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, March 31, 2006

Immigration, religion and city politics

Cincinnati religious leaders raise their arms in solidarity during a gathering of the Cincinnati Coalition For Comprehensive Immigration Reform at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Chains downtown Friday. (Photo by Gary Landers/The Cincinnati Enquirer)

Councilman David C. Crowley's domain is more in the secular realm, but he was nonetheless the lead speaker at today's gathering of Cincinnati religious leaders on immigration reform.

Crowley, a self-proclaimed liberal Catholic, told a dozen religious leaders -- including Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk -- that he had pushed through a council resolution supporting the more liberal immigration bill in the Senate sponsored by senators John McCain, R-Ariz., and Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. It passed, 7-2.

"I just wanted to express a question that floated into my mind as Councilman Crowley talked about his resolution. Who were the other two?" Pilarczyk said in mock consternation as he stepped to the podium. "But we won't go there."

Turns out, one of the two was a member of Pilarczyk's flock: Republican Chris Monzel. (Republican Leslie E. Ghiz, who is Greek Orthodox, was the other.)

Monzel is a Moeller High School graduate and member of St. Bernard Catholic Church in Winton Place. And he once taught Sunday school at Holy Cross-Immaculata Church in Mount Adams.

With all due respect to the archbishop, he said, his vote had nothing to do with the merits of immigration reform.

"It harkens back to the days when then-Councilman Todd Portune put in a resolution about ending the boycott in Cuba. We need to get to the business of Cincinnati and not putting these issues before council," Monzel said. "What's on this city's plate right now is to make it safe and clean and reduce the violent crime that's occurring."

Pressed for a position, Monzel demurred. "It's certainly an important issue, and I've been reading a lot about it," he said. "But honestly, if I were Steve Chabot or Jean Schmidt, I don't know how I'd vote."

Bad day for Portune

Today isn't a good day for Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune.

First, upon arriving at the county office this morning, Portune's staff was greeted with a death threat on his voice mail.

A female caller left a message for Portune indicating that if some unspecified "it" didn't stop, she was going to come in and "shoot the place up." The caller didn't identify herself or what she wanted changed.

Hamilton County Sheriff's deputies were called and responded, going to Portune's office and tape recording the call.

Portune won't be attending today's interview of the second of four prospective developers for the Banks.

Today, Portune said, was one of the days he specifically told planners for the interview he couldn't make it because he is attending a retreat for the Hamilton County Family and Children First Council. He is chairman of that agency's board of directors.

At the interview, though, will be Commissioners Phil Heimlich and Pat DeWine -- and Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory.

"I'm glad they could accommodate the mayor's schedule," Portune sarcastically said.

Flannery even tops Blackwell in a Zogby matchup

I don't know how to explain this one, but one of the matchups in the latest Wall Street Journal/Zogby poll found former state Rep. Bryan Flannery, a Democrat, leading Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, the Republican frontrunner, by 43.8 to 41.3 percent.

That pairing is considered a statistical tossup, however, when you consider the margin of error of plue or minus 3.5 percentage points.

You can find those results at:


SNL's Dratch to reprise Jean Schmidt role?

Now that Jean Schmidt has made it clear she won't show up for an April 19 debate with primary opponent Bob McEwen at the Anderson Township Republican Club, the Anderson Republicans are looking to replace here with America's only known Schmidt impersonator - Rachel Dratch of Saturday Night Live.

Duffy Beischel of the Anderson Township Republican Club said that after Schmidt's campaign manager pulled his candidate out of the debate at Mercy Healthplex, some club members suggested subsituting Dratch, who did very loud and very funny impersonation of Schmidt on SNL, after the 2nd District congresswoman made national headlines with her "cowards cut and run'' speech on the floor of the House.

Beischel said he thought it was "a great idea'' and sent invitations to Dratch and SNL produceer Lorne Michaels, although he has yet to hear back from them. McEwen, Beischel said, was consulted and has no problem with it.

"He's a pretty easy-going guy,'' Beischel said.

If Dratch somehow accepts the invitation, we can only hope she wears the famous red, white and blue dress.

Strickland maintains lead in latest polls

The latest Rasmussen Reports poll in the Ohio race for governor, released today, found U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland, a Democrat, leading by at least 10 percentage points against either Republican candidate.

In the March 15 survey of 500 Ohio voters, Strickland led Secretary of State Ken Blackwell 50 percent to 40 percent. Strickland led Attorney General Jim Petro by 47 percent to 34 percent. Blackwell and Petro face each other in a May 2 primary election.

Strickland has been steadily gaining ground, according to the independent poll. Rasmussen's February survey found Strickland leading Petro by 7 percentage points. In January, Strickland led Petro by by just 5 percentage points. This month, his margin over Petro had widened to 13 percentage points.

In January, Strickland had a 4-percentage point lead over Blackwell. By February, the Democrat's lead over Blackwell had widened to 12 percentage points. However, Blackwell recovered two points in the latest Rasmussen survey.

Strickland had both the highest favorable rating and also the highest percentage of those unsure of what to think of him. He is viewed favorably by 54 percent of likely voters and unfavorably by 28 percent, according to the survey.

Petro is viewed favorably by 41 percent and unfavorably by 46 percent. Blackwell is viewed favorably by 46 percent and unfavorably by 44 percent.

Strickland's lead was narrower in a Wall Street Journal/Zogby poll. That poll found Strickland leading Blackwell 45.6 percent to 41.3 percent. Petro received just 30.5 percent.

That's a reversal from January, when the WSJ-Zogby poll found Blackwell leading Strickland by roughly the same margin, 45.9 percent to 41.4 percent.

The WSJ-Zogby surveys had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

DeWine signs onto same-sex marriage ban

Republicans must really be worried. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., is bringing out the same-sex marriage issue again.

The proposed Constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage has been denounced by Democrats as a GOP ploy to divert attention from real issues (the economy? health care? budget deficit? war in Iraq?) by appealing to voters who can't stomach the idea of two people of the same sex who want to settle down and get hitched.

Republicans argue that marriage is sacred contract between a man and a woman, and activist judges who have been allowing same-sex people to wed should be stopped.

The public agrees. In 2004, voters in 11 states - including Ohio - approved constitutional amendments to ban same-sex marriages.

Back to Frist. The 2008 presidential hopeful announced that the bill, of which Frist is a co-sponsor, would come to the Senate floor in June, according to Sen. Mike DeWine.

DeWine, a Republican from Cedarville who is himself facing a tough re-election this year, called the Enquirer because he decided to sign on today as a co-sponsor of the measure. DeWine, who has supported the concept in the past, explained that the bill would go through the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which he is a member, so he wanted to get on board.

"People have had a chance to look at it for a couple of years," DeWine said. "I think it’s ripe. It’s ready. Where as before, while I was for it, I certainly didn’t think it was as ripe."

DeWine, who risked upsetting conservatives this week by voting with Democrats on the immigration bill pending in the Senate, said his decision to back the same-sex marriage bill has nothing to do with politics.

"No. I think you’re going to see this issue brought up in every Congress. A lot of people feel very strongly about this issue."

Read the bill (S.J.RES.1) for yourself by searching for it by number here.

Note that Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, who is No. 2 in the Senate behind Frist, also is a co-sponsor.

What Boehner says about Schmidt

House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-West Chester, fielded on-camera questions from reporters today, and the first one he got came from Capitol News Connection's Chad Pergram, a Greater Cincinnati native who graduated from Miami University.

The topic? Why it was all about Schmidt, of course! Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Miami Township, that is.

Pergram wanted to know if Boehner was backing Schmidt over former Republican Rep. Bob McEwen in the May 2nd GOP primary election. McEwen left Congress in 1992, shortly after Boehner, who was elected in 1990, joined the House.

Boehner's answer: "Absolutely. She is the incumbent member and I think that she deserves to be re-elected and I think she will be re-elected."

Pergram followed up, asking Boehner if he thinks Schmidt's "cowards cut and run" comment, the endorsement dispute and the latest flap over her inaccurate resume has made her "radioactive."

Boehner: "I think that she’s very popular with her constituents. And if you look at the primary that she won … there were 12 candidates in there and she emerged from that with a very strong vote. And so her ability to turn out her vote, which I think is essential in a primary election, will be demonstrated come May."

Incidentally, Boehner will be headlining a fundraiser for Schmdit in Washington next Tuesday.

Listen to the entire Boehner news conference here.

What they're saying about Boehner

The Washington insider newspaper The Hill asked a bunch of House lawmakers what they think of new House Majority Leader John Boehner, a Republican from West Chester. Specifically, they asked lawmakers who they think is a better majority leader - Boehner or his predecessor, Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas.

Here's what they said:

Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio): “Obviously my loyalties would have to be with Boehner because he’s from my home state and I’m hoping that he implements the reforms that he’s promising.”

Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.): “The guy’s been on the job one month. Give him 12 years and then I’ll tell you.”

Rep. Bob Filner (D-Calif.): “How do I know? The first thing Boehner talked about was bipartisanship. I don’t know if he means it, but DeLay never even talked about that.”

Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.): “They have different styles. You’re going to be arguing the difference between a Chevrolet and a Ford forever. Both will get you there. After being married for a long time [it’s like being asked] how do you like the new wife?”

Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.): “I got along well with DeLay, played golf with him a couple of times — not in Scotland. And I play a lot of golf with Boehner. They’re different personalities, but I get along with both of them.”

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.): “I appreciate the fact that [Boehner] allows a full debate and gives us the opportunity to state our case and I never found him to be mean spirited — tenacious, but not mean. In my experience with DeLay I could say, that at this point, Boehner is a stronger majority leader.”

Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas): “I’m from Texas, so I’ll give Mr. Boehner his chance. He is doing a good job under some difficult circumstances.”

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Reds Opener: Who's going?

As you all know by now, President Bush is throwing out the first pitch at the Cincinnati Reds home opener next week, and Sen. Mike DeWine said yesterday that he had already planned to attend.

So who else is going?

Sen. Jim Bunning would be a good bet, especially considering that the the Southgate, Ky., Republican is himself a former Major League pitcher and baseball Hall of Famer. When asked today, Bunning said he plans to meet Bush at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport - and attend the game! It was uncertain, however, if he'd be giving the president some pitching tips.

What about U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman, who lives in Terrace Park and represented Greater Cincinnati in Congress for the past 12 years?

You bet!

Here's what Portman told a group of Cincinnati business leaders at lunch today:

"Last weekend I was in Mexico, this weekend I’ll be in Brazil, until Sunday afternoon, making it home in time for Opening Day where I will be joining our president to watch him throw out the first pitch, better than I did last year, by the way."

Report from Loveland

Reporter Jane Prendergast reports from Loveland:

Ongoing disagreements between some Loveland City Council members and their colleague, Paul Elliott, continue. This, to anyone who watches Loveland City Council, is not a surprise.

Elliott cast the only "no’’ votes to hire new City Manager Tom Carroll and to pay the still-untallied legal bills from allegations that Carroll and the city’s tax administrator violated laws by releasing certain information during Loveland’s much-publicized tax case against the woman who owed $1.16. Clermont County Prosecutor Don White decided there was no criminal wrongdoing.

At council’s meeting Tuesday night, Elliott questioned:

- The proposed remodeling of City Council chambers ("I just see a real difference between needs and desires’’);

- The hiring of a one-year intern for $30,000 plus benefits, someone who will help fill in some of what would be done by an assistant city manager, a position vacant here since last fall when Carroll became acting city manager ("It certainly seems like a lot of personnel for a small town like Loveland’’). He was the only dissenter.

So during the discussion about hiring the intern, Councilman Dan Daly came up with this: if Elliott disagrees with something, it’s a sure sign everybody else should be for it.

He told Elliott: "I’ve learned over the years that when you oppose something, it’s probably a good idea.’’

Daly again, after Elliott expressed more concern on the same topic: "Once again, Paul, I appreciate that. It tells me I’m on the right path.’’

Military to protect Portune?

In need of a new administrative aide, Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune has some interesting resumes to choose from.

Given the battles Portune, the lone Democrat on the three-commissioner board, has had with Republican Commissioners Phil Heimlich and Pat DeWine, perhaps the most intriguing candidate is Michelle Goldman – a former Israeli soldier.

Actually, Goldman worked in the Israeli military during that country’s war with Lebanon as a war correspondent. She also worked for the Israeli Broadcasting Authority as a correspondent.

Others Portune is considering are:

· Laura Randall, former Cincinnati television news personality;
· Norma Holt Davis, a lawyer and former head of the Cincinnati chapter of the NAACP;
· Kathleen Binns, manager of Portune’s 2004 campaign to keep his commission seat;
· Martha Good, a lawyer who unsuccessfully ran for Hamilton County Municipal Court judge in 2005 and Hamilton County Clerk of Courts in 2004;
· Marilyn Osborne, former aide to former Cincinnati Mayor Bobbie Sterne.

Portune wants to winnow the list to five candidates and then hire an aide by April 10.

That hire also could be getting a higher salary after Portune today also asked county Administrator Patrick Thompson to review the salary range for all three commissioners’ aides, suggesting it was too low. Heimlich agreed with Portune on that.

Portune’s last aide, Karen Ball, left to take a new job – and a $41,000 per-year-raise – with the county-owned Metropolitan Sewer District. Her $55,438.24 salary under Portune was at the high end of the current salary range for commissioners’ aides which runs from $42,620 per year to $58,011.

Rob Seddon, Heimlich’s aide, has an annualy salary of $52,520. Lisa Webb, Pat DeWine’s aide, is paid $54,059 per year.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

More from DeWine: Go Reds!

Sen. Mike DeWine, a big-time Cincinnati Reds fan, said he's "delighted" that President Bush will be throwing out the opening pitch next week, although he made sure to tell reporters that he had planned to attend the game well before the president announced that he would throw out the pitch.

"As a lifelong Cincinnati Reds fan, I plan to be there. I had planned to be there anyway," he said.

DeWine said wasn't sure if he'd be seated with the president, whose low public approval ratings have kept many Republicans from getting too close to him.

"Well, if I’m invited, I will. There’s a lot of people who want to sit with the president," said DeWine, who avoided the president on his last two official trips to Ohio despite welcoming the president to Indian Hill for a fundraiser that he says brought in about $1.1 million.
Back to the game. Says DeWine: "It’ll be a lot of fun. It’s great. Historic."

Voinovich, DeWine oppose TEL

Sen. George Voinovich said he plans to help defeat the proposed Tax and Expenditure Limitation (TEL) amendment, which Ken Blackwell has made a centerpiece of his gubernatorial campaign. The Ohio Republican Party also is backing the plan, which would limit increases in state and local government spending to what was spent the previous year, adjusted for inflation and population growth, without voter approval.

"I may get involved in this whole issue of the TEL that Kenny Blackwell is supporting because I really feel that it’s not in the best interest of the people of Ohio,” Voinovich said, explaining that putting an “artificial limit” on what the state and local governments can spend that’s “not based on need or anything else” would cause problems.

“It’s just an artificial cap,” he said. “It really takes the power away from the governor and legislature to deal with the problems confronting the state and puts it on automatic pilot.”

Sen. Mike DeWine, a Cedarville Republican, also spoke out against the bill when he ran into reporters in the Senate Office Building hallway shortly after Voinovich’s breakfast.

“From what I’ve seen about it … it would hurt local governments and it would hurt education,” he said.

By the way, Voinovich and DeWine both said they are not endorsing either Secretary of State Blackwell or Attorney General Jim Petro in this spring’s heated Republican primary for governor.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Sabrina Eaton was in the hallway with DeWine and two other reporters when he made these comments. Read her take, and Blackwell's response, on the TEL stuff here.

Voinovich: Censure bill “irresponsible” waste of time

Sure, crowds of Republicans have lined up to blast Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisc., for his bill to censure President Bush for authorizing a warrantless wiretap surveillance program, which Feingold says is illegal.

But Sen. George Voinovich didn’t go on a tirade about it. In fact, the Ohio Republican seemed quite a bit annoyed by the whole issue.

“I have a great deal of respect for Russ Feingold … but I think on this one, he’s way off in the boonies someplace, ” Voinovich said. “I’m not going to challenge his motivation, but Russ wants to be the … most liberal candidate the Democrats have running for president. He wants to stake out the area that (former presidential candidate Rep. Dennis) Kucinich did. And that’s what he’s doing. And I think he’s wrong. ”

Asked if Republicans see an opportunity with the Feingold bill to score a few political points of their own by blasting it, Voinovich took a long pause.

“This place,” he said, glancing around at the Senate office building where he sat eating breakfast with eight reporters. “We’re wasting a hell of a lot of time on something that we shouldn’t even be around. We’ve got enough other problems besides this going here. These sideshows, they get in the way of the big 10.”

So does he want to see a floor vote on the censure proposal?

“Really? No. I think that our people would like to see a floor vote on this because they think that they’re right. I haven’t seen any polls, but I’m sure it doesn’t poll very well. So there we are. There’s the Democrats … talking about censuring the president. It’s irresponsible, especially when the prestige of our president has a great deal to do with his influence in the world.”

Really? So it’s “irresponsible” to censure the president during a war?

“Yeah, particularly if you can say that the reason for it has more to do with politics than substance. I haven’t talked to Russ about this. He may sincerely believe this and it’s got nothing to do with politics, but I think that most people think that it does.”

But if Republicans force a vote on the censure bill next week, aren’t they also playing politics?

“They want to play politics too. But, you know, someone gives you a scalpel and says cut my throat, and you want to keep the Senate, you’ll take advantage of it. He’d have been smart not to do it.”

Voinovich says Bolton a “changed man”

Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, landed in papers across the globe last year for his forceful opposition to John Bolton, who President Bush had nominated as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

At breakfast this morning, he told reporters that Bolton is a “changed man” with “a whole different attitude” who seems to have a good rapport with his colleagues at the U.N.

Voinovich shocked the White House and colleagues for voting with Democrats against Bolton in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – then gave an emotional speech against Bolton on the Senate floor that he described as “one of the finest moments” in his Senate career.

When Bush couldn’t get the Senate to approve Bolton’s nomination, he inserted him in the job during a congressional recess, when a president is allowed to make an emergency appointment without Senate approval.

Bolton, who must win Senate approval in January 2007 if he is to stay in the job, appears to be on his way to keeping that gig. While Voinovich acknowledged that “a couple months in a job doesn't tell you the whole story,” but said that he’s might consider supporting Bolton the second time around.

Who else was at the breakfast with Voinovich this morning?

Click here to read Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter Sabrina Eaton's take on Voinovich's Bolton comments.

Click here to read Associated Press reporter David Hammer's story on the comments.

Eat your bagel and listen to my agenda

Sen. George Voinovich, a Republican from Cleveland, hosted eight Ohio reporters who are based in Washington in the conference room of his Capitol Hill office for breakfast this morning so the former two-term governor, who just won his second six-year term in the U.S. Senate, could go over his agenda.

The four-page list of items on his agenda, which he passed out to reporters, covered everything from energy independence and ethics reform to clean air issues and Nuclear Regulatory Commission oversight.
But that’s not what reporters asked the bulk of their questions about…

The ever-blunt Voinovich soon began spouting off on a litany of issues, such as changing his mind over U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, whose nomination he had stridently opposed. He also blasted Sen. Russ Feingold’s bill to censure President Bush for the Iraq war, calling it “irresponsible,” and explained why he plans to help defeat the proposed Tax and Expenditure Limitation (TEL) amendment, which GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell has backed.

The following blog posts include more details on the senator's comments, some of which also will appear in tomorrow's Enquirer. What do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? Tell us.

UPDATE on Card: Did Boehner know?

House Majority Leader John Boehner told reporters at a news conference at the U.S. Capitol today that he just flew back to Washington from Ohio this morning because he had been at last night’s Lincoln Day dinner in Butler County with Andy Card. Apparently, Card didn’t even tell Boehner that he was planning to step down today as President Bush’s chief of staff.

“There was a phone call on my phone this morning while I was in the air apparently. Then I called him back, and he was in a Cabinet meeting. I am sure he wanted to explain why he didn't tell me or couldn't tell me last night,” Boehner said.

On Card leaving, Boehner said that Card had already has served longer than any other chief of staff in U.S. history, save one, a feat that is “nothing short of incredible.”

“Given the hours that he spends at the White House, it is remarkable to me that he has been able to withstand it, his position, this long,” Boehner said. “He has done a great job for the president. … All of us in this town owe him a great big thanks for being there for the president for as long as he has served him.”

Sen. George Voinovich, a Republican from Cleveland, told reporters over breakfast this morning that Card’s resignation in no way means that the entire White House staff is tired and should be replaced, as some have suggested.

“I think it’s indicidive that Andy Card, who is a longtime friend of mine, was tired,” Voinovich said. “Nobody realizes, but that guy gets up at 4:30, 5:30 in the morning, stays at that White House until 10 o’clock. The fact that he stayed as long as he has in that job is just quite impressive and shows how much he thinks of this country and this president.

“I know there are a lot of people out there that think we’ve got to have a complete change and a new direction … Well, I’ll tell you, from a management point of view, if we didn’t have the problems that we have today facing our country both domestically and internationally, I might say that’s not a bad idea, but with the fragility of this whole thing, particularly internationally, I think it’s really important that you’ve got some people that really know what they’re doing over there and know who the players are.”

Win-Win for Willkes

If pro-life voters in the 2nd Congressional District are looking to John and Barbara Willke, the patriarch and matriarch of the right-to-life movement, for guidance on who to vote for in the May 2 GOP primary, they're on their own.

The Willkes like both candidates.

Tuesday, the North College Hill couple whose activism sparked the right-to-life movement nationally over 30 years ago, were among the crowd who showed up at the Eastgate Holiday Inn for Rep. Jean Schmidt's $150-a-plate fundraising lunch.

Exactly one week before, the Willkes were front and center at the Queen City Club, where Schmidt's primary opponent, Bob McEwen, was having a fundraising breakfast.

Just too old pols working both sides of the street? Guess again.

"We like both of them,'' said Mrs. Willke said. "We really can't lose in this race.''

Schmidt is the immediate past president of Cincinnati Right To Life, the organization the Willkes founded in 1971; and McEwen has solid anti-abortion credentials dating back to his days in Congress in the Reagan years.

The Schmidt-McEwen race, John Willke said, is a race between "a feisty advocate for life and an experienced congressman with a good record. It's win-win for us.''

Report from Eastgate

Reporter Howard Wilkinson reports from the Jean Schmidt fundraiser:

House Speaker Dennis Hastert wrapped up two days of campaigning for GOP congressional candidates in the Cincinnati area with a campaign fundraising luncheon for Rep. Jean Schmidt, who is locked in a GOP primary battle with one of Hastert’s former House colleagues.

Hastert, a 10-term congressman from Illinois, made it clear Tuesday that in the battle between Schmidt and former congressman Bob McEwen, whom he served with in the House in the late 1980s and early 1990s, he is on the side of the incumbent.

Schmidt, Hastert told about 200 supporters gathered at the Eastgate Holiday Inn, “earned her spurs’’ last year by winning tough battles in the special primary and general elections to replace former Rep. Rob Portman.

“What I like to see is somebody who lives in the district, works in the district, raises a family in the district,’’ Hastert said. “I like a member who comes home on the weekends and goes to the grocery stores, goes to the hardware stores. That’s what I call retail politics. Jean does that.’’

Schmidt’s $125-a-plate fundraising luncheon came at the end of a two-day swing through Cincinnati that included a Monday night fundraising event at a private home in Indian Hill for 1st District Rep. Steve Chabot and a Tuesday morning fundraiser in Crestview Hills for Geoff Davis, the GOP incumbent in Kentucky’s 4th Congressional District.

Among the crowd at the Schmidt fundraiser were Clermont County commissioner Bob Proud, Keith Maupin, father of missing U.S. soldier Matt Maupin; John and Barbara Willke, the Cincinnatians who founded the national right-to-life movement in the early 1970s; and Ken Johnson, the Adams County minister who led the battle to keep the Ten Commandments on display at several Adams County schools.

Schmidt thanked Hastert for coming and told the crowd they were in the presence of someone “very important.’’

“That’s evidenced by all the armed men in the room,’’ said Schmidt, motioning to the House speaker’s four security men positioned in the four corners of the room. “So watch out.’’

E-mail hwilkinson@enquirer.com

Not showing his Cards

Reporter Jennifer Edwards reports from up north:

Andrew Card gave no inkling late Monday that he would quit this morning when he traveled to Greater Cincinnati to address the Butler County Republican Party. He gave a 40-minute speech before more than 600 members after privately mingling with them downstairs at the Sharonville Convention Center off Chester Road.

Party insiders said today they were just as surprised as everyone else that Card quit.

In his speech Monday, Card widely praised and defended Bush, recalling the first day Bush walked into the Oval Office in January 2001 after being sworn in as President, and the emotion of the week of Sept. 11, 2001.

Card also thanked the crowd Monday for their high turnout in the 2004 Presidential Election, crediting the county's Repubilcan's for returning Bush to the White House.

Many Butler Republicans said afterward that the speech was one of the best the group ever heard at their annual Lincoln Day event. Last year's speaker was Bush's deputy chief of staff, Karl Rove.

In introducing Card, House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-West Chester Township, told the crowd that Card rises each day at 4:20 a.m. and starts his day at 5:30 a.m. in the White House. He works until 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. or later each day, depending on the issues of the day and also works eight hours or longer on Saturdays and Sundays.

Scott Owens, executive director of the Butler County Republican Party, sat next to Card as Boehner introduced him.

"He looked over to me and said, 'You know, Mr. Owens, that's very truthful. It takes a very loyal and dedicated person to serve in this role and I do work very, very long hours for the president,'" Owens recalled today.

When Card got up to make his speech, he gave Owens one of his business cards as chief of staff after signing the front of it. Card told Owens to call him if he or the Butler County Republican Party ever needed anything.

"And now instead of helping us, his business card is going to become more of a collector's item now that he is leaving the White House," Owens said today.

Monday, March 27, 2006

McEwen monologue

Howard Wilkinson reports in Tuesday's Enquirer:

The Anderson Township Republican Club’s scheduled April 19 debate between 2nd District congressional candidates Bob McEwen and Jean Schmidt looks more like a monologue, now that Schmidt’s campaign has pulled out, claiming the deck was stacked against her.

“Why would I march my candidate happily into that room?” said Schmidt campaign manager Allen Freeman. “I’m not interested in having her be set up.”

Schmidt and Freeman say the Anderson Township Republican Club is top-heavy with supporters of McEwen, the former southern Ohio congressman who is trying to up-end incumbent Schmidt in the May 2 GOP primary.

Not so, said Duffy Beischel, a McEwen supporter and club member who was scheduled to moderate the April 19 debate at Mercy Healthplex.

Beischel said Schmidt supporters who are members of the club were involved in the planning of the debate. “I don’t know why she would be so afraid to debate Bob in Anderson,” Beischel said in an e-mail. “Are Republicans in Anderson more threatening than Democrats in the House? I don’t think so.”

Last week, Schmidt wrote a letter to McEwen saying she would only agree to debates “at neutral sites, hosted by neutral organizers.”

“I would not expect you to agree to debate me in front of my Republican club and I won’t debate in front of yours,” Schmidt wrote.

Freeman said Schmidt has accepted a joint appearance with McEwen on the WKRC Channel 12 “Newsmakers’’ show that will air April 30. It was accepted, Freeman said, “because it is a neutral setting with a neutral host.”

Michael Harlow, a spokesman for the McEwen campaign, said McEwen is willing to debate Schmidt “anytime or anyplace,” including Clermont County’s Miami Township, Schmidt’s home township.

“A representative can’t pick and choose which constituents she talks to and which she doesn’t,” Harlow said.

Beischel said that he hopes Schmidt will change her mind. If she doesn’t, he said, the meeting will go forward with McEwen as the only speaker.

Boehner: Once a Crusader, always a Crusader

About 200 juniors and seniors at Moeller High School got a chance to grill one of their school's most famous alumni Monday afternoon when House Majority Leader John Boehner, class of '68, stopped by for a visit.

They were impressed, but not too impressed - this, after all, is Moeller, the school that produced Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Larkin, and a host of other famous people whose name recognition factor is a lot higher than the Republican congressman from West Chester.

Boehner, back in town while Congress is in recess, stopped by the school office before heading to the school theater for an hour-long question-and-answer session with the history and government students.

"That was Brother Eveslage's office,'' said Boehner, pointing to the corner principal's office where Brother Lawrence Eveslage ran the Marianist high school in Boehner's day. "You did not want to find yourself in there.''

Inside the theater, which used to be a gym where Boehner played for the Crusaders' basketball team, the House majority leader stood in front of a huge banner featuring his high school photo and told the students that he and his eight brothers grew up in Reading and went to high school at Moeller.

"I'll tell you this now and move on, because I get kind of choked up talking about it, but you have no idea how lucky you are to be in a place like this,'' Boehner said.

Boehner said he entered Congress 15 years as as part of a Republican minority, helped Newt Gingrich pull off the "Republican revolution'' of 1994, and now finds himself in "a really tough job. It's like herding cats.''

All things considered, though, it is good to be in the majority, Boehner said.

"When you are in the minority, everything is harder. Being in the minority, you can show up or not show up. Your vote doesn't matter much.''

In a 40-minute question-and-answer session, the students peppered him with questions on a wide range of issues - the war in Iraq ("You have to understand one thing - this is the right war; we are at war with people who want to kill us); reports that the Russians passed on U.S. war plans to Saddam Hussein ("It's not been proven yet, but I wouldn't be surprised''); lobbying scandals in Congress ("Sunlight is the best disinfectant; disclosure is the best way to reform the system"); the federal response to Katrina ("a horrible job.'')

One young man asked Boehner if he had any interest in running for president. The answer was an unqualified "no.''

"You have to be somebody really special or be half out of your mind to do that,'' Boehner said. "I like having a real life. In the White House, you have no life.

"I've always said the presidency is like climbing into a jail cell and letting people throw stones at you through the bars.''

In case you missed it...

In the Enquirer's Washington Notebook today:

Democrat Thor Jacobs, who is running in the Democratic primary for the 2nd District, has announced that Cincinnati City Councilmen John Cranley and Cecil Thomas have endorsed him.

Cranley, who is running against Republican Rep. Steve Chabot of Westwood in the 1st District, said: "We need intelligent, independent advocates like Thor in Congress. I look forward to serving alongside him in Washington."


Republican Rep. Jean Schmidt has more fundraisers coming up. Tomorrow, she's holding an event in Washington with U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman. On Thursday, she's having a fundraiser with National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds, R-N.Y. Next week, she'll have an event in DC with Majority Leader John Boehner of West Chester.


Former Congressman Bob McEwen, Schmidt's GOP primary rival in the 2nd Congressional District, plans to "take up a hammer" this Saturday to help build frames for 20 homes for Hurricane Katrina victims at Eastside Christian Church in Miami Township. Public officials and supporters have been invited to join him.

Ohio Senate race gets national ink

This picture (and a whole gallery of them) are in The Washington Post's profile of Rep. Sherrod Brown, a longtime Democratic congressman from northern Ohio who is challenging Republican Sen. Mike DeWine of Cedarville for the U.S. Senate. Read the paper's Sunday story here.

Read Post columnist George Will's take on the race here.

Read what Associated Press reporter David Espo wrote about the race here.

Mallory backs Strickland in new ad

Ohio gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland, a longtime Democratic congressman from southeastern Ohio, is up with his first TV ad.

The 30- and 60-second spots are biographical, telling Strickland's story through old photos and interviews with his brother, Roger Strickland, and others - including Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory.

Here is the text of the ad:

STRICKLAND: "We were a working class family. Dad worked at the steel mill. There were times in my life when I was careful with the amount of food I took, being conscious of the fact that I had brothers and sisters who had not yet eaten. My earliest childhood memory is standing alongside the road watching our home burn."

ROGER STRICKLAND: "Then we lived in a chicken house and a smoke house until we redid the barn."

MARY DEEL: "Ted cares very much about kids. His work in psychology. His work as a minister."

STRICKLAND: "Working at the children's home, I think, represents some of the happiest years of my life. It was like a family."

MARK MALLORY: "Ted Strickland is not a typical politician. Ted refused to take federal healthcare for himself until all of the people in his district have access to healthcare. And I think that really speaks to his integrity. And I'm convinced he'll be a great governor."

STRICKLAND: "And we also decided that we wouldn't accept mid-term pay increases, because many people that I represent don't get pay increases."

R. STRICKLAND: "I think Ted wakes up everyday thinking, 'What can I do to help someone.'"

Watch it for yourself here.

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