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, March 25, 2006

Social hour, followed by insults

Jean Schmidt and Bob McEwen will debate April 19. Or McEwen will debate himself. (Read to the end.)

The details, from the Anderson Township Republican Club:

March 25, 2006—The Anderson Township Republican Club has scheduled a debate between Congresswoman Jean Schmidt and former Congressman Bob McEwen on April 19, 2006 at 7:00 p.m. at the Mercy Healthplex Facility at Five Mile and State Roads in Anderson Township. There will also be social hour beforehand starting at 6:00 p.m. Mercy Healthplex is just across the street from the Anderson Mercy Hospital.

Jean Schmidt and Bob McEwen are both seeking the nomination in the May 7, 2006 (sic - May 2) primary election to run as the endorsed Republican candidate in the November 7, 2006 general election for the Ohio Second District Congressional seat. “There is an uneasy feeling among Ohio Second District Republicans because the last primary election to fill the seat vacated by Rob Portman did not produce a winning candidate who received more than 50% of the vote.” said Anderson Township Republican Central Committee Co-Chair Mike Jordan. “Our hope is that this primary will finally settle the question as to who Republicans want as their candidate and ultimately representing them in Congress.”

The previous primary election on June 14, 2005 had eleven candidates seeking the Republican Second District Congressional nomination. Jean Schmidt won the nomination by finishing first but receiving only 31% of the Republican vote. The other candidates received a combined 69% of the Republican vote with former Congressman Bob McEwen finishing a close second. Russ Jackson, President of the Anderson Township Republican Club, thinks this primary will serve as an unofficial run-off election of the two candidates that finished at the top in the last primary. “Eleven Republican candidates running in the last primary was simply too many with most of the candidates holding very similar positions, so how do you choose?” asked Jackson. “One thing is for sure, this time one Republican is going to finish the primary election with more than 50% of the vote.”

Duffy Beischel, a former president of the Anderson Township Republican Club, has served as moderator for the previous two Republican Congressional debates sponsored by the club. “Trying to moderate the last debate with eleven candidates was very difficult. Members of the audience did not get a fair opportunity to ask their questions,” commented Beischel. “With only two hours for the debate and each of the eleven candidates making opening remarks and having to answer each question, time did not allow for many questions.”

As with previous debates, each candidate will be allowed opening remarks followed by questions submitted earlier that evening by audience members. The club is also going to try another method of submitting questions in advance of the debate by using email and fax. If anyone wants to submit a question for both candidates, they can email it to andersontownship@aim.com or fax the question toll-free to 866-278-0157. The questions will not be given to the candidates in advance. “With two major candidates running for the nomination this time, there will be plenty of time for Second District residents to seek answers from candidates,” said Beischel.

But there is still uncertainty if both candidates will be in attendance. “Originally, we had scheduled the debate for our regular meeting on April 5, but Jean’s staff said she was in Washington on that date and they gave us April 19 as a date she could make it,” said Beischel. “Now other staff members are giving us various reasons why she cannot or will not attend. But they gave us that date, we’re moving forward, Bob McEwen will be in attendance, and we hope Jean will decide to participate.”

Friday, March 24, 2006

Hartmann: Nomination, here we come

Howard Wilkinson reports in tomorrow's Enquirer:

Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Greg Hartmann’s path to become Ohio’s next secretary of state became easier Friday when the Cleveland Republican challenging him in the May 2 primary suddenly withdrew.

State Rep. Jim Trakas told supporters on his campaign website Friday that he was dropping out and endorsing Hartmann, one of two Hamilton County Republicans running for statewide office this year.

“I make this decision knowing that in a very difficult time for Ohio and its Republican party, an expensive primary would detract from the ability of the Republican nominee to be successful in November,’’ Trakas wrote.

Hartmann said he has had several conversations with Trakas over the past few days and said Trakas told him “he figured I was going to end up winning this primary and that it was time to move on.’’

“I’m very grateful to him,’’ Hartmann said.

The Hamilton County Republican is particularly grateful because Trakas’ withdrawal means that Hartmann can hang on to the $420,000 he has in his campaign account instead of spending it in a GOP.

Hartmann is running to replace another Hamilton County Republican, Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, who is running for governor and is locked in a primary battle with Attorney General Jim Petro.

With Trakas’ withdrawal, Hartmann will be unopposed in the May 2 primary and face Democrat Jennifer Brunner in the fall. Brunner is a former Franklin County judge who was a lawyer in the secretary of state’s office when Democrat Sherrod Brown held that office.

The Secretary of State is the state’s chief elections officer, and collects business and licensing records.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Dems take a pass on 2nd District rugby scrum

When the Hamilton County Democratic Party's executive committee gathered Wednesday night in the basement of the Norwood Community Center, it appeared they were about to become the only one of seven counties in the 2nd Congressional District to endorse in the five-candidate primary.

By the time the meeting ended, though, they had thought better of it - thanks to some sage advice from some party elders.

The party's nominating committee had interviewed all five. Wednesday night, the nominating committee recommended a dual endorsement - one for Victoria Wulsin (even though the co-chairman of the nominating committee kept calling her "Wilson") and another for Gaby Downey of Sharonville, who teaches history and government at Milford High School.

All five candidates were given three minutes to make their pitches to the executive committee Wednesday night.

One of them, Newtown businessman Thor Jacobs could not be there; his mother passed away Wednesday morning. So David Little, a long-time political operative who is working on the Jacobs campaign, spoke for him, arguing that the party should not endorse and pointing out - rightly - that, a year ago, nobody in the room had heard of any of the candidates and there was no purpose to be served by giving one or two or them an advantage.

Wulsin used her three minutes to tell the Democrats that she thinks Jean Schmidt is an embarassment, which was not really a case of going out on a limb, given the audience she was speaking too.

Downey, a first-time candidate, did a little bank-shot hit on Wulsin, a resident of Indian Hill. The 2nd District, Downey said, is a place with regular working folks, not unlike the family she grew up in. "I don't have to pretend to be part of this district,'' Downey said.

Jeff Sinnard, a civil engineer from Anderson Township, was unapologetic for being a "pro-life Democrat,'' saying he knows that many Democrats "go crazy'' when they hear that.

Jim Parker, the health care administrator from Pike County, had people scratching their heads and looking nervously for the exits when he pulled out a jar of beans and threw them around the room, saying he was going to grow a "magic beanstalk'' that would presumably lead to Capitol Hill.

Honest, we're not making this up.

Parker was nice enough, though, to stay behind after the meeting and sweep up his beans.

After hearing from the five campaigns, three of the elder statesmen of the party - former congressman Tom Luken, retired AFL-CIO executive director Dan Radford and former party co-chairman Don Driehaus - rose to argue that the party really had no reason to endorse any of these candidates.

"Unless we have a really serious problem with one of these candidates, we should just let the process work,'' Driehaus said. "We should leave it up to the voters.''

The argument had an impact - county party chairman Tim Burke called for a voice vote on the Wulsin-Downey endorsements and they were voted down overwhelmingly.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Barrett drops a bomb on Dems; says "sayanora''

It's not easy leaving a roomful of politicians speechless, but State Rep. Catherine Barrett pulled it off Wednesday night, when she told the Hamilton County Democratic Party executive committee she is dropping out of the 9th Ohio Senate District race.

Democratic party leaders gathered in the basement of the Norwood Community Center Wednesday night for the purpose of deciding whether or not to endorse in several primary contests, including the 9th District, where Barrett was taking on State Sen. Eric Kearney, who was appointed to the job in January when Mark Mallory left to become Cincinnati's mayor.

Barrett, who is about to be term-limited out of the Ohio House, was sore at being passed over in favor of Kearney for the appointment, so she launched a campaign to defeat Kearney in the May 2 primary.

This opened up the prospect of a costly and assuredly nasty primary battle that many in the paraty wanted to avoid.

Party leaders decided to split the baby. State Rep. Steve Driehaus and Tyrone Yates played the role of Solomon as the co-chairs of the party's nominating committee. They recommended that the party's executive give both candidates a party endorsement, but before that could be acted on, Barrett got up in front of the group Wednesday night and said she was quitting the race.

"I want a healing process tonight,'' said Barrett, who a standing ovation from the group.

Party leaders applauded; and also breathed a sigh of relief.

Kearney said Barrett's announcement took him as much by surprise as it did the rest of the Democrats in the room. Her decision, Kearney said, may have had something to do with the fact that he has raised at least five times as much campaign money and had polling that showed far ahead.

But Kearney gave Barrett credit.

"It took a lot of gets for her to get up there and do that,'' Kearney said.

RNC Chairman: Ohio ''ground zero'' in '06 and '08

Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, during a stop in Columbus today, said Ohio remains the pivotal battleground state this year and in 2008.

“Like 2004, Ohio will be ‘”ground zero,’’ Mehlman said at a press briefing with reporters at Ohio Republican Party headquarters.

Tuesday, Mehlman said he met with 300 to 400 grassroots campaigners and financial supporters at county party headquarters in Cincinnati, Mason and Dayton.

Tonight, he’s in Pittsburgh before heading to Wisconsin, Illinois and Florida.

Mehlman was accompanied by Aaron McLear, regional press secretary and former aide to Gov. Bob Taft, as well as former House Speaker JoAnn Davidson who chaired the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign in Ohio.

“We intend to work with the Ohio state party to turn out voters,’’ Mehlman said, saying Republicans want to be “the big tent party’’ and reach out to labor unions, African Americans and other Democratic-leaning groups. “We need to expand this party.’’

Mehlman declined to discuss details of his strategy meetings, or pick a favorite in the GOP May 2 primary race for governor.

But he said the national party will back Secretary of State Ken Blackwell or Attorney General Jim Petro in the November election, as well as U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine and the party's congressional candidates.

“First of all, ’08, no matter what happens, Ohio is going to be a competitive state,’’ Mehlman said.

Mehlman defended Bush's domestic wiretaps and frowned on political scandals in Washington and Ohio before praising "a fantastic'' state GOP Chairman Bob Bennett. "There's no better chairman in America than Bob Bennett.''

For his part, Bennett offered the most candid and honest assessment of his party's recent troubles.

“I’ve had better years to start out with,’’ Bennett said, adding, “I’m looking for a big finish.’’


"Ken Mehlman contradicts himself,'' Brian Rothenberg, communications director for the Ohio Democratic Party, said today after the Republican National Committee chairman's visit to Columbus.

"If Ohio is ground zero, it is because of Ohio Republicans’ poor jobs record and the culture of pay-to-play corruption that has left Ohio voters fed up," Rothenberg said.

"Rather than talking about turning around Ohio's economy, Mr. Mehlman gave us
a bunch of bumper sticker phrases that are ringing hollow. He knows Mike
DeWine, Ken Blackwell
and Jim Petro are in trouble.’’

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

How about telling us BEFORE he gets here

Reporter Kimball Perry got this press release from the Hamilton County Republican Party late this afternoon:


National GOP Chairman in Cincinnati

Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman was in downtown Cincinnati this afternoon to address Republican donors and volunteers about campaign efforts for this November. Speaking at Hamilton County Republican headquarters, Mehlman stated that Ohio is one of the most important states to both the Republican and Democrat parties. “The road to the White House in 2008 goes through Ohio,” Mehlman said.

Mehlman gave credit to Republican grassroots efforts in Ohio for winning re-election for President Bush. He discussed the upcoming gubernatorial primary and the importance of re-electing Republican Senator Mike DeWine. Mehlman described DeWine’s Democrat opponent Sherrod Brown as being, “to the left of Dennis Kucinich.”

Statement of Executive Director Brad Greenberg

“We were thrilled to host Chairman Ken Mehlman at party headquarters today. Ken Mehlman’s success as a campaign strategist speaks for itself. We hope to utilize his plans and strategy for Republican candidates in November.”

For further information contact Brad Greenberg at 205-8477.

The picture says it all

From today's joint City Council/Hamilton County Commission meeting on The Banks:

Dog bites man; Democrats fight each other

Fans of the WWF, roller derby, rugby, and other less-than-gentle sports may want to stop by the Hamilton County Democratic Party executive committee meeting at the Norwood Community Center Wednesday night, where the fur will surely be flying.

That's when the party will make its final endorsements - or non-endorsements - for the May 2 primary; and, based on the recommendations that will be made by the party's candidate screening committees, there are likely to be some fireworks.

According to Tim Burke, the county party chairman, the screening committee that interviewed county candidates will endorse David Pepper, the would-be mayor, over former Forest Park mayor Stephanie Dumas in the county commissioner's race.

That is pretty much a no-brainer, but some of the other endorsement recommendations are anything but.

They include:

- A dual endorsement of both Eric Kearney and Catherine Barrett for the state senate. Kearney was appointed to the seat when Mark Mallory became mayor; Barrett, a state representative who is term-limted out this year, thought she deserved the promotion. Supporters of either one are unlikely to be happy with a split-the-baby decision.

- No endorsement at all in the race for Barrett's open Ohio House seat, where the mayor's brother, Dale Mallory, faces a serious challenger from former county recorder Eve Bolton. The legislative candidate screeening committee is going to recommend a wide open primary, with no candidate receiving the party blessing. Update! But Burke sent a letter to members of the executive committee urging them to reject the screeening committee's no-endorsement advice and give the party endorsement to Mallory.

- The 2nd Congressional District race, where there are five Democrats running. But the screening committee will recommend endorsing only two of them - Victoria Wulsin, the Indian Hill doctor who finished second to Paul Hackett in last year's special primary; and Gaby Downey, a Milford High School civics teacher and former Miami University basketball star who is running for office for the first time. If that happens, the other three are not likely to be happy campers- the mighty Thor Jacobs, who has raised a considerable amount of money and actually has paid campaign staffers; Jim Parker of Pike County, who has burned up so much gasoline criss-crossing the seven-county district that drilling for oil in ANWR may become absolutely necessary, and Jeff Sinnard, the stay-at-home dad who nonetheless shows up wherever two or more Democrats are gathered.

The fun starts at 7 p.m. Bring a helmet.

Neither snow nor sleet nor dark of night.....

.....can separate a politician from a room full of money.

Bob McEwen, trying to up-end Jean Schmidt in the May 2 Republican congressional primary, was up and at 'em before dawn Tuesday morning, sliding into downtown Cincinnati through the early-morning snowstorm with his wife Liz for a $250-a-plate fundraiser at the Queen City Club.

The headliner at the McEwen event was former GOP vice presidential candidate and HUD secretary Jack Kemp, a former Buffalo Bills quarterback for whom Tuesday's version of a Cincinnati blizzard was nothing more than a snow squall.

Kemp, who served with McEwen in Congress in the Reagan years, gave his usual stump speech extolling the virtues of tax cuts and free market economics, declaring that the present Republican-contreolled Congress is a little short on effective advocates for his point of view.

"Frankly, there aren't many people who can articulate our ideas,'' said Kemp. "I'm embarrassed by the Republican party at this time.''

He also repeated exactly the same opening joke that he used last spring when he appeared at another McEwen event at the Eastgate Holiday Inn - a shaggy-dog story about how he gave a protestor at the 2004 Republican National Convention his comeuppance, a story which does not improve with age.

"Frankly,'' to borrow the word Kemp is fond of starting sentences with, the nearly 100 Republicans in the audience were at least as interesting as the featured speaker.

Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis was front-and-center, and so, too, were two of the founders ofthe national right-to-life movement, John and Barbara Willke, the couple who created the local anti-abortion group that Schmidt used to chair.

McEwen's campaign staff was sweating bullets shortly before the 7:45 a.m. fundraiser began, fearing that the foul weather would mean Kemp would be performing before a half-empty room. Many of the faithful showed up late, but they showed up; and ended up filling nearly all the tables in the basement meeting room.

DeWine launches first TV ad

It’s never too early to start campaigning, especially if you’re Republican Sen. Mike DeWine, who faces a potentially tough re-election this November against Democrat Sherrod Brown, a longtime congressman from northern Ohio.

DeWine also has a few GOP challengers for the upcoming May 2 primary, including Bill Pierce, who has started to get attention for picking up support among county Republican parties. Pierce won an endorsement from the Knox County Republican Party, tied with DeWine in Preble County and got almost enough votes – more than DeWine – to be endorsed in Clermont County.

“We’ve had three counties rebuke a two-term sitting senator. I think that says a lot,” Pierce said. “It says that there’s a level of discontent and dissatisfaction with the two-term senator.”

So DeWine, who had $4.3 million in his campaign account at the end of 2005, got to work, dropping his first TV ad this week. It’s a spot produced by Stevens-Reed-Curcio-Potholm called “True Champion” that praises the Cedarville Republican for his work on a new law that requires drug companies to test medications for children.

Democrats wasted no time in criticizing DeWine for the ad, saying it’s ironic that DeWine is bragging about being an advocate for children after he voted earlier this month for a bill (S.1955) pending in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that makes it easier for insurance companies drop health benefits for children.

“When it comes to Mike DeWine, you need to watch what he does, not what he says,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Phil Singer said in a release.

But DeWine spokesman Mike Dawson said the bill - Health Insurance Marketplace Modernization and Affordability Act - would provide lower-cost health insurance plans than are available now so that small businesses can afford to offer some coverage instead of no coverage. A recent story in The Enquirer delved into the growing number of Ohioans who don't have access to health insurance. This bill would address that, Dawson said.

What do you think? Watch the ad for yourself here.

Wesley Clark in town today

Retired Gen. Wesley Clark, who ran for president in 2004 (and won the Oklahoma primary) is in Cincinnati today to meet with Democratic activists and state Democratic chairman Chris Redfern.

The "Conversation with local activists" is from 3 to 4:30 p.m. at the University of Cincinnati's Tangeman University Center, room 400C.

For more information call the Hamilton County Democratic Party at (513) 421-0495


Later today, Clark plans to attend a fundraising reception at a private home in Hyde Park for Cincinnati City Councilman John Cranley, who is challenging Republican Rep. Steve Chabot in the 1st Congressional District.

Cranley said he expects about 25 supporters to attend the event, which his campaign organized with only about 48-hours notice.

"It’s exciting," Cranley said. "We’re happy about it."

Monday, March 20, 2006

Upcoming fundraisers

Besides Bob McEwen's upcoming fundraiser with Jack Kemp and Anthony Munoz, here are some other big names expected in the Greater Cincinnati area soon:

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., will attend a lunch fundraiser in Clermont County on March 28 for Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Miami Township, and a dinner fundraiser in Indian Hill that night for Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Westwood.

Meanwhile, House Deputy Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., plans to headline a Schmidt fundraiser April 11.

That's also the same day that Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is expected to host a fundraiser in Cincinnati for Chabot.

Chabot denounces false calls

Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Westwood, lashed out at a labor group last week for making automated phone calls to seniors in his district — including his mother and mother-in-law — that blame him for the confusing new Medicare prescription drug benefit.

Transcript of the call:
"Hello, I'm calling from Working America. Are you and your family having trouble figuring out the new Medicare prescription drug program? Call Congressman Steve Chabot. Congressman Steve Chabot received over $49,000 in contributions from the big drug companies and HMOs. Steve Chabot voted for a prescription drug program that has the drug companies and HMO industry laughing all the way to the bank and the rest of us scratching our heads. Call Congressman Chabot at (513) 684-2723 and tell him to stop working for the drug companies and start working for us."
"Not only is this just loose with the facts, but it’s wrong," Chabot said, explaining that he was one of 25 Republicans who voted against the Medicare prescription drug bill — despite pressure from President Bush and House GOP leaders to support it. The plan has been criticized for being too complicated.

Robert Fox, a spokesman for the AFL-CIO-affiliated group Working America, which is beind the calls, said the message is truthful because Chabot voted for a prescription drug plan even though he didn’t back the plan that passed.

"The call doesn’t specify a particlar bill," Fox said, adding that Chabot has accepted campaign contributions from the pharmecutical industry.

Chabot said this call is the latest in a string of automated calls from the group that are distorting his record. He said he is considering filing an election complaint against the group.

"These calls are full of distortions, inaccuracies and missinformation," Chabot said. "It’s really alarming that these secretive special interest groups feel that they can say and do anything. Next they'll be saying that I'm throwing senior citizens out of their homes and stealing candy from children."

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