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, January 27, 2006

Thor and his Magic Hammer

Last spring, Newtown businessman Thor Jacobs toyed with the idea of running in the June 14 Democratic primary in the 2nd Congressional District, but decided against it, even though the candidates were no better known than he was at the time.

But this time, Jacobs - possibly the only candidate in America named for a Norse god - appears to be serious about winning the May 2 Democratic primary.

He put out a press release Friday saying he had hired a campaign manager - Tiffany Ellis, who helped out on the congressional campaign of Paul Hackett last summer and who most recently worked on the campaign of Jon Corzine, the new governor of New Jersey.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

A great big "Thank You'' from Betty Montgomery

Betty Montgomery may have jettisoned her gubernatorial campaign, but not her good manners.

Most politicians could stand a trip to MisteRogers' Nieghborhood for a lesson in the virtues of the words "please'' and "thank you,'' but Montgomery showed Thursday that she is not among them, sending a letter to supporters on her gubernatorial campaign's e-mail list thanking them for their help and asking them (politely) if they would be there for her as she runs for her old job, Ohio attorney general.

Montgomery wrote that she and her campaign staff recently received a new poll that she said identified her as "the most well-known, most well-liked, anmd most trusted candidate in the race.'' Unforutnately for her, it also showed her dead last behind Ken Blackwell and Jim Petro.

"Although I wasn't behind by an insurmountable, the kind of campaign I'd have to wage in the current atmosphere is not the kind of campaign I was willing to run,'' Montgomery said.

"A negative campaign,'' she said, "would poison an already toxic political atmosphere in our state.''

She wrote, too, about her admiration for Ronald Reagan, implying that the Great Communicator would not have appreciated seeing Republicans slinging mud at each other all over Ohio.

Mister Rogers probably wouldn't have thought much of it either.

Dems spoof Boehner in new ad

Two of the most liberal groups in Washington - Public Campaign Action Fund and the Campaign for America's Future - released Internet ads today that attack the three House Republicans running to succeed Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas as House majority leader.

Check out the ad on Rep. John Boehner of West Chester. Note that the ad is correct when it says Boehner handed out PAC checks on the floor of Congress, but that happened back in 1995, and Boehner says now that he regrets doing it.

Next, check out the ad featuring Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri, who claims the lead in the race. Blunt does have the closest ties to DeLay of the three, as the ad suggests, but what's wrong with that? It's not like DeLay has been found guilty of anything - yet.

Finally, check out the ad targeting Rep. John Shadegg of Arizona, who trails the others in promised votes but could end up getting enough votes to be the tiebreaker. Shadegg did get money from sources linked to Abramoff, like the ads says, but he has since donated all of it to charity.

*Disclaimer: These ads and this post are meant to be satirical and should not be viewed or read by anyone without a sense of humor.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Get Well Soon

A linebacker-sized Get Well Soon card to Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer was displayed in Council Chambers Wednesday before the city council meeting. The card, which reads "Who Dey Think Gonna Keep Carson Palmer Down?" had nearly 100 signatures...and counting

The card, which is six-foot tall and four-foot wide, was designed by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce, and was in council chambers so city employees could sign it.

Hamilton County sheriff endorses Blackwell

Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis today endorsed Ken Blackwell for governor, going with the Republican candidate from Cincinnati.

“Sheriff Leis has fought to protect Hamilton County families for years as sheriff, and I know he shares the values we need to help all Ohio families build strong, vibrant communities,” Blackwell said. “He is a great addition to my campaign team.”

“Ken is the strongest gubernatorial candidate left who is pro-law enforcement,” Leis said. “As governor, Ken will be a key supporter of law enforcement, a critical need for our entire state. Ken has been a friend of law enforcement for years and I know we can trust him to keep his word.”

Leis has served as Hamilton County Sheriff since 1987, winning re-election to the post in 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004.

Reece: "I told them so.''

Cincinnati businessman Steve Reece, a former congressional candidate who made an unsuccessful bid for Ohio Democratic Party chairman last month, was miffed today by news that U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland has picked Lee Fisher as his running-mate in the governor's race.

In the Democratic Party, Reece said, "Minorities can't be governor. They can't be lieutenant governor. They can't be treasurer. They can't even be secretary of state."

"But we're going to run one for auditor in a contested primary,'' Reece said of state Rep. Barbara Sykes of Akron.

"I'm not saying (Fisher's) a bad candidate at all,'' Reece said. But if Democrats want to regain control of the Ohio General Assembly or win any statewide seats, the party needs to add some diversity to the ticket, he said.

"That's why I ran... I told them so.''

City Appointments

Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory made several appointments to various boards and committees on Wednesday:

* Councilman Jeff Berding will serve as the city's representative to the Hamilton County Transportation Improvement District. Berding replaces former Councilman Christopher Smitherman until Dec. 31, 2006.

* Mallory aid LaShawn Butler and council member Laketa Cole to the Board of Directors of the Community Action Agency. Both will serve until Jan. 31, 2009. Council member David Crowley also was reappointed to the Community Action Agency. His term also expires Jan. 31, 2009.

One other reappointment was Lorrie Platt, who will continue to serve on the Board of Directors of the Citizens Complaint Authoirty. She will serve her second two-year term, set to expire in January of 2008.

Strickland to pick Fisher as running mate

Former Ohio Attorney General Lee Fisher will be named Thursday as Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland's running-mate, sources told the Enquirer today.

Fisher, who lost to Gov. Bob Taft in the 1998 race for governor, becomes the first gubernatorial nominee to run as lieutenant governor since 1834, said one Democrat close to Strickland's campaign.

By selecting a running-mate from Cleveland, the U.S. congressman from Scioto County balances his ticket geographically while siphoning votes from his primary opponents, both of whom live in Cleveland suburbs: state Sen. Eric Fingerhut of Shaker Heights and former state Rep. Bryan Flannery of Lakewood.

The annoucement will be made at a 9 a.m. news conference Thursday in Cleveland. The pair will later appear at an afternoon news conference in Columbus.

In the years since his loss to Taft, Fisher has been president and CEO of the Center for Families and Children, Cleveland.

During an Associated Press conference for editors and reporters on Jan. 5, Strickland hinted that he might pick a minority or woman as a running-mate.

The fact that Democrats encouraged state Rep. Barbara Sykes, an African-American from Akron, to run for state Auditor may have been planned this week to take some heat off Strickland for picking another white male.

Mr. Commissioner, Mr. Senator?

At today's Hamilton County Commission meeting, Commissioners Todd Portune and Phil Heimlich briefly got into a debate over what Portune charged was some companies trying to circumvent laws requiring higher wages for workers on government construction projects.

Heimlich's philosophy is government should be done as cost-effectively and efficiently as possible, a stance Portune said sounds good to potential voters but actually harms many.

Portune said 5 million more children went into poverty last year, some the result of such stances and actions.

Portune blasted Heimlich for publicly saying he supports family values and morals, something Portune suggested was hypocritical if Heimlich doesn't help workers get decent wages.

Heimlich halted the impromptu debate by saying that specific argument belongs on a stage higher than a county commission meeting. "This is perhaps more of a Senatoral race (subject) and perhaps, some day, who knows?" Heimlich said with a grin, suggesting the Republican could be an opponent to the Democrat Portune in a future campaign.

Portune didn't shy away from the suggestion.

"Who knows?" Portune answered with a nod and a smile.

Do they REALLY want citizen feedback?

Hamilton County commissioners might want to adhere to the adage "Be careful what you wish for -- because you might get it."

Commissioners issued a self-administered "report card" in December that looked at trends in 30 different categories - home values, poverty, population, crime and tax revenue - to give commissioners a snapshot of the services county government provides and how those services will be affected in the future.

The report included a postage-paid post card so residents could write comments and send them to commissioners. Hundreds have replied thus far.

Generally, the comments commended the report as insightful, telling, easy to read and well done.

But some residents took the opportunity to add their opinions -- some biting -- on lots of issues.

One criticized the penmanship of Commissioner Todd Portune, suggesting it was so sloppy as to identify him as a medical doctor. Another chastized Commissioner Phil Heimlich for "grand standing" with the report card.

One pointed out that all three commissioners -- Portune, Heimlich and Pat DeWine -- are former Cincinnati Council Members, suggesting that wasn't a positive. "You commissioners screwed up Cincinnati. Now it looks like (you're doing the same) to the county," one wrote.

Another read: "The way this county is set up is loony. The only people who qualify for anything has book knowledge. Most of them don't know nothing and are lazy as hell," one wrote.

Some were less polite.
  • "(You should) publish (the report card) on toilet tissue so it can be recycled often," one wrote.
  • "Please resign now."
  • "Is this all you do? Get a job."
  • "Pay the postage (for the comment cards) with YOUR tax dollars, you dumb (expletive deleted)."
  • "This report is a waste of money."
  • "Don't print this junk."
  • "You commissioners are overpaid if this is the best you can come up with."

Others addressed specific complaints to parts of the report card that noted criminal justice costs were skyrocketing:

  • "Stop appeasing the criminal mentality that whines until they get their way."
  • Tougher sentencing. Stop (Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity pleas). They're acting. Duh!"

Others voiced displeasure with the part of the report card that noted there is a likelihood of a $190 million deficit in the fund that pays for the two stadiums that are home to the Bengals and Reds.

  • "The main problem is not the report (card) -- it is the stadium 'deal.' You hoodwinked all of us into believing it was vital to spend millions for 8 (home) games. SHAME!"
  • "Get our money back from Bengals & NFL!!!"

One was particularly upset that Bob Bedinghaus, the Hamilton County Commissioner who led the sales tax increase in the mid-1990s that provided the money to build the stadiums now is a highly paid executive for the Bengals.

  • "A former County official promoting the stadia is now an employee of same?" one wrote.

Commissioners and their staff will review the comments and use them to create next year's report card.

Report from Westwood

Enquirer reporter Gregory Korte filed this report from Tuesday night's Westwood Concern meeting:

Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory defended his proposal to increase the top pay for political appointments at City Hall on the eve of tonight’s vote on the ordinance.

At a meeting of Westwood Concern Tuesday night, Mallory argued that he needed to pay his chief of staff, Carla Walker, $76,000 a year to stay competitive. His ordinance would raise the maximum pay for his top legislative aide from $64,900 to $95,500 a year.

“Here’s what’s important. We talk a lot in this city about trying to attract and retain young, bright people,” he said.

“I have a philosophy of only hiring people who are smarter than me, and I feel real strange about hiring people smarter than me, and then paying them less than I make,” said the mayor, who draws an annual salary of $111,402 a year. “If anything, I set that salary too low.”

Mallory said his survey of comparably sized cities found that other mayors have staffs of 12 to 28 people, making between $97,000 to $160,000 a year.

Cincinnati, with a council-manager form of government, has historically had small mayoral staffs that were paid at the same rate as council legislative aides. Other than the city manager and the clerk of council, those aides are the only employees at City Hall hired directly by elected officials.

Many of those aides are paid in the $30,000 to $40,000 range. Westwood resident Sharon Lewis told Mallory Tuesday that “most taxpayers are lucky if they earn $30,000 a year.”

But Westwood Concern co-founder Mary Kuhl didn’t see what the flap was about. “We really need the best people in there serving (the mayor), and we need to pay them,” she said.

Discuss Taft's State of the State

The Politics Extra blog is hosting an open thread on Gov. Bob Taft's State of the State address today at noon.

Watch it live at www.taftnews.com and tell us what you think by commenting on our blog.

NPR: Ohio bill shows Brinkmanship on abortion

Never let it be said that state Rep. Tom Brinkman does anything halfway.

Brinkman, R-Mount Lookout, works his district's chicken-dinner circuit like every day was the day before an election.

When the Ohio House seemed ready to take up "concealed carry" legislation allowing residents permits to strap on firearms, Brinkman carried around a Vermont-style amendment -- allowing the right to carry with no restrictions -- for months, just waiting for a bill to attach it to.

So when National Public Radio went looking for a state where lawmakers were looking to abolish abortion completely, they interviewed -- who else? -- Brinkman.

With the 33rd anniversary of the Supreme Court decision establishing a right to abortion and Samuel Alito's imminent confirmation to the Supreme Court, Brinkman's nine-month-old House Bill 228 is starting to get national attention.

In an interview that aired this morning, Brinkman told NPR's Libby Lewis he was tired of the "incremental change" favored by the "old" pro-life movement, and wanted to force an unambiguous reconsideration of Roe v. Wade by passing state legislation to ban abortion completely.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Wulsin covers her bases

At the noon hour Monday, Victoria Wells Wulsin, the physician from Indian Hill who finished second to Paul Hackett in last June's 2nd District Democratic primary, showed up at a downtown meeting of Democratic party activists with two sets of candidate nominating petitions under her arm.

One was for the 2nd Congressional District, in case she decides to run again for the seat won in August by Republican Jean Schmidt.

The other was for the 35th Ohio House District, now held by Republican Michelle Schneider, Schmidt's friend and Columbus roommate when they were both serving in the Ohio General Assembly.

By the Feb. 16 candidate filing deadline, one of those sets of petitions will be filed with the Hamilton County Board of Elections and one will go in the dustbin.

Wulsin is not yet sure which will go where.

The doctor, who runs an AIDS prevention agency, said what she does depends a lot on what Hackett does.

Hackett, last summer's natioal political sensation when he came just short of knocking off Schmidt in one of the most Republican congressional districts in the country, has set his sights higher this time - the U.S. Senate seat of Republican incumbent Mike DeWine.

But to take on DeWine, Hackett first has to deal with Rep. Sherrod Brown in the May 2 Democratic primary. That is not exactly a chip shot and a short putt, since Brown has run statewide several times before, started his campaign with $2 million in the bank, and comes from northeast Ohio, which is, after all, where Democratic voters in Ohio tend to congregate.

Some Democrats in the 2nd District - including Hamilton County chairman Tim Burke - would like to see Hackett forego the Senate race and take another whack at Schmidt.

Wulsin says that if Hackett does drop his Senate bid and goes for a rematch, she'll file the Ohio House petitions and skip the 2nd District.

But Hackett shows no signs of getting out. Wulsin said she ran into him recently at a Democratic party function in Columbus and came away with the impression that he was dead-set on taking on Brown.

"It was good old Paul, all firey and feisty and committed to becoming a senator,'' Wulsin said.

If Wulsin does enter the 2nd District race, she automatically becomes the front-runner on the Democratic side, given the nature of the competition.

There are three announced Democratic candidates so far, and none of them have much of a track record. There is Jim Parker, the health care administrator from Pike County, who finished fourth out of five in last June's primary; Jeff Sinnard, the Anderson township civil engineer and stay-at-home dad who finished dead last; and Thor Jacobs, the Newtown businessman who thought about running last year but decided against it.

Wulsin has one thing in common with the rest of the field - she's never been elected to anything either. But, with her second place finish and 27 percent of the vote last June, she looks, in comparison like a political colossus striding the earth.

And Bob Bennett, too.

Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett had these comments about Betty Montgomery's withdrawal from the gubernatorial primary today:

Betty Montgomery was one of the most popular and accomplished attorneys general in state history. It’s an office she loves and one she has served with remarkable leadership.

“Betty understands that political primaries are costly and divisive, and her willingness to step aside from the governor’s race for the good of the party should be commended. I appreciate the thoughtful and selfless consideration she gave to deciding where she could best serve, and I’m confident her decision to run for attorney general will be welcome not only by those in our party but also by the majority of Ohioans.

“She enters the attorney general’s race as a formidable candidate with an extensive record of experience and a strong grassroots organization. Betty has been our top vote-getter in the past two statewide elections, and I have no doubt she will continue that same level of overwhelming support.”

Blackwell's take....

Gene Pierce, spokesman for Ken Blackwell’s gubernatorial campaign, made this statement today in response to Auditor Betty Montgomery’s announcement that she's out of the governor's primary race.

Phil Heimlich and Betty Montgomery have dropped out of the gubernatorial race to help the Republican Party. Jim Petro should follow suit and drop out to help the party, too. Betty Montgomery is a great public servant, and we look forward to having her somewhere on the November ticket.”

Note the word "somewhere.'' It doesn't sound like Pierce is fully convinced Petro will stay in the governor's race. Pierce also pointed out that Blackwell leads in primary and general election match-ups in all recent polls, raised more money than all other candidate in the latest filing period and has a grassroots network of more than 10,000 supporters across the state.

Petro reacts

Here's Attorney Jim Petro's initial reaction to today's news that Auditor Betty Montgomery is pulling out of the governor's race. The question now is...what happens if Petro decides he wants to run for re-election as attorney general?

"Betty Montgomery has run an honorable and spirited campaign,'' Petro said. "In all of my public statements, I have always stated my belief that Betty Montgomery has had a very distinguished record as Attorney General and Auditor of State. I have been proud to support her in all of her elections since we first came to know one another in 1988. I am very pleased that she will be the Republican candidate for Attorney General, and I wholeheartedly endorse her candidacy and her election."

This statement indicates Petro's not pulling out of the Republican Party primary against Secretary of State Ken Blackwell. He has until Feb. 16 to decide.

More on DCCC visit to Cincinnati

Here is what the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) said in a news release e-mailed to reporters about tomorrow's event with Democrat John Cranley.

(Washington, D.C.) –Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel will join Cincinnati city councilman and congressional candidate John Cranley – a proven budget balancer – at a press conference in Cincinnati this Wednesday. Emanuel and Cranley will highlight the massive and growing deficit under the Republican Congress and the need for real reform and meaningful change. Ohio families deserve more than Congressman Steve Chabot’s empty promises and the Republican deficits.

After this news conference, Emanuel will headline a $500-per-person fundraiser luncheon for Cranley. Cranley is running against Chabot in the 1st Congressional District.

In his own words

Rep. John Boehner, R-West Chester, wrote an op-ed in today's conservatice Townhall.com site about how to keep the Republican majority in the House.

Boehner vying to be the next House majority leader, the No. 2 position under House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.

Read for yourself what he has to say.

Montgomery bows out, then bows in

Foundering in the polls and in campaign fundraising, State Auditor Betty Montgomery pulled the plug on her campaign for governor Monday, leaving Secretary of State Ken Blackwell and Attorney General Jim Petro to fight it out between themselves.

But Montgomery had no sooner folded her tent in the governor's race when she showed up Tuesday morning at the Wood County courthouse, where her political career began as county prosecutor in the 1980s, and announced that she would instead run for attorney general, a job she held for two terms.

A press release from the Montgomery campaign made it clear the candidate felt right at home making her switcheroo at the Wood County courthouse, "standing in the same packed courtroom where she once prosecuted rapists, child abusers and murderers.''

The fact is, attorney general is the job Betty Montgomery liked best all along; and it was her moderate, pro-choice philosophy was not selling well with potential Republican primary voters and deep-pocket contributors, who tend to like their statewide candidates to veer sharply to the right, even if they have to drift back to the middle in a general election campaign.

It will no doubt please the folks at Ohio Republican party headquarters in Columbus, who like contested primaries as much as they like root canals.

The question now - with Blackwell holding a convincing lead in the polls, can Petro - whose running mate, Phil Heimlich, took a hike on him last week - be far behind in jumping ship?

Stay tuned.

Schmidt gets nod from McEwen backer

Rep. Jean Schmidt announced today that Dr. John Willke, the founder of the pro-life movement, has endorsed her for re-election.

The announcement comes after Willke endorsed Republican Bob McEwen, a former congressman from southwest Ohio, during last year's 11-person GOP primary.

McEwen is again challenging Schmidt for the 2nd District. The GOP primary is May 2.

Does this mean McEwen will take Willke's endorsement down from his campaign Web site?

Monday, January 23, 2006

McEwen campaign nearly broke

Republican Bob McEwen, a former southwest Ohio congressman who announced last week that he'll challenge Rep. Jean Schmdit in the 2nd District, is starting his campaign without much cash.

According to a campaign finance report McEwen filed with the Federal Election Commission on Jan. 18 - the same day he announced that he'd challenge Schmidt in the GOP primary - he had just $576.09 in the bank.

The report, which covers activity from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, says McEwen started the 4th quarter of last year with $867.50 in the bank. He loaned his campaign $1,000 and accepted $646.04 from Cincinnati Bell. He then spent $425 on a campaign event at the Holiday Inn Cincinnati Eastgate in October and paid the San Diego, Calif.-based Complete Campaigns firm $650 for fundraising in October, November and December of last year.

Michael Harlow, a spokesman for McEwen's campaign, said McEwen plans to raise "a heck of a lot more money" and has been on the phone with fundraisers all week.

"He has received several thousand dollars just in the past week," Harlow said.

Meanwhile, Schmidt's last campaign finance report was filed Jan. 9 and covers activity from Aug. 23 to Sept. 30. It showed that her campaign had $47,791.03 in the bank at that time. A report showing how much cash she had on hand as of Dec. 31 is due to the FEC by the end of this month.

That's also when we'll find out how much money has been raised by Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Westwood, and his Democratic opponent, Cincinnati City Councilman John Cranley, so keep an eye out for an upcoming story in The Enquirer about how much money each of the area candidates have raised so far.

Tiz the season to raise campaign $$$

Wed., Jan. 25

Noon - Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) Chairman Rahm Emanuel, a congressman from Illinois, will headline a fundraiser luncheon at The Westin in downtown Cincinnati for City Councilman John Cranley, who is running against Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Westwood, in the 1st District. Tickets are $500 a plate.

Thursday, Jan. 26:

5 p.m. - Vice President Dick Cheney to headline a fundraiser reception at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington, D.C., for Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Cedarville. Tickets are $1,000 for the event or $5,000 to get a photo with Cheney and DeWine.

8 p.m. - Democrat Paul Hackett, an Indian Hill lawyer and Iraq war veteran who is running for the Senate, will hold a meet-and-greet event at the Southside Diner in Mount Vernon. More information is available on his Web site.

Mon., Jan. 30

6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. - Lynne Wasserman, the daughter of late movie mogul Lew Wasserman of Cleveland, to host a fundraiser cocktail reception at her Beverly Hills home for Hackett. The host committee includes director Rob Reiner, TV producer Norman Lear, producer Julie Bergman Sender ("Six Days, Seven Nights"), screenwriter Callie Khouri ("Thelma & Louise"), music producer T Bone Burnett, actor-producer Rufus Gifford ("Daddy Day Care"), and Dennis Hopper's wife Victoria. Tickets are available through the Hackett Web site for $2,100, $1,000, $500 and $250.

5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. - Rep. Geoff Davis, R-Ky., to host a "Welcome Back" fundraiser reception at Finemondo Restaurant in Washington, D.C. Tickets cost $1,000 per political action committee or $500 per person. More information available from the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) event site.

Tues., Jan. 31

Hackett fundraiser in San Francisco. No details immediately available.

Boehner on radio today

Congressman John Boehner will be a guest on the Sean Hannity Show today at 4:05 p.m. discussing his bid for House majority leader.

The West Chester Republican is in a tight race against Congressman Roy Blunt of Missouri to replace outgoing House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas as the No. 2 leader in the House.

You can listen to Boehner live online here.

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