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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Saturday, February 18, 2006

McEwen wins pancake poll

Rep. Jean Schmidt might as well have stayed home Saturday.

Schmidt got up early Saturday morning, ran six miles in the snow near her Clermont County home, showed up early at the Northeast Hamilton County Republican Club's annual pancake breakfast at the Sharonvnille Conventionn Center, shook hands with folks at the gun and knife show going on upstairs, walked among the pancake-eating Republicans in a red apron, serving coffee -- and still lost the straw poll.

Former congressman Bob McEwen might not have been such a whirling dervish early Saturday morning, but he walked away from the convention center with the kind of prize any challenger to a sitting incumbent dreams of to jump-start his campaign - a early straw poll vote among party faithful that might show signs of trouble for the incumbent.

McEwen didn't win by much - he took 86 votes to 76 for Schmidt, a 53% to 47% split, but it was enough to give him bragging rights and a bit of what the 41st president of the United States used to call "Big Mo.''

The straw poll is an annual feature of the Northeast GOP club's pancake breakfast - that is, in years where there are actual contested primary fights on the Republican side.

This year, there are some doozies - the 2nd District contest between Schmidt and McEwen and the Ohio GOP gubernatorial tussle between Ken Blackwell and Jim Petro.

Petro and Blackwell were both at the Sharonville Convention Center working the crowd. For Petro, though, it was a suicide mission - he had to have known full well that Blackwell wasn't going to lose a straw poll in his home county. In the end, 64% of the pancake-eaters cast a straw poll vote for Blackwell.

The voters are all Republicans from heavily-populated northeast quandrant of Hamilton County - places like Blue Ash, Montgomery, Sharonville, Madeira, Indian Hill. All places where their are not only lots of Republican primary voters, but lots of Republican campaign dollars to be had.

Based on the special primary election last June in which Schmidt prevailed by rolling up big numbers in her home county of Clermont, everybody knew that McEwen was strong in the small town, rural areas of the 2nd District.

Then, the former congressman won the counties of Warren, Brown, Adams, Scioto and Pike, with the Hamilton County portion of the district - which makes up about one-third of the total GOP registration in the 2nd - going to Schmidt by a small margin.

In an 11-candidate field last June, she won Hamilton County, but took only about one of every four votes in the GOP primary.

If the straw poll Saturday is any indication, Schmidt may have her work cut out for her winning those other three this time around.

Friday, February 17, 2006

A $20 million (or was it $30 million?) rejection

The attempt to buy The Banks project from Hamilton County wasn’t a secret plot by Council Members, Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory said today.

“It came to me from Chad Munitz,” Mallory said of the city’s economic development director.

“The (city) administration put that together.”

Mallory said he took the idea to Hamilton County Commission President Phil Heimlich who took the weekend to think about it and ask others for advice – before rejecting it.

The offer was $20 million from Cincinnati in exchange for Hamilton County ceding its right to The Banks – the proposed $600 million retail/commercial/residential neighborhood on Cincinnati’s riverfront.

The $20 million, Mallory said, was the $10 million Hamilton County initially was promised by a developer last year, but that money fell through when the developer pulled out plus $10 million as an inducement.

“The land down there’s not worth that much,” the mayor said. “We wanted to make a realistic offer.”

That $20 million was specified to be used for the $225 million jail Hamilton County officials admit they have to build soon.

Because of his friendly relationship with Heimlich and as further inducement, Mallory also offered to use “my contacts in Columbus” to help Hamilton County possibly get another $10 million from state coffers for the jail.

Before becoming mayor, Mallory was the State Senate assistant minority leader.

Heimlich rejected the city’s offer.

Who told Todd?

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune was shocked to learn that his government rejected a $20 million offer from the city of Cincinnati for the city to take over the $600 million Banks project.

"We never rejected an offer," Portune said Friday of the government on which he serves as one of three elected commissioners.

That's because, he said, the offer was never brought to him, discussed with him or the public.

"The county may only act decisively via action of the Board. We never met about this issue, much less took any action on it," Portune noted.

"How was it that our commission President could lawfully reject a proposal that was not his decision, alone, to make? "

The offer came from Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory to Commission President Phil Heimlich who rejected it.

Portune is upset at what he views as too much Hamilton County government business being done outside the view of the public.

The rejected Banks' proposal comes on the heels of Portune feeling slighted two weeks ago when the Hamilton County administration issued a Request for Proposals -- a process that allows developers to express their interest in a project -- was issued for The Banks.

That was done, Portune said, even though he requested changes be made to it -- specifically, making the "Small Business Development" plan in the proposal more meaningful to attract more minority developers to the project.

By not doing that, Portune believes Hamilton County needlessly alienated Cincinnati City Council members who also were upset the RFQ was issued without their input on what they believe is a project which the county and city are supposed to partner.

The city's offer to pay Hamilton County $20 million for The Banks property came after Hamilton County unilaterally issued the RFQ -- something that perhaos isn't coincidental, Portune suggested.

"The Council is telling both, I think, the county and the Mayor, that enough of the secret meetings," Portune noted.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

No cake walk for Dale Mallory

There are at least three Democrats in the 32nd Ohio House District who don't believe that Dale Mallory, brother of the mayor, should inherit the state legislative seat his family has held for 32 of the past 40 years.

They filed petitions Tuesday to run against him in the May 2 Democratic primary.

The best known of the three is Eve Bolton of Colllege Hill, the former Hamilton County recorder who ran an unsuccessful campaign for Cincinnati City Council last year.

Eric Wilson, another unsuccessful candidate for council, also filed, along with Yvette Barbara Baldwin, a first-time candidate from University Heights.

Dale Mallory, the West End Community Council filed his petitions earlier in the week. His brother, Mark Mallory, walked into the Hamilton County Board of Elections about 3:30 Thursday to file papers to run for Democratic state central committeeman from the 7th Ohio Senate District.

The mayor, who once held the Ohio House seat, said he was not suprised that the 32nd House District - a central city seat that is heavily Democratic - had drawn a crowd of Democratic candidates.

"It's a unique opportunity,'' the mayor said. "House seats don't open up often.''

It is an open seat because the incumbent Democrat, Catherine Barrett, is term-limited out and is challenging Eric Kearney for the 7th Ohio Senate District seat.

Columbus surpasses Cincinnati

In case anyone's wondering, President Bush's visit to the Columbus suburb of Dublin yesterday ended his longest absence from the Buckeye state since he took office. His last visit to Ohio was June 9 to speak to the Ohio Highway Patrol Academy in Columbus.

Also, with yesterday's visit - his 39th - the Columbus area finally surpassed Greater Cincinnati in the number of presidential visits, bringing Columbus' tally to 12 while Cincinnati (including Indian Hill, West Chester, Hamilton and Wilmington) has had 11 visits.

But don't get carried away, Columbus.

Bush will be back in the Buckeye state next week (Feb. 23) for his 40th visit to headline a fundraiser dinner for Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Cedarville, at the Indian Hill home of Margie And Mark Hauser. That would tie Cincinnati and Columbus for the number of visits from the chief executive.

FYI, 62 percent of Bush visits to Ohio have been campaign-related.

(Cool map courtesy of Enquirer reporter Greg Korte.)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

We cut off everyone's heads!

Ohio state Rep. Tom Brinkman, R-Cincinnati, who announced earlier today that he's backing Republican Bob McEwen's attempt to oust Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Miami Township, in the GOP primary May 2, sent out this statement in response to Schmidt's earlier statement:

What statement? You know, the one where she was upset that Brinkman and others (including McEwen) "had a great time pretending to cut off" her head.

Here's the statement:
COAST (Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes) has bestowed the Marie Antoinette "Let them Eat Cake" Award on a deserving politician for five years, starting with Commissioner Thomas L. Neyer, Jr. in 2000. This year, Jean Schmidt richly earned it. Other winners have included Council member Alicia Reece, Governor Bob Taft and Commissioner John Dowlin.

It is intended to be a fun poke at the politician who displays the most blithe ignorance of the plight of innocent taxpayers. The peasants of France, carrying pitchforks, of course beheaded at the guillotine the Queen who had created their misery.

COAST annually prepares a cake to celebrate the award recipient, and with great fanfare and celebration serves it to its members at its annual membership fundraiser. It was presented with much humor and enthusiasm, including by a bi-partisan assembly of elected officials, and was received by the attendees thusly.

"No honoree before has complained of the honor, and we doubt anyone will again," said COAST President Jim Urling. "In addition to being unable to control her urges to tax and spend, Ms. Schmidt obviously has no sense of humor."

In addition, there is no distortion of her voting record. During her time in the legislature, she NEVER voted against a single tax increase, and voted in favor of more than a dozen, including the sales tax, and gasoline tax and adding a new dry cleaning tax.

Brinkman, the founder of COAST, was asked - to be fair - if the group severs the heads of everyone who wins this award.

His answer?

"Only people who raise my taxes!"

Dean: Skullduggery!

According to AP, Democratic party chairman Howard Dean told a student audience in Miami that "some skulduggery in Washington" improperly led to Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett's decision to end his bid for the U.S. Senate.


Skullduggery or skulduggery. n. sneaky, dishonest behavior; trickery.
(Webster's New World College Dictionary)

So was skullduggery going on?

Hackett told Enquirer reporter Howard Wilkinson that Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who is chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and other Democratic elected officials called potential campaign donors and asking them not to give to the Hackett campaign.

"I know there were calls to potential donors; people told me," Hackett said. "But that's OK. This is a big boy's game. I'm not crying in my soup over it."


According to Federal Election Commission regulations and an advisory opinion that FEC Chairman Michael Toner concurred with, it's actually illegal to use FEC reports to get names of donors so you can call them up and harass them or solicit them for donations in other campaigns. If Schumer or other officials used FEC reports to call donors, they could have violated the law.

DSCC: No skullduggery.

DSCC spokesman Phil Singer sent out this statement yesterday: "Neither the DSCC nor Senator Schumer reached out to donors to ask them to take sides in this race. Paul Hackett’s statesman-like decision will help us win one of the most important Senate races in the nation."

Dance hall joint

Cincinnati Councilman David Crowley voted "no" on a Cecil Thomas motion during Wednesday's City Council meeting - until he realized he was voting on the wrong Thomas motion.

The situation was confusing because Thomas has two very similar issues pending: one increases the punishment for holding a dance without the proper permit; the other increases the penalty for possession of a small amount of marijuana.

In both cases, the offenses are increased from a minor misdemanor (a $100 fine) to a fourth-degree misdemeanor (which carries the potential of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine).

Crowley thought he was voting on the marijuana issue when he cast his "no" vote. Upon learning it was the dance hall issue, Crowley changed his vote to conform with the other eight members of council.

"I thought Cecil slipped a joint in there on me," Crowley said.

The marijuana issue is being researched by city staff, which is supposed to have a report back to the Thomas' Law and Public Safety Committee in two weeks. The dance hall issue passed unanimously. It effects both promoters who put on a dance without the proper license and dance hall owners who allow dances on their premises without the proper permits.

Don't cut off my head!

Statement from Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Miami Township, that was just sent out to reporters by her re-election campaign:

"No one particularly enjoys being called names. However, even those that abandon the facts and create pure fiction have rights. As a public official you must have thick skin.

However, Tom Brinkman has gone too far.

Cutting a head off in effigy is something we expect from radical lunatics, not Republican lawmakers.

At a recent C.O.A.S.T. fundraiser, Tom Brinkman again compared me to Marie Antoinette. Only this time he took it a step further and posed for the cameras severing my head with a long knife on a large cake with my likeness.

Mr. Brinkman's actions speak far louder than words could ever express.

I am told Mr. Brinkman and his followers in attendance, including my opponent Bob McEwen, all laughed as he placed the knife to my throat and cut. They had a great time pretending to cut off my head.

Mr. Brinkman's distortions of my voting record are laughable. Tom cutting my hroat in effigy is well beyond political discourse, it is sick.

I don't expect Mr. Brinkman to change his stripes but I do hope he has the common decency apologize to the people of Cincinnati and to repudiate his sickening behavior."

Schmidt on faulty Delta flight

Rep. Jean Schmidt was one of the 28 passengers on the Delta Airlines flight from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) to Washington, D.C., yesterday morning that had to return to the airport because of a report that the cabin had lost pressure.

The flight took off at 7:55 a.m., but pilots received a warning about possible decompression of the cabin, so it returned to the airport in Hebron, Ky., landing at 9:12 a.m. without incident, Delta spokeswoman Gina Laughlin said. There was no loss of cabin pressure, she said.

The flight was canceled and passengers onboard the Boeing 737-200 were put on the next flight at 10:35 a.m.

According to Schmidt spokesman John Ashbrook, the Miami Township Republican was not hurt. She was able to get on a later flight to Washington, and since the House didn’t hold votes until 6:30 p.m. last night, she “didn’t miss a thing,” Ashbrook said.

Is 98 degrees considered hot?

Former boy band member and former Cincinnati mayoral candidate Justin Jeffre wants a new gig.

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune said Jeffre told him Tuesday that Jeffre was considering running for commissioner against Republican incumbent Phil Heimlich whose seat is up for election this fall.

Because former Cincinnati Council Member David Pepper is almost assured of winning the Democratic endorsement to take on Heimlich, Jeffre likely would have to run as an independent.

To do that, Hamilton County Board of Elections officials said Jeffre would have to gather 2,433 signatures on a petition to allow his name on the ballot -- or 1,725 more votes than the 708 he received last year when he ran for Cincinnati mayor.

Jeffre is best known nationally as a member of the boy band 98°.

Jeffre couldn't immediately be reached.

POLL: Brown leading DeWine

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) released a new poll today – one day after Democratic Senate candidate Paul Hackett of Indian Hill bowed out of the race – showing Democratic Rep. Sherrod Brown of northern Ohio leading Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Cedarville, in the Senate race 44 percent to 41 percent.

"Mike DeWine is vulnerable and Sherrod Brown can beat him," DSCC spokesman Phil Singer said.

The poll was conducted by Hart Research from Feb. 2-7 and included a survey of 502 Ohio general election voters. The DSCC did not immediately respond to an e-mail asking what the margin of error was for the poll.

Here's the question folks were asked:

QUESTION: Suppose the candidates for this November's general election for United States senator were Sherrod Brown, the Democrat, and Mike DeWine, the Republican. If the election were held today, for whom would you vote – Sherrod Brown or Mike DeWine? (IF "NOT SURE," ASK:) Well, as of right now, do you lean more toward Brown or more toward DeWine?

Sherrod Brown…...………41
Sherrod Brown (lean)……3
Mike DeWine………..…....38
Mike DeWine (lean)……....3
Neither/other (VOL)…..…7
Not sure………………...........8

Hamilton County GOP launches own blog

Hat tip to one of our many commenters:

The Hamilton County Republican Party started its own blog this month.

It started Feb. 1 with this announcement:

"The Hamilton County Republican Party is hosting this blog to encourage ongoing discussion about political issues. The blog will be updated daily with local, statewide and national political news. Chairman George Vincent will also contribute an entry a week."

Postings so far includes ones on the GOP primary, Bush's visit to Ohio today - and the latest entry bashing the media for its coverage of Vice President Dick Cheney's hunting accident that has left a friend hospitalized:

The national media has completely overblown the Cheney hunting accident story and has created a "crisis" where none should exist. The media coverage for the past 24-48 hours has been biased and unfair.

Read more at the blog

Dispatch from Loveland

Reporter Jane Prendergast filed this report from Loveland:

Tom Carroll officially got the Loveland city manager’s job on Tuesday night, but not without a few harsh words from the guy sitting next to him.

Carroll, interim city manager since his predecessor left last fall and assistant city manager before that, came out on top of a nationwide search for a new city leader. A committee of officials and citizens – including this year’s Valentine Lady - narrowed the list of candidates from more than 50 resumes to three, then to one – Carroll.

Mayor Rob Weisgerber sent out a press release a couple of weeks ago, saying it was his intention to hire Carroll.

But when the hiring came up for an official vote on Valentine’s Day in the city of love, Councilman Paul Elliott didn’t show Carroll much love at all.

Elliott said he voted no “respectfully’’ and said he wasn’t sure Carroll should’ve been everybody else’s first choice.

Councilman Dan Daly chimed in, saying Elliott’s comments were disrespectful to the hardworking citizens who spent time on the selection committee. He pointed out that Elliott hadn’t attended any of the committee’s meetings and said he was disgusted.

Vice Mayor Joe Schickel said was “happily voting yes’’ and that he “couldn’t be more pleased with our selection.’’

Carroll got the $89,000 Valentine’s Day present, 6-1.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Who's a Pepper?

David Pepper is a big name who can raise some big money, but Hamilton County Republicans -- of course -- don't see him as a real threat to Hamilton County Commissioner Phil Heimlich's job.

"We’re not worried about David Pepper," said Brad Greenberg, executive director of the Hamilton County Republican Party.

"He lost in his bid for (Cincinnati) mayor. He lost in his bid for state senator and he’s going to lose in his attempt for county commissioner," Greenberg told the Enquirer today.

Greenberg's comment came with a complaint that the GOP isn't quoted as much in such matters as Tim Burke, chairman of the Hamilton County Democratic Party.

Hackett bows out of politics: "Rock On"

After days of speculation about what he would do, Paul Hackett released a statement through his Senate campaign saying he is not only getting out of the U.S. Senate race, but out of politics altogether, frustrated and angry over Democratic leaders' attempts to get him to switch to the 2nd Congressional District race.

Below is the full statement (which, for some unknown reason, popped into reporters' e-mail at 9:02 a.m. Tuesay with a release date of Feb. 9):

Hackett Statement on Senate Campaign
Cincinnati, OH - Paul Hackett released the following statement today to his friends and supporters regarding his withdrawal from the campaign for U.S. Senate in Ohio.

Today I am announcing that I am withdrawing from the race for United States Senate. I made this decision reluctantly, only after repeated requests by party leaders, as well as behind the scenes machinations, that were intended to hurt my campaign.
But there was no quid pro quo. I will not be running in the Second Congressional District nor for any other elective office. This decision is final, and not subject to reconsideration.
I told the voters from the beginning that I am not a career politician and never aspired to be--that I was about leadership, service and commitment.
Similarly, I told party officials that I had given my word to other good Democrats, who will take the fight to the Second District, that I would not run. In reliance on my word they entered the race. I said it. I meant it. I stand by it. At the end of the day, my word is my bond and I will take it to my grave.
Thus ends my 11 month political career. Although it is an overused political cliché, I really will be spending more time with my family, something I wasn't able to do because my service to country in the political realm continued after my return from Iraq. Perhaps my wonderful wife Suzi said it best after we made this decision when she said "Honey, welcome home." I really did marry up.
To my friends and supporters, I pledge that I will continue to fight and to speak out on the issues I believe in. As long as I have the microphone, I will serve as your voice.
It is with my deepest respect and humility that I thank each and every one of you for the support you extended to our campaign to take back America, and personally to me and my family. Together we made a difference. We changed the debate on the Iraq War, we inspired countless veterans to continue their service by running for office as Democrats and we made people believe again. We must continue to believe.
Remember, we must retool our party. We must do more than simply aspire to deliver greatness; we must have the commitment and will to fight for what is great about our party and our country; Peace, prosperity and the freedoms that define our democracy.
Rock on.
Paul Hackett

Monday, February 13, 2006

McEwen: It's official

Bob McEwen put out a news release today saying that he has filed his declaration of
candidacy to run against Rep. Jean Schmidt for the U.S. House.

Spokesman Michael Harlow said what that means is that McEwen turned in signed petitions to run for the 2nd District race to the Hamilton County Board of Elections today.

That's because while the Federal Election Commission shows that McEwen filed an updated "statement of organization" on Jan. 31, he still hasn't filed amended his "statement of candidacy" since he filed last May to run in the special election.

Harlow said that filing should be upcoming.

Pepper vs. Heimlich!

Kimball Perry and Howard Wilkinson report:

David Pepper will send a Valentine's Card today to friends and supporters who have been urging him to run against county commissioner Phil Heimlich.

It's an e-mail saying he accepts their proposal.

Pepper's e-mail will go out Tuesday morning; in it he says he will run against the "failed leadership'' of Heimlich and the Republicans.

He cites the stalemate over The Banks development project and the FBI investigation of the county's Department of Jobs and Family Services as his proof that change is needed.

Pepper, who lost the mayor's race to Mark Mallory last fall with 48 percent of the vote, had been tugged in two directions for the past couple of weeks - with local supporters and Democratic leaders urging him to take on Heimlich and Ohio Democratic Party officials trying to nudge him into the Ohio Attorney General's race.

The locals won the tug-of-war, and Pepper, a Democrat, will take on Heimlich.

Bring it on, Heimlich dared.

"There is nothing more that I could ask for in my political life than the opportunity to contrast my limited government, lower taxes and forward progress in Hamilton County against the failed policies of higher taxes, higher spending and a downward spiral David Pepper brought to city hall," Heimlich said.

Pepper was a Cincinnati Council Member but lost in the mayoral race to Mark Mallory.

The board of commissioners hasn't had a Democratic majority since 1960-62 when Edward Tepe and Vincent Beckman were on the board.

Todd Portune is the lone Democrat on the board now. Heimlich is joined on the board by fellow Republican Pat DeWine. Heimlich's first four-year term ends at the end of the year.

Heimlich was a lieutenant governor candidate on the slate with Jim Petro, Ohio's Attorney General who is running for governor. Heimlich pulled out last month, saying he wants to complete his business as commissioner.

The filing deadline for the May primary is Thursday.

In or out? Don't ask Mallory

The Senate campaign of Paul Hackett was minding its own business Monday morning, trying to figure out how to beat Sherrod Brown, when the following e-mail from Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory started popping into reporters' e-mail files:

Media Statement from
Mayor Mark Mallory
City of Cincinnati

For Immediate Release: February 13, 2006
Contact: Dan Phenicie, 513-602-1227

Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory issues the following statement about Paul Hackett's decision to enter the race for the 2nd Congressional District.

"I applaud Paul Hackett for making the difficult decision to step out of the race for the US Senate and to step in to the race for the 2nd Congressional District. Paul's passion and dedication will make him an excellent Congressman for Ohio. It is time for Democrats to come together and focus on providing a clear vision for the future of Ohio and the country."

The problem was, Hackett had made no such announcement, according to Hackett campaign spokesman Karl Frisch.

Only 34 minutes later, Mallory's office put out a second notice to the media, which read as follows:

Media Statement from
Mayor Mark Mallory
City of Cincinnati

For Immediate Release: February 13, 2006
Contact: Dan Phenicie, 513-602-1227

Please note the corrected statement.

Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory issues the following statement about Paul Hackett's decision to enter the race for the 2nd Congressional District.

"I encourage Paul Hackett to make the difficult decision to step out of the race for the US Senate and step in to the race for the 2nd Congressional District. Paul's passion and dedication will make him an excellent Congressman for Ohio. It is time for Democrats to come together and focus on providing a clear vision for the future of Ohio and the country."

Frisch said the Hackett would put out its own statement later today, but said that Hackett intends to stay in the Senate race.

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