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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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Don't call her Schmidt

Rep. Jean Schmidt came to the Enquirer editorial board Wednesday afternoon apparently determined to add a little drama to the occasion.

After about an hour of listening to her and two of her three opponents in the May 2 primary - former congressman Bob McEwen and Deborah Kraus, a political rookie from Batavia Township - Schmidt pulled out a one-page document she called a "a clean campaign pledge.'' Schmidt said she hoped her rivals would sign the pledge and refrain from "negative advertising and attacks.''

Kraus signed happily; after all, she noted, she has no campaign money for advertising anyway.

But when the "pledge'' was passed down the table to McEwen, he sniffed dismissively and pushed it away, saying he wasn't going to sign anything that would prevent him from talking about Schmidt's record.

Sure enough, the pledge had nothing to do with attack ads; what it said was that the candidates would promise to have "no advertising, phones, mail or web activity mentioning the other candidate's name.''

Apparently, Schmidt believes that mentioning her by name is a "negative attack.''

It's easy to see how this might hamstring a challenger like McEwen. What's he supposed to call her? That woman with the scrunchie?

Schmidt's flair for the dramatic took another odd turn the night before, at a meeting of the Blue Ash Republican Club.

Over 100 Blue Ash Republicans gathered in the basement of the rec center and heard first from McEwen; then a string of other candidates and candidates' surrogate before Schmidt swept into the room about 40 minutes into the forum.

She was called to the front to speak and announced that she had just been at a funeral home in Milford, attending the visitation for a young Marine killed last week in Iraq.

"Before I begin, I would really like to have us all hold hands and say a prayer for the Taylor family,'' Schmidt told the group seated around a few dozen folding tables.

They did as she asked (most of them, anyway), and she led the group in the Lord's Prayer.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Getting some exposure

Democratic gubernatorial longshot Bryan Flannery called a Statehouse news conference today to talk about his EducateOhio school funding plan.

But most of the questioning by reporters dealt with Flannery's criticism of U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland for hiring "an individual who had exposed himself to children on at least four separate occasions" in Athens and Washington counties. Flannery handed out a one-page Athens Police Department report, with four complaint numbers on it, as proof of the incidents.

The drama heightened afterward when the convicted offender's Dayton attorney, Jesse R. Lipcius, insisted all records of the 12-year-old incidents have been expunged. Lipcius promised to provide proof of the expungement to anyone guaranteeing his client's confidentiality.

Lipcius said the former Strickland congressional and campaign employee is married with one child, a Christian and wants to get on with his life. He also has not been affiliated with Strickland for six or seven years, Lipcius said. The man was convicted of one fourth-degree misdemeanor, which is not classified as a sex offense, Lipcius added.

"I'm concerned about my client's privacy,'' Lipcius said. "He hasn't slept in weeks now."

While acknowledging he is not a lawyer, Flannery insisted, "This is definitely something that's very serious.''

If Strickland wins the Democratic primary May 2, Flannery said, "This issue isn't going away. . . He's got both personal and political problems. It just raises a lot of red flags here.''

Strickland has said he was unaware of any charge, but confronted a former employee about an anonymous accusation during his 1998 re-election campaign. The employee denied the charge and left Strickland's staff the following year.

Even Brian Rothenberg, communications director for the Ohio Democratic Party, was taken aback by Flannery's charges. "I'm not sure if he's running for governor or Inside Edition.''

Update, 6 p.m.

Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern issued this statement about his party candidate:

"Having served (in the Ohio House) with Bryan Flannery, I am surprised at the the increasingly outrageous comments he is stringing together about Congressman Strickland. His constant act of bombastic allegations is reminiscent of a 19th Century snake oil salesman -- buyer's beware.''

Redfern was among the first to endorse Strickland before becoming party chairman in December.

UPDATE on McEwen family photo

There were several questions from blog readers about this picture of Republican Bob McEwen, who is challenging Rep. Jean Schmidt in the 2nd District GOP primary May 2, and his family.

When was the photo taken? Is that really the McEwen's dog?

So we took it upon ourselves to investigate. McEwen's wife, Liz McEwen, was kind enough to explain.

According to Liz McEwen, the picture was taken a couple of years ago, in 2004, by her son-in-law. She said the family has other pictures, but they like that one.

The dog, she explained, is a 5-year-old golden retriever and labrador mix named Bailey that the family has had since he was a puppy. Before Bailey, the McEwens had a poodle, but the poodle died, she said.

"So then my boys said it's time to get a 'real' dog," Liz McEwen said with a chuckle. "He most certainly is not a rent-a-dog!"

Since the children have gone to college and she and Bob McEwen are on the campaign trail, the dog is staying at her brother's home in northern Ohio, she said.

"We're out here talking about taxes and the economy and these people want to know about our dog?" she said. "I am stunned."

The Key To Our Hearts

German Consul Wolfgang Drautz became the first foreign dignitary to visit Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory's office last week. The consul, who is stationed in Chicago, is his country's diplomatic representative to Cincinnati, which is part of a territory that extends from Minnesota to Kentucky, Missouri to Pennsylvania, and all points in between.

Mallory gave Drautz a key to the city. But what, exactly, does that key open? Mallory's office? Fifth-Third bank vaults?

"The heart and soul of the city," Mallory responded with a chuckle. "That's why I've been so judicious in handing them out."

Mallory has handed out only four other keys to the city -- to four "Great Living Cincinnatians" at a ceremony in February. They are: Neil Bortz, co-founder of development company Towne properties; John Pepper, former chairman and chief executive of P&G and the new CEO of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center; Myrtis Powell, former president of the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative and former vice president for student affairs at Miami University; and retired Rev. Herbert Thompson, Jr., former bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio.

"Lots of people have requested them, but we've really tightened things up," Mallory said.

Or locked things down.

Are you being served?

Greater Cincinnati has been blanketed with subpoenas over two complaints filed against Rep. Jean Schmidt that are pending at the Ohio Elections Commission.

The complaints allege that Schmidt, a Miami Township Republican, misrepresented both endorsements she had received from Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Westwood, and others, and her educational background on her campaign Web site. Read the Enquirer stories about it here and here.

The commission voted last week that there was "probable cause" to pursue its investigation into Schmidt on the complaint relating to her educational background. Read the Enquirer story about it here.

FYI, Schmidt's opponent in the May 2 GOP primary, Republican Bob McEwen, already has been censured by the Ohio Elections Commission for falsly using the title "congressman" before his name. McEwen hasn't served in Congress since 1992. Read the Enquirer story about that here.

James P. Urling, who is director of the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) and the one who filed the complaints against Schmidt, is listed on the documents as the one ordering the subpoenas . Christopher P. Finney, who also is affiliated with COAST, is named at the bottom of the documents as the attorney handling the case.

So who got served?

Literally everyone with any connection to Schmidt, starting with her husband, Peter Schmidt, to her Schmidt for Congress campaign and former campaign manager, Joe Braun.

Here are the others who have been served and what COAST is seeking:

- Timothy Billies of Creative Point in Amelia, Ohio, who created and maintains Schmidt's campaign Web site, for documents and correspondence relating to the site.

- University of Cincinnati for documents and transcripts relating to degrees Schmidt earned at the school.

- Milford Exempted Village Schools for documents about when or whether Schmidt worked at the school and what duties she performed.

- Ohio Department of Education for documents about Schmidt's teaching certificate or any disciplinary action taken.

- The Cincinnati Enquirer and reporter Howard Wilkinson for any press packets, resumes or documents received from Schmidt's campaign over her educational degrees, and notes from conversations with the campaign over her educational degrees.

- Dayton Daily News, The Cincinnati Post, the Cincinnati Herald, The Associated Press, The Community Press, the Portsmouth Daily Times, the Times-Gazette of Hillsboro, Clermont Sun Publishing Co. in Batavia, The Georgetown Democrat, Hannah News Services, the Brown County Press and the Catholic Telegraph for the same press packets, interview notes, etc.

- League of Women Voters of Cincinnati, Ohio Chamber of Commerce, Ohio Manufacturers Association, Rotunda Inc., and National Federation of Independent Businesses for all records about Schmidt's educational background.

Statewide ballot issue details posted online

Details on 11 statewide 2006 ballot issues are being posted by Attorney General Jim Petro at this internet web address:

Kim Norris, Petro's spokeswoman, said the site will be updated as ballot issues are certified.
All constitutional amendment, initiative and referendum proposals that, if approved, will appear on the Nov. 7 ballot. The status of the proposals will be updated and also can be found by looking under the "recent news'' link at the bottom of www.ag.state.oh.us, also on the internet, Norris said.

Five ballot issues are currently certified to appear on the November ballot. They are constitutional amendments dealing with education, state government spending limits, smoking bans, minimum wage and construction debris.

A history of past ballot issues and procedures for filing them can be found at Secretary of State Ken Blackwell's internet Web site, following this link:


Six other ballot issues are under review, related to casino gambling, smoking, spending caps and workers' compensation.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Republicans launch new Web site

In honor of Tax Day (that's Monday, April 17, the day your tax returns are due to the IRS), the National Republican Campaign Committee has launched a new Web site devoted to attacking Democrats in key Senate races over tax issues - www.DonkeysWantYourMoney.com

Their main target? Why it's U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown of northern Ohio, who is the Democrat likely to challenge Republican Sen. Mike DeWine this fall, of course.

If you click on Ohio, you can read all about Brown's stance on various tax issues.

To get both sides, however, you also should visit Brown's campaign Web site to read about the issues he's working on, such as trying to get Congress to help lower the cost of prescription drugs to seniros. While on Brown's site, you can also view his new TV ad, which features his wife, Connie Schultz, a columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

And so it begins

Even though it’s seven months from the November election, the Democrats have begun the public assault against Hamilton County Commissioner Phil Heimlich, hoping to take the Republican’s seat.

Last week, Heimlich and fellow Republican Commissioner Pat DeWine held a press conference to officially announce the plan to rent Butler County jail beds.

Today, Hamilton County Democratic Party chairman Tim Burke issued a press release accusing Heimlich of a “flip-flop” by supporting Sheriff Simon Leis Jr.’s decision to have deputies patrol Over-the-Rhine.

Burke attacked Heimlich in the press release for taking no action to improve safety in Over-the-Rhine, an area where many Hamilton County employees work and park. Burke also noted the incident last year where a Hamilton County employee was kidnapped, raped and robbed as she walked from an Over-the-Rhine parking lot to her job.

“Watching politicians take credit for reviving something that they themselves eliminated is why people are losing trust in County government,” Burke wrote in the press release today.

Heimlich insists that Burke is mixing up – perhaps not accidentally – two separate issues of safety in Over-the-Rhine.

Leis, in a Monday meeting with commissioners, said he wanted to begin regularly partrolling all of Over-the-Rhine, the neighborhood immediately north of downtown Cincinnati.

Burke’s press release notes the “walking patrols” Heimlich helped kill as a commissioner.

The “walking patrols” actually were a specialized program designed to protect county workers at the “county campus” in downtown and Over-the-Rhine. In that program, deputies walked patrols during the morning and evening rush hours around county buildings to better protect those workers.

Heimlich did vote against continuing that county campus program in his first month as a commissioner, January 2003.

Leis’ proposal Monday was to have deputies patrol all of the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood from 2 p.m.-4 a.m. every day.

Heimlich said he always has supported Leis’ attempt to have deputies patrol all of Over-the-Rhine. But that plan was delayed by Leis who filed a suit to determine if his deputies would be subject to the same guidelines as Cincinnati police under the so-called Collaborartive agreement that was part of a lawsuit settlement.

“Those allegations (by Burke) are totally made up,” Heimlich said.

The May 2 primary will determine who Heimlich’s Democratic opponent – former Cincinnati Council Member David Pepper or former Forest Park mayor Stephanie Summerow Dumas.

After Heimlich and Commissioner Pat DeWine held the Wednesday press conference, Pepper called the Enquirer four times that day asking to comment on what he believed was Heimlich’s failure over the last four years to solve the jail overcrowding dilemma.

The Enquirer declined, noting the Democratic candidate to square off against Heimlich won’t be known until after the May 2 primary.

First pitch for the Freedom Center

President George W. Bush was in town last week to throw out the first pitch during Opening Day at Great American Ball Park.

Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory threw a pitch right back at the president, one that apparently landed high-and-tight.

Mallory got to talk to the president for a few minutes during the game. Bush brought up the Underground Railroad Freedom Center, a place he visited a few years ago.

"I said it's a great place," Mallory recalled. "He said `It sure is Mayor.'"

"Then I said, `Well, they need money.'"

How much did the mayor ask for?

"$50 million," Mallory said. "It doesn't matter how much a project costs, you always ask for $50 million."

Mallory laughed, then said he didn't really ask for a specific amount.

But what of the president's reaction?

Mallory took a giant step sideways, indicating the president backed away from the pitch, considering it out of the strike zone.

"It was just like woosh," Mallory said, waiving his hand in front of his face, and revealing a blank expression afterward.

New McEwen ads on TV and radio

Republican Bob McEwen is up on the air this week with a new campaign ad that's running both on TV and the radio. The camera pans over a framed copy of the above picture of his family as McEwen's wife, Liz McEwen, narrates.

Bob McEwen, a former congressman representing southern Ohio, is challenging U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Miami Township, in the GOP primary election on May 2.

In the ad, Liz McEwen talks about her Ohio roots: "I was born here in Cincinnati. My grandfather taught art here for 40 years and my uncle was president of Cincinnati Bible Seminary."

Bob McEwen, in case you were wondering, was born in Hillsboro, Highland County. Schmidt and her twin sister, Jennifer Black, were born in Cincinnati.

In the ad, Liz McEwen introduces viewers to their "four great kids" as she tells voters that despite "juggling teenagers" and "job transfers," she and her husband have "never failed to vote and work for a better Ohio."

More from Liz McEwen: "With jobs leaving and taxes rising, we need to elect a trusted conservative to Congress. On May Second, we need to elect Bob McEwen."

Watch the TV ad and listen to the radio ad, which is essentially the same script, here.

Quill's withdrawal clears path for Dems' Cordray

Montgomery County Treasurer Hugh Quill of the Dayton suburb of Clayton dropped out of the Democratic Party primary race for state Treasurer today, clearing the way for Richard Cordray of Grove City.

Cordray, Franklin County treasurer and a candidate for Attorney General in 1998, faces either Ohio Treasurer Jennette B. Bradley of Columbus, or her Republican challenger, Sandra O'Brien of Rome, in the November general election. Bradley and O'Brien, who is Ashtabula County auditor, face each other in a May 2 primary.

It's too late to remove Quill's name from the primary ballot, however. James Lee, spokesman for Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, said that county board of elections officials will be asked to post notices at all polling places -- and include notices with absentee ballots -- that Quill's votes will not be counted.

Votes for state Rep. Jim Trakas, a Republican who recently pulled out of the GOP primary race for Secretary of State against Hamilton County Clerk of Court Greg Hartmann, also won't be counted, Lee said.

"Hugh Quill ran a strong campaign given his strong finance background and gracious personality,'' Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern said today. "He is a team player, a gentleman and he has made himself a stronger candidate in the future by the way he has conducted his campaign. Ohio Democrats are proud to have Hugh Quill as a leader in our Party."
Quill's campaign theme was restoring trust to the state treasury.
More details are at www.hughquill.com

Steve Chabot's new best friend

John McCain is something of a rock star among Republican politicians and could well be the president of the United States, so it is little wonder that more than 300 Republicans dragged themselves down to a Hyatt Regency ballroom Tuesday morning to hear the Arizona senator at a Steve Chabot fundraiser.

Most paid $75 for a breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon and fruit; a few dozen wrote $1,000 checks for an intimate reception with McCain and Chabot.

For many of those Republicans, McCain is not their first choice to follow George W. Bush into the Oval Office, but most concede and that he is far and away the early frontrunner for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination.

"I wouldn't vote for him in a Republcan primary,'' said former Ohio Senate President Richard Finan, "but he's strong.''

Strong enough to help Chabot, who is in a tough re-election campaign in a tough year for Republicans generally, put another $75,000 in his campaign account.

Not a bad morning's work.

McCain has always been looked on skeptically by the right wing of the party, many of whom consider him the Democrats' favorite Republican. But, with his recent criss-crossing of the country for conservatives like Chabot, he is trying to mend his fences with the conservatives who actually decide Republican primary elections.

As always, the Arizonan had a lot to say:

On immigration, and his now-stalled Senate legislation on immigration reform: "Anybody who thinks that all we have to do is enforce our borders is wrong.....what do we do with the 11 million illegal aliens who are already here? How would you send them back? And why would you want to? It would have an unimaginable impact on our economy.''

On lobbying reform: "we have a system that makes good people do bad things and bad people do even worse things. I say this as a loyal Republican - we are going to have problems in this election if we don't clean it up.''

On Iran, and reports that the Bush administration considered the use of tactical nuclear weapons to take out Iran's nuclear program: "there's really no scenario for Iran that would include the nuclear option. The president has to keep other military options on the table, but even that would be difficult for many reasons.''

On his own presidential candidacy in 2000, and maybe in 2008, and the somewhat woeful record of Arionza candidates. "Arizona has produced Barry Goldwater; we've had (the late Democratic congressman) Morris Udall, (former Democratic governor) Bruce Babbitt. Then there's me; and I've lost once already.''

Monday, April 10, 2006

You can buy, just don't flush

The city of Cincinnati will auction off a former firehouse on Central Avenue, and has cut the asking price from $81,000 to $35,000.

City council member Chris Bortz wanted to know Monday why the asking price dropped so much for the three-story building, located at 2147 Central Ave.

"The property was originally valued at $81,000, but we've had two burglaries where 85 percent of the plumbing was removed," said Michael Jackson, a real estate specialist for the Department of Buildings and Inspections. "We changed the value so we can sell it."

The 5,000-square-foot building was a firehouse in the 1950s and 60s. That changed in the early 1970s, when Citizens Committee on Youth (CCY) moved in. CCY moved out last summer, leaving the building vacant. Burglars tore through several walls to get at the copper pipes.

"It's a big property that we'd like to see in some productive use," Jackson said. "So we're trying to unload it in someone's hands."

Voinovich heads to Hawaii

Because Congress is on a two-week recess, Sen. George Voinovich is headed to the beach.

Actually, it's unclear whether the Cleveland Republican will get much beach time, but he and his wife, Janet, will spend this week in Honolulu for an intensive weeklong program aimed at providing lawmakers with a stronger grasp of U.S.-Chinese relations.

"I'm looking forward to it ... It's a beautiful state," said Voinovich, who noted that this will be his seventh trip to Hawaii.

Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, and 10 House members also are attending the conference. It is being paid for by the Aspen Institute, an independent nonprofit group that funds educational forums. Voinovich, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, attended a similar conference in China last year. He has been a critic of the United States' growing trade deficit with China.

Bills pending in Congress aim to eliminate trips paid for by lobbyists and private corporations but not those paid for by nonprofit groups such as Aspen. Voinovich, chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee, said lawmakers should be allowed to accept certain trips to help them understand complex issues.

"Let's get serious about this stuff (lobbying reform), but for goodness sakes, let's not go overboard and deny senators the opportunity to get information that they desperately need to get their jobs done," he said.

(From today's "Inside Washington" notebook. Read the entire column here.)

John McCain turns right

A NASCAR driver makes only left turns. A moderate Republican who wants to be his party's presidential nominee, on the other hand, makes only right turns.

Hard right turns.

Otherwise, John McCain - father of campaign finance reform, gun control advocate, issuer of dire warnings about global warming - wouldn't be in Ohio Tuesday campaigning for the likes of Steve Chabot and J. Kenneth Blackwell, neither of whom has ever been accused as being a card-carrying member of the Republican party's "moderate wing.''

McCain is clearly on a nationwide campaign to convince the right wing of his party that he doesn't have horns growing out of the side of his head. He has been careening across the country touting conservative candidates who, for the most part, were on the Bush bandwagon six years ago, the last time McCain ran for the GOP nomination.

So, today, he brings his campaign to Ohio, where conservative Republican primary voters may have a lot to say about who the the GOP presidential candidate is two years from now.

He'll appear first at a Chabot fundraiser in downtown Cincinnati and then dart off to Cleveland for a late afternoon event with Blackwell, the gubernatorial candidate who is the favorite of the evangelicals whose brothers and sisters down south sunk McCain's presidential campaign in 2000.

Six years ago, McCain barnstormed Ohio during the presidential primary in his famous campaign bus, The Straight Talk Express, in a futile attempt to stop George W. Bush.

Since then, The Straight Talk Express clearly has had its steering column tampered with.

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