognize that City Hall is not what's most important in Cincinnati. People who fix up their homes, raise their children here, serve in civic organizations -- they have a bigger impact than anything we do on City Council. What makes Cincinnati great? It's the people who live here and the values they share. As a new mayor and a new council prepare to take office, we need to remind ourselves of this every day. We need to prove that we believe in the people of Cincinnati, and we need to put the interests of the city above the interests of politics. That's what true service and leadership are all about." Male announcer: "A lifetime of service, a lifetime of leadership. Council member David Crowley."

VISUALS: Crowley speaks directly to the camera from his living room. Photos of Crowley appear: in his Navy uniform, with former Gov. Jack Gilligan, standing next to a United Nations relief convoy in Bosnia.

FACT CHECK: The ad doesn't exaggerate Crowley's resume. If anything, it's understated. He's a Navy veteran, was picked by Gilligan to be the first director of the Ohio Department of Aging, and spent 12 years running Catholic relief efforts in West Africa, Nepal, Thailand, Romania, Croatia, and Bosnia.

STRATEGY: At 68, Crowley is the oldest member of a City Council with a median age of 35. When he first ran in 2001, he received endorsements from across the spectrum and came in seventh place; in 2003, he was known more as a liberal and placed ninth. This ad tries to return him to safe, non-ideological territory. The ad isn't flashy or gimmicky -- indeed, it aspires to be just the opposite, portraying Crowley as a mature, thoughtful and deliberative member of City Council.

COAST paid for pro-Winburn phone calls

The $40,389 campaign of the Service Employees International Union District 1199 on behalf of Mark Mallory is the largest independent expenditure ever reported in Cincinnati politics. But it's not the first one.

Less than 24 hours before the Sept. 13 primary, the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes disclosed that it had spent $23,925 on telephone calls on behalf of Republican Charlie Winburn.

Christopher P. Finney of COAST said the expenditure went toward phone calls to likely Republican voters featuring the voice of former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

Contributors to the effort included Reds owner Carl H. Lindner and his wife, Edith ($10,000 each) Fifth Third Bancorp PAC ($2,500), and the campaign committees of Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Greg Hartmann ($1,000), Treasurer Robert A. Goering ($500), and Recorder Rebecca Prem Groppe ($250).

No Hard Feelings

Never let it be said that Harold Brooks holds a grudge.

Nineteen years ago, the Hamilton County Republican Party needed a sacrificial lamb - preferably an African-American Republican - to run against then-Ohio House Majority Leader William Mallory in his very Democratic district. They found Brooks, a bus driver who had worked as a professional sports trainer for the St. Louis Cardinals and the old St. Louis Hawks of the NBA.

Brooks campaigned night and day, but, predictably, was beaten handily at the polls.

But today, the Westwood Republican, who is vice president of the Cincinnati-Hamilton County Black Republican Forum, is out touting the candidacy of Mark Mallory, the son of his former rival, for Cincinnati mayor.

"He's the candidate who can bring the city together,'' said Brooks, retired now from his job as a courthouse security guard. "We need somebody who can bridge the racial divide.''

The Black Republican Forum backed Charlie Winburn in the mayoral primary campaign, but was left without a candidate of its own when Winburn finished out of the running.

"Even though there isn't a Republican in the race, we feel like we have to make a choice,'' said Brooks.

His old battle with the elder Mallory, Brooks said, doesn't matter.

"That was a long time ago,'' he said.

Hospital union makes $40,000 political play

The mayoral campaigns will have to wait on the Ohio Elections Commission to decide whether a labor union's $40,389 expenditure in support of Mark Mallory violated any campaign finance laws.

But legal or illegal, the $40,389 from the Service Employees International Union District 1199 is an unprecedented amount for a single labor union to spend on a Cincinnati race. Especially for a union whose last contribution to a Cincinnati candidate was a $150 donation to Alicia Reece in 2001.

So why is SEIU so interested in Cincinnati politics all of the sudden?

Organizers say the Mallory support is part of a statewide push to elect labor-friendly mayors in Ohio, including Jack Ford in Toledo, Frank Jackson in Cleveland and Robert F. Hagan in Youngstown. In Cincinnati, the union has also endorsed Democrat Damon Lynch III for City Council.

"First of all, our members are very serious about beginning a process of electing folks who care about the working people of Cincinnati, Ohio," said Scott Courtney, the executive vice president of SEIU District 1199 in Columbus. "If you look at the two candidates, David Pepper is a millionaire who has a long history of supporting special corporate interests, and Mark Mallory has a long history of standing up for working folks. It was a pretty easy decision, frankly."

The SEIU is one of several unions that broke off from the AFL-CIO Labor Council in July, saying the labor federation was focusing too much on politics and not enough on organizing new members. But Courtney said the endorsement was not linked to any specific organizing campaign or issue.

Pepper said that's exactly what the endorsement was about. He said Courtney asked him directly to support an SEIU organization campaign at a major Cincinnati hospital -- something Pepper said he wouldn't commit to as a condition of endorsement.

"His statement seemed to forget the conversation I had with the leaders of that group. They had one priority -- one issue, and only one -- that would determine who they supported," Pepper said. "He couldn't have been more direct about the interests they had in Cincinnati. Apparently it's important enough to them that they would put $40,000 behind that issue."

SEIU District 1199 represents about 2,500 health care and social service workers in the Cincinnati area, but is one of the most aggressive and fastest-growing unions in the country. It is aggressively attempting to organize hospitals operated by Cincinnati-based Catholic Healthcare Partners throughout the country -- and in Cincinnati. Locally, the hospital chain runs Mercy Hospital Mount Airy, Mercy Hospital Western Hills, Mercy Hospital Anderson, Mercy Hospital Clermont and Mercy Hospital Fairfield.

Organizers for the Service Employees International Union District 1199 demonstrate at the Catholic Healthcare Partners corporate office downtown in April. The union's attempts to organize local hospitals may be behind its support of Mark Mallory in the mayoral campaign. (Photo by Michael E. Keating/The Cincinnati Enquirer)

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Ad watch: Pepper's 'Takeover'

AD: "Takeover," a 15-second commercial for mayoral candidate David Pepper, started on broadcast stations today. Produced by the Campaign Group, Philadelphia, Penn.

SCRIPT: Male announcer: "Mark Mallory's first proposal: Have the mayor take over the Cincinnati's schools. The Cincinnati Post wrote 'Mark Mallory couldn't be more wrong.' Putting City Hall politicians in charge of our schools would 'make it worse.' Join parents and teachers in rejecting Mark Mallory's plan."

VISUALS: Photos of Mallory and graphics imposed on slow-moving footage of school children taking tests. The script of the ad appears on the screen, one phrase at a time.

FACT CHECK: Mallory, a state senator, introduced Senate Bill 46 in February. The bill would give Cincinnati's mayor the same power Cleveland's has -- to appoint the school board and school superintendent. The ad accurately quotes a Feb. 5 Cincinnati Post editorial, "Don't Make It Worse," which also said the Mallory plan was "a bold idea" that "stands on a foundation so weak that it doesn't pass the laugh test." Many teacher and parent groups also oppose the plan. But three weeks before the election, the controversy isn't over the plan itself -- but whether it still belongs to Mallory. While Senate rules don't allow a senator to withdraw a bill once it's been introduced, Mallory has asked the Senate Education Committee not to hold hearings on it. He said he no longer wishes to push the plan, citing local opposition and improvement in the Cincinnati Public Schools' state report card. But the Pepper campaign points to Mallory campaign literature -- produced even after he abandoned the plan before the primary -- in which Mallory described the plan and said "it's time to stop passing the buck on our public schools."

STRATEGY: This is the first negative ad of the campaign, and it's an easy shot to take -- especially since Mallory no longer fully supports the bill. The 15-second format is designed for high repetition; by contract, the ad has to run twice during the same commercial break.

RESPONSE: "I have shelved that plan," Mallory said. "I said that to the newspaper. I wrote a letter to the CFT (Cincinnati Federation of Teachers) to that effect. I've said it at forums, I've said it at debates, and it's a shame that David Pepper won't let the issue go. It is off the table. It's a non-issue."

Cincinnati elections panel punts to state

The Cincinnati Elections Commission voted 3-0 this afternoon to refer a complaint about a union's expenditures in the Cincinnati mayor's race to the Ohio Elections Commission.

The precedent-setting case focuses on whether the Service Employees International Union District 1199 coordinated with state Sen. Mark Mallory's campaign when it spent $40,389 on direct mail and phone calls supporting Mallory.

If so, the union's spending would exceed the city's $2,500 limit for a political committee to contribute to a mayoral campaign, and Mallory's committee could be fined up to three times that amount of the excess contribution. It's the first time the city commission, created in 2001, has ever had to rule on an issue involving a mayoral campaign.

Northside resident Sharon Koehler filed the complaint at the behest of Mallory's opponent, David Pepper.

Cincinnati Elections Commission Vice Chairwoman Jill Meyer Vollman, a Republican, said the complaint involved definitions of non-cash contributions and independent expenditures found in Ohio law. The commission sent the complaint to the state in order to get a ruling on those issues before deciding whether any violations of city election law occurred.

Attorneys for the Mallory campaign and the SEIU both denied any coordination.

"I can tell you right now the Mallory campaign vehemently denies any coordination or collaboration with the SEIU with the campaign literature," said Robert Newman, who represents the Mallory campaign. "This is a pretty significant charge here, and the penalty being sought is $113,000. This is an enormous hit for a political campaign."

Mark McGinnes represents the SEIU: "We followed the law. Our activities are protected by the U.S. constitution, state law and the city charter," he said. "We also believe the complainant in this case didn't have all the facts, an once we get an opportunity to present all the facts at a hearing, we will prove that."

Pepper campaign manager Greg Landsman: "I think what you'll see when you go through the complaint is a clear sense of coordination, which is an affront to the charter. ... Irrespective of the decision, there is an enormous precedent here. If you have a wealthy friend, or a well funded special interest group, you can get around the $1,000 (individual) limit or the $2,500 (committee) limit by simply paying that campaign's consultant directly for direct mail or television commercials."

Mallory would be in good company

A historical footnote: If Mark Mallory is elected mayor, he will be the first Cincinnati mayor without prior City Council experience in 75 years. Founding Charterites Murray Seasongood and Russell Wilson were elected mayor in their first terms on City Council in 1926 and 1930.

Ad watch: Bortz's 'Springboard'

AD: "Springboard," a 30-second television commercial for Chris Bortz for City Council. Produced by Reggie Groff, it started running Monday.

SCRIPT: Bortz: "“Hi. I'm Chris Bortz. Cincinnati City Council is too important to be treated as a springboard for the advancement of personal agendas, special interests, or political careers. I know if council is run the right way, focused on the big picture, we can have a safe, strong and economically vital city. City Council is a team sport, not an individual event. I ask for your vote on Nov. 8, to help make it a winning team."

VISUALS: As Bortz speaks directly to the camera, unidentifiable politician-gymnasts use a springboard labeled "Cincinnati" to perform high jumps and flips. Bortz removes the springboard, causing a politician to trip and fall on his face.

FACT CHECK: It's no secret that a Cincinnati City Council seat is one of the best resume-builders in Ohio politics. Every first district congressman for the last 100 years has been a former member of City Council. The late Justice Potter Stewart served on City Council. Previous city council members include former Ohio Gov. Jack Gilligan, Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot, state Rep. Tyrone K. Yates and Hamilton County County Commissioners Todd Portune, Phil Heimlich and Pat DeWine. And Jerry Springer ultimately used his City Council career to become internationally famous. But Charterites like Bortz aren't immune to catching the political bug; Gilligan, Blackwell and Yates are all one-time Charterites who went on to win higher office on a national party slate. Bortz promises not to be among them. "I can say unequivocally that I will not use City Council as a springboard to a political career. Career politician? I'm sure there are worse fates, but not many," he said.

STRATEGY: The 33-year-old first-time candidate is the nephew of the city's last Charterite mayor, Arn Bortz, and has cast himself as an old-style Charterite who will respect the council-manager form of government. Like mayoral candidates Mark Mallory and David Pepper, who are running on platforms promising to end "the chaos at City Hall" and "the bickering on City Council," Bortz taps into voter discontent about City Council.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Charlie Luken says goodbye to City Hall

In all the commotion over the election for Cincinnati's next mayor, a lot of people seem to have lost track of the one we've got now.

But Charlie Luken is, after all, the longest-serving mayor in Cincinnati history. His political career spans parts of four different decades -- and he's still only 54 years old.

In an overlooked interview in Cincinnati Magazine's October issue, Luken sat down with Jay Stowe and Linda Vaccariello and talked about his future plans, his council "dream team" and his relationship with the press.

Excerpts below:

Cincinnati Magazine's October cover. (Photo courtesy Craig Tanner.)

Q: What's the biggest pain in the ass nobody told you about before you became mayor?
A: Well, right now the biggest pain in the ass is council.

Q: And it wasn't in the '80s?
A: I don't remember it being that bad. There were times when you'd get into arguments with people, but there was certainly a lot more collegiality.

Q: And that's what's missing now?
A: That's part of what's missing. There's no depth of thought, there's no long-range thinking, there's a great deal of blame-placing. You asked me what's the biggest waste of time? That's the biggest waste of time; there isn't even a close second. The little picking that council members do to get their name in the newspaper. I didn't get along with Guy Guckenberger [in the 1980s]; but if I went to him and said, "Guy, we need this and here's why," we just shut up and did it.

Q: Do you think that's it -- people essentially whining to get their names in the newspaper?
A: Let's don't kid ourselves. It's much more divided than it used to be. It's divided along race lines, it's divided along income lines, and there are a lot of people who just play those divisions for their self-benefit. So the debate is much more acrimonious and unpleasant, and it's not helpful. I saw a poll the other day on council. Two percent of the people thought council was doing an excellent job, 14 percent thought they were good, and the rest was bad. And the pollster said, "I've polled Congress at the depths of their unpopularity, I've polled other councils and commissions, and I've never seen anything like that."

Q: ... If you could create your own City Council "dream team," living or dead, who would it be?
A: Curiously, because we never got along personally, Guy Guckenberger. I thought Steve Chabot was a good member of council. You probably don't know the name Myron Bush, but he was a Charterite. The late Ted Berry. Tyrone Yates. John Cranley. I think people of quality have served the city. I thought Roxanne Qualls was probably a better member of council than mayor. She would be somebody to put on council. You know, there were guys that I served with that I thought were just high-quality people -- David Mann, Pete Strauss. I'm getting nostalgic now. There were some people who really cared about the city. I think there are good people who are running for city council right now who could make a dramatic improvement in this place, and I don't mind telling you their names: Wendell Young, Cecil Thomas, Chris Bortz, Jeff Berding.

Q: ... Is it even remotely possible to be a regular guy and still be a successful politician?
A: I think I'm as regular a guy as you'll ever have in this office. But I get in trouble with that sometimes.

Q: How so?
A: They write -- not you -- but they write, "We saw him at the bar with a woman." I mean, yeah, I was having a beer. Normally, the mainstream press doesn't do that, but CityBeat, they're on me constantly. But that's OK. They've been on me since I was a candidate in 1999 for some reason. I was eating outside at Mullane's and a panhandler came up and I declined to give him money. And they went off on how I was mean to homeless people. Well, I was polite and respectful but I don't give money to panhandlers. That stuff, over time, wears you out....

Q: What's the best piece of advice you've got to pass along to whoever wins?
A: If you could figure out how to have some reliable support on council, that would be fundamental. And the other thing I would tell the mayor -- and I hate to do this because I swore I wouldn't -- but in the abstract I would tell that individual to make the city manager's staff your staff from the beginning. It has taken me a while to get there but I get pretty close to it now. I was all hung up on respecting the lines. Screw that. Work with the city manager, but use the city manager's staff.

Q: You're pretty good about answering your own e-mails. Is that smart?
A: I send too many. That's the other piece of advice: Don't get on your e-mail. I get on my e-mail when I'm mad and write stuff. Then all of a sudden it's on the front page. There's a saying Dave Mann told me years ago: If it feels good, don't say it. They can't blame you for what you don't say. I've had to bite my tongue until I had welts on it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Ad watch: 'Keep Monzel on City Council'

AD: "Keep Monzel on City Council," a 30-second television ad for Republican Chris Monzel. Starts today on Time Warner Cable, next week on broadcast. Producers: John Colmar and Alfonso Wesson of Zone Communications.

SCRIPT: Male announcer: "Every day, 11 people move out of the city of Cincinnati. In just four years, we will have less people than Toledo. Since 2001, over 300 citizens have been murdered. Chris Monzel is fighting to save our city. He's standing up for our police and our families. He's working to restore law and order by placing more cops on our streets. And Chris Monzel is fighting for stronger neighborhoods, with lower taxes and better schools." Monzel: "I'm Chris Monzel, and I'm running for the city of Cincinnati, not from it."

VISUALS: In black-and-white, a family drives out of town in a moving van as "For Sale" signs pass by. A crime scene appears in the van's rear-view mirror. In color, Monzel enters, talking to police and citizens in Winton Place. Key phrases appear: "Everyday 11 people move from Cincinnati." "In just four years, we will have less people than Toledo." "Over 300 citizens have been murdered." "Endorsed by Cincinnati police." "More police." "Stronger neighborhoods." "Councilman Chris Monzel." "Keep Monzel on City Council."

FACT CHECK: The ad contains no egregious misstatements, but there is some imprecise language. According to the most recent U.S. Census estimates, the city is losing population at an average rate of 11 people a day. But they're not all leaving in moving vans -- some are going out in hearses. There have been 335 homicides reported in the city since Jan. 1, 2001, but not all were murders -- that figure includes cases of manslaughter, police shootings and justifiable homicides.

Appointed to a council seat in 2001, Monzel won election later that year with a campaign that featured warm-and-fuzzy ads showing an undeniably photogenic family. He ran a similar campaign in 2003 -- and lost. "He went the warm-and-fuzzy route again and people had already seen it," Xavier University political scientist Gene Beaupre said at the time. "He needed something substantive that said, 'This is who I am, and this is what I will do." This is that ad.

Mallory gets another endorsement (yawn)

State Sen. Mark Mallory picked up the support of the Ohio Black Legislative Caucus -- a group of African-American state lawmakers -- on Monday. But Mallory, the assistant Democratic leader in the Ohio Senate, didn't formally announce the endorsement as he has with previous endorsements.

"It's probably not news," he said today. "That's like the Bengals endorsing their quarterback."

Mallory contribution was wrong, party chair says

Greg Harris, the two-time Democratic cannon fodder for the First District congressional seat, was outspent almost 6-1 in campaign against incumbent Republican Steve Chabot last year. Just 5 percent of his funding came directly from the Democratic party.

So Harris (above) concedes he's a little sore about the support he got from party leaders. But when he learned that the Hamilton County Democratic Party contributed $12,500 to the campaign committee of its co-chairman last year, he was really sore.

That co-chairman: mayoral candidate and state Sen. Mark Mallory.

"He knew he was going to run for mayor when he got that money. People who gave to the county party didn't give for that purpose," Harris said. "That money was for the 2004 election. I was at all the events where it was raised."

"The county party chair stuck his finger in the cookie jar," he said. "It's just despicable."

Mallory's co-chairman, Timothy M. Burke, said the contributions were in line with a longstanding policy of helping those candidates who most help the party.

Still, he said, he regrets that the last chunk of the $12,500 -- a $4,000 contribution made in November -- came after it was clear that Mallory could have Democratic competition from David Pepper and Alicia Reece in the mayor's race.

Neither Pepper nor Reece received any money from the county party. Mallory stepped down as party chairman after the 2004 election, in part because of concerns about a conflict of interest in running against other Democrats.

"Frankly, I wish there were no contributions after he announced he was running for mayor," said Burke, now sole chairman of the party. "He was part of that decision. In retrospect, given that we have made a position of neutrality as a party -- in retrospect -- that contribution was not appropriate to happen."

Mallory said the last contribution came after he was no longer co-chairman and before he filed petitions for mayor. He did contribute $500 back to the party earlier this year, according to campaign finance reports.

"Those contributions were made almost a year ago now, and if anybody had a problem with it, they should have said something a long time ago," Mallory said.

Should the party make an equal contribution to Pepper's campaign? Mallory, who's trailing Pepper in fund-raising by a 3-to-1 ratio, said no.

"Doesn't David Pepper have enough money?" he said.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Endorsements galore!

With the election now three weeks off, the endorsements are piling in -- to the benefit of Mark Mallory.

Mallory, a state senator seeking to edge David Pepper in a bid to become Cincinnati's next mayor, picked up personal endorsements from two more elected officials Monday. Hamilton County Treasurer Robert A. Goering, a Republican, and Auditor Dusty Rhodes, a Democrat, citing Mallory's ability to work with elected leaders of other political party affiliations for the good of the people."

Mallory, a Democrat, already has endorsements from former Mayor Roxanne Qualls and a bipartisan list of present and former state lawmakers. Pepper's endorsements include former astronaut and U.S. Sen. John Glenn.

A wrapup of today's other endorsement announcements:

Cincinnati African-American Firefighters Association
  • MAYOR: Mark Mallory.

  • CITY COUNCIL: Chris Bortz (C), Laketa Cole (D), David C. Crowley (D), Samantha Herd (D), Sam Malone (R), Damon Lynch III (D), Christopher Smitherman (C) and Wendell P. Young (D).
Appalachian Political Action Committee
  • MAYOR: Mark Mallory and David Pepper both "approved."

  • CITY COUNCIL: Jeff Berding (D), Eve Bolton (D), Laketa Cole (D), John Cranley (D), David C. Crowley (D), Damon Lynch III (D), Sam Malone (R), Christopher Smitherman (C) and Jim Tarbell (C).

  • CINCINNATI BOARD OF EDUCATION: Melanie Bates, Susan Cranley, Eileen Cooper Reed and Harriet Russell.

Cincinnati Right to Life Political Action Committee

  • CITY COUNCIL: John Eby (R), Sam Malone (R), Chris Monzel (R), Paul McGhee (I), Michael Earl Patton (I) and Robert J. Wilking (I).

  • HAMILTON COUNTY MUNICIPAL COURT JUDGE: David Stockdale, Russell J. Mock, Alex M. Triantafilou, Kendal M. Coes and Julie Stautberg.

  • DELHI TOWNSHIP TRUSTEE: Mike Davis and Jerry Luebbers.


Smitherman mum on Black Fist support

Councilman Christopher Smitherman declined to comment today on his involvement with the leader of a black separatist group indicted Friday on charges of witness intimidation and retaliation.

"I have no comment on any of that," Smitherman said between committee meetings at City Hall. "I am here to make public policy."

Smitherman attended the initial court appearance of Kabaka Oba, the Black Fist leader known for urging the death of Jews and police officers in protests at City Hall and on Fountain Square, and put a word in for Oba with Judge Kendal Coes.

In 2003, shortly before he was sworn in, Smitherman told the Enquirer he would keep an open door to such activists -- but also hold them to the same standard he would anyone else:
While other city officials shun boycott activists like Kabaka Oba and Nathaniel Livingston Jr., Smitherman has gone out of his way to meet with them - even spending 15 minutes talking to them at an Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce meeting last week.

"You can't dehumanize people. You can't say their constituency is irrelevant," he said. "But believe me, I'm going to hold people accountable. I won't put up with people who come to City Council and cuss people out, no matter who they are."

... And Jerry Springer grew up in New York

What do Ted Berry, David S. Mann and Roxanne Qualls all have in common?

Sure, they were all Cincinnati mayors. But there's something else -- they all grew up in Northern Kentucky.

"At least when I first got started in politics, it was kind of held against me," Mann said on the radio the other day. "I would get on talk shows and somebody would say, 'Where did you go to high school?' And I said Dixie Heights High School. You know, it's 30 miles away. They said, 'So you didn't grow up in Cincinnati?' "

Qualls, who grew up in Erlanger and was first elected to City Council 16 years after Mann, said times might have changed by her time at City Hall. "It wasn't even an issue," she said.

Mann and Qualls were talking to freelance reporter Joe Wessels about the role of the mayor as a regional leader on WAIF's Cincinnati Advance Radio Friday. Both had stories of leaving the city limits and talking to Greater Cincinnatians who spoke of them as "our mayor." Voters from as far away as Lawrenceburg, Ind., would swear they voted for him, Mann said.

But Cincinnati has a parochial side as well. "Where did you go to high school?" has become our traditional greeting. Cincinnati voters who don't know a Charterite from a cheese coney can tell an East Sider from a West Sider -- and certainly an outsider.

On the mayoral campaign trail, state Sen. Mark Mallory always notes that he was "born and raised in the West End." His opponent, Councilman David Pepper, also talks about growing up in Cincinnati, which he calls "America's great hometown." But it's not technically his hometown -- he grew up outside the city limits, in Wyoming, and he went to a prep school in Indian Hill.

But Pepper has tried to avoid Mann's mistake. Ask Pepper what part of town he grew up in, and he relates it to the nearest city neighborhood.

Pepper jokes that he grew up in the "greater Hartwell area."

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Smitherman's support is deep -- but is it wide?

Councilman-elect Christopher Smitherman thanks voters at the corner of Clifton and Ludlow avenues in Clifton after his victory in 2003. (Photo by Gary Landers/The Cincinnati Enquirer)

When former GOP mayoral candidate Charlie Winburn slipped the results of his Ohio Senate poll to the Enquirer, he "accidentally" included the results of a pre-primary telephone of Cincinnati voters that asked an interesting question.

Winburn's pollsters asked likely voters to identify -- without prompting them with names -- their first choice for Cincinnati City Council. Top three answers on the board:
  • Christopher Smitherman
  • Laketa Cole
  • David C. Crowley
Even if the poll is right, those three candidates won't necessarily finish at the top of the pack. Asking voters for their top choice isn't the same as asking them for their top nine.

Still, the results are revealing because they represent two things: name recognition, and a loyal following. And it probably means that Smitherman, Cole and Crowley have distinct constituencies not being represented by anyone else on City Council.

How does Smitherman see the good news? He didn't return several phone calls from the Enquirer seeking comment last week.

Another thing: Smitherman, Cole and Crowley got 12 percent of the responses in the Winburn poll. Crowley just barely got elected in 2003 by appearing on 34.4 percent of ballots, so they still need to get support beyond their most fervent supporters.

So why did Winburn, who was running for mayor, poll on council candidates? "You weren't supposed to see that," he said. "But it's interesting, isn't it?"

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