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, April 21, 2006

Half a million dollars raised already

If money is an indicator, David Pepper will easily defeat Stephanie Dumas in the May 2 Democratic primary for Hamilton County Commissioner.

In financial reports candidates filed Thursday with the Hamilton County Board of Elections, Dumas’ contributors raised $961. Dumas gave her campaign a loan of $8,026.19. She has a zero balance in her campaign fund.

Her largest contributors were two individuals who each gave $100 and an in-kind contribution of $1,000 from Deborah Gaines for office and rental space.

Dumas' campaign finance report (in .pdf format)

Pepper received $72,505 from contributors but because he carried forward almost $30,000 from his days on Cincinnati City Council, he has $104,856.09 available.

Pepper’s largest contributors were Thomas Crain ($5,000) and 14 who gave $2,500 including mom and dad John and Frances Pepper, Jack Rouse, James Zimmerman and Neil Bortz.

Pepper's campaign finance report -- contributions (in .pdf format)
Pepper's campaign finance report -- expenses (in .pdf format)

Both Dumas and Pepper were topped, though, by the man they hope to unseat – incumbent Republican Commissioner Phil Heimlich.

Heimlich has raised $392,853.76 – and that is just since the beginning of the year after he dropped out as a lieutenant governor candidate to try to retain his commission seat.

Heimlich’s largest contributors were Carl Lindner ($75,000), Richard Farmer ($15,000) and 15 others who gave at least $5,000 each.

Heimlich's campaign finance report (in .pdf format)

The financial reports were through April 12.

McEwen gives $50,000 to his favorite candidate

Which, of course, would be himself.

Bob McEwen, the Republican challenger in the 2nd District congressional race, loaned his own campaign $50,000 back in March, according to the pre-primary campaign finance report his campaign filed with the Federal Election Commission.

That loan accounted for nearly one-fourth of the total contributions to his campaign during the first quarter of 2006, and helped him go from $576.09 in the bank at the beginning of the year to total receipts of $221,436 through April 15. With nearly $170,000 in expenditures, McEwen was left with $52,920 in the bank.

His opponent, Jean Schmidt, raked in $215,664 in the same period, to add to the $162,140 she already had in the bank on Jan. 1. As of April 15, she has more than twice the cash on hand as McEwen - $116,985.06.

Incumbency has it advantages.

Portune's new aide

The woman who helped Todd Portune retain his Hamilton County Commission seat in 2004 now will be his administrative aide.

Portune, in need of an aide for several weeks following the departure of former aide Karen Ball to work for the county-owned Metropolitan Sewer District, just announced the hiring of Kathy Binns.

The Mount Lookout resident will be paid $52,000 per year -- $3,400 per year less than Ball was making. Her first day on the job is Monday.

The salary range for commissioners' aides is $42,620-$58,011 per year, but two of the three commissioners -- Portune and Phil Heimlich -- have said they need to review those ranges because they may be too low.

Binn described herself as a "proud, card-carrying member of the AARP." She also volunteers for the Wellness Community and Hospice.

Portune, a Democrat, may be the least well-known of Binns' bosses. She formerly was an aide for Tennessee Gov. Ray Blanton and has helped direct and cast several movies as well as a recent music video for county music performer Kenny Chesney.

The aides for the two Republican commissioners and their salaries:
  • Rob Seddon, Heimlich's aide, has an annual salary of $52,520;
  • Lisa Webb, Pat DeWine's aide, is paid $54,059 per year.

What happened to Callinan's blog?

Several commenters have asked what happened to Enquirer Editor Tom Callinan's blog.

It was killed Wednesday.

For those who didn't have a chance to read his explanation on his blog before it was taken off Cincinnati.com, it's real simple: he said he didn't have time to commit to it.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

McEwen's wife launches Web site

Liz McEwen, the wife of Republican Bob McEwen, has a new Web site and blog - for the ladies.

McEwen, a former congressman from southern Ohio, is running against Rep. Jean Schmdit in the May 2 GOP primary election for the 2nd District.

Check it out his wife's site here.

And while you're at it... Check out the family photos, where you'll a family picture taken at the McEwen's Virginia home. See the Enquirer's story and photo of that same house that ran in last Sunday's paper here.

Also note that in one of the pictures, McEwen's daughter is wearing a Robinson track sweatshirt.

One party outsider endorses another

Former Democratic Senate candidate Paul Hackett came to the Statehouse in Columbus today to endorse Peter M. Sikora of Cleveland for Ohio Supreme Court.

Sikora, 54, has been judge in the juvenile division of the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court for 17 years. He faces former state Sen. Ben Espy, 62, of Columbus in the May 2 Democratic primary. The Ohio Democratic Party endorsed Espy.

"I have a special affinity and interest in justice races,'' Hackett said, citing Sikora's longtime legal experience. "I have tremendous confidence in his ability."

Afterward, Sikora gave Hackett a red "Team Sikora" t-shirt.

"I am honored to have your support and endorsement,'' Sikora said, noting people look to Hackett "as a new leader in the Democratic Party.''

Over the past year, Hackett said he got to know Sikora on the campaign trail during his unsuccessful 2nd District congressional run for Congress and later U.S. Senate.

Asked if he'd run again for public office, Hackett said, "Not in this lifetime.''

He said he's enjoying his life at home, hanging out in his Cincinnati law office and stumping for other Democratic candidates, including fellow veteran Lt. Col. Andrew Horn who is running for the 3rd District congressional seat in Louisville, Ky.

Before today's news conference, Hackett said he's also "looking to write a book'' about his short-lived life in politics and military service in Iraq.

He doesn't miss the six to eight hours of daily fund-raising calls.
"What's bad about the process is the money,'' he said. "It's not raising, it's begging. . .You're like a caged animal."

Hackett said he'd much rather spend that time developing solutions to problems.

"Your number one primary focus is raising money,'' he said. "It just seems upside down.''

Any Politics Extra readers know about this?

A Cincinnati woman called the newsroom to say she received a really distasteful call from an anti-gay group.

She described the message as "really unpleasant" and hateful and delivered by a refined-sounding woman.

She said the group said people could call to help prevent the spread of gay marriage by calling 866-266-6277.

That toll free number comes back as "not in service."

No wonder Schmidt stayed home

You can't win a $256 million lottery jackpot if you don't buy a ticket.

And you can't win an Anderson Township Republican Club straw poll, if you don't show up for a debate.

Congresswoman Jean Schmidt probably will not be shocked to learn that at Wednesday night's meeting of the Anderson Township Club - which was supposed to have been a debate between her and Bob McEwen - 96 percent of the club members voted for McEwen.

Schmidt had pulled out of the debate weeks ago, claming that debate organizer J. Duffy Beischel had stacked the deck against her.

The two did have a debate on Wednesday, though - on WLWT (channel 5) - which took the unsual step of giving up a half-hour of its 90-minute news block to have anchors Sandra Ali and Sheree Paolello fire off questions.

In his closing statement, McEwen invited all the folks tuning in to come out to the Mercy Healthplex for the Anderson debate, knowing full well that Schmidt had no intention of showing up.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Oba remembered

More than a dozens citizens spoke at Wednesday's Cincinnati Council meeting about the shooting a week ago of community activist Kabaka Oba, who died Saturday.

To commemorate Oba, a single folding chair from the audience was pushed in front of the other chairs . Someone put two signs on it reading: "Reserved for Kabaka Oba" and "Kabaka Oba never dies."

Where'd that web site go?

For those wondering what happened to Bob McEwen's campaign web site the last few days, spokesman Michael Harlow explains their ISP provider experienced a "catastrophic failure."

"They fixed it yesterday, but it has taken a while for all ISPs to pick it up again. For instance, my friends out of state could get it yesterday and I could not ... I can't speak for everyone, but it is working in our office now."

City Council and a pile of what?

Most of the public who spoke at Cincinnati City Council today mourned the death of Kabaka Oba, but one chose an entirely different subject on which to address council.

A man wearing sun glasses -- who signed his name "Bishop Cool" on the speaker's card -- stepped to the podium to tell the mayor and nine council members that he was forced recently to move from Clifton because of the large amount of dog poop there.

He used his two minutes of speaking time to blast council for not doing more to punish pet owners for not cleaning up after the pets throughout the city, asking council to enforce the dog poop laws "with the same gumption as the (police) sweeps in Over-the-Rhine."

Cool then addressed his next comment directly to Council Member Cecil Thomas, who introduced an ordinance that later was adopted last month that changed the laws involving marijuana possession, causing in the possession of even a small amount to result in an arrest when previously it would result in a ticket.

"There is nothing that blows my high like stepping in dog poop," Cool told Thomas.

McEwen drops out? Schmidt sings opera?

With less than two weeks to go before the May 2 primary, things couldn't get any crazier (or could they?) in the race between Rep. Jean Schmidt and former Rep. Bob McEwen, who are both vying for the 2nd Congressional District seat.

First, someone doctored up a bogus press release purporting to be from the McEwen campaign, announcing that he's dropping out of the race to return to his home in Fairfax Station, Va., and faxed it to media around town.

The release was actually pretty funny. It said McEwen had decided running for Congress was too "grueling" and that he's instead decided to back Schmidt and go back to being a lobbyist: "I endorse her, and would vote for her but for my return to Virginia."

Read Channel 9's story about the fake release here.

Then, an even more clever person, took the C-SPAN footage of Schmidt's speech last November where she told Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., a decorated former Marine, that "cowards cut and run, Marines never do," and put it to music.

More specifically, put it to opera music.

Watch the video here.

What's next?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A dash of Pepper

The Democratic primary for the Hamilton County Commission race isn't for two weeks, but already David Pepper is acting like he's won.

Pepper, who is vying with former Forest Park mayor Stephanie Summerow Dumas for the Democratic nod in the election, already has announced two special events to help him defeat incumbent Republican Commissioner Phil Heimlich -- and both are to be held before the May 2 primary.

First, Pepper will hold an open house for his volunteers from 5-6 p.m. Thursday, April 27 at his new campaign headquarters at 6109 Webbland Place in Pleasant Ridge.

Two days later, he will host a literature drop with other Democratic campaigns from 9-10 a.m. at his new headquarters, followed by a 1 p.m. cookout.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Schmidt playing hard to get

More fallout from what Malia Rulon reported in her "Inside Washington" column today regarding Rep. Jean Schmidt and the death penalty:

The Queen City Lodge of the FOP's political action committee would probably like to endorse incumbent Jean Schmidt in the 2nd District GOP primary - after all, the police union endorsed her twice last year - but the congresswoman is making it hard for them to do.

What the FOP wants, president Kathy Harrell said Monday morning, is a straight answer from Schmidt on whether or not she supports the death penalty.

Schmidt said she did support the death penalty, in an endorsement questionaire that went out from the FOP, as did her primary oppponent, Bob McEwen. Then, the FOP found out that on a candidate questionnaire from the Anderson Township Republican Club, she proclaimed herself opposed to the death penalty.

Harrell said the candidates were brought in for interviews following the questionaire and "asked her directly three times.'' Now, Harrell said, the FOP's candidate screening committee wants her to explain the discrepancy.

Schmidt had a different take on it when asked by the Enquirer: "Do I personally dislike (the death penalty)? Yeah. Would I change the law? No.'' In a letter to FOP vice president Keith Fangman, Schmidt included a long list of circumstances under which the federal death penalty is applicable, and ended by saying the federal death penalty "has taken on new importance in the post-9/11 world. I support the federal death penalty as a needed tool in the war against terror.''

Harrell said the FOP still wants to endorse somebody; and is willing to give Schmidt one more shot at explaining.

Update, 2:30 p.m.

McEwen today issued a press release headlined "McEwen Has Always Supported the Death Penalty."


Cincinnati- Bob McEwen issued the following statement today after questions were raised about the record of his opponent’s support of the death penalty.

"Capital punishment is a necessary part of our criminal justice system. It is both a deterrent to committing crimes such as murder and it is also a fitting punishment for those who take a life. The death penalty should be a tool available to prosecutors for certain heinous crimes. It is my hope that, as new technology, such as DNA analysis, brings greater certainty in identifying and convicting the guilty, the interminable appeals process can be streamlined. I have always been forthright in my support of the death penalty with everyone who asks."

McEwen issued this statement today after Kathy Harrell, President of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 69, called a press conference to reveal that McEwen’s opponent, Congresswoman Jean Schmidt, gave contradictory answers to the FOP and the Anderson Township Republican Club during her campaign last year. This inconsistency, the latest in a string of such statements from Schmidt, was reported in today’s Enquirer. Schmidt is already the subject of two Ohio Elections Commission probes into lying on her resume and falsely claiming endorsements from two Congressmen and a non-profit group.

Female officeholders ace campaign disclosure class

Three Ohio officeholders scored A's, while five other statewide candidates flunked a campaign contribution scorecard released today by a non-partisan public advocacy group.

Ohio Treasurer Jennette B. Bradley got an A+, while Auditor Betty D. Montgomery received an A, said Catherine Turcer, legislative director for Ohio Citizen Action. Bradley, a Republican, is running for re-election. Montgomery is running for her former job as Attorney General.

State Rep. Mary Taylor, Republican candidate for state Auditor, also got an A.

Ohio law requires candidates to identify the business or occupation of contributors -- or at least make a "best effort'' to identify their employment background. Ohio Citizen Action found about one of every five contributions did not detail that information on campaign-finance reports. The requirement is never enforced, but Turcer said candidates have recently updated their reports.

Ohio Citizen Action gave F's to any candidate that failed to identify less than 65 percent of its contributors' employment background. Candidates reporting the detail more than 90 percent of the time got A's.

State Sen. Tim Grendell, Montgomery's Republican opponent in the May 2 primary, got an F, according to the analysis of 2005 campaign contributions.

Ashtabula County Auditor Sandra O'Brien, Bradley's Republican primary opponent, also scored an F as did state Rep. Barbara Sykes, a Democrat running against Taylor for Auditor.

Locally, Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Greg Hartmann, a Republican running for Secretary of State, received a B+ for detailing nearly 89 percent of his contributions. Hartmann's Democratic opponent, former Franklin County Common Court Pleas Judge Jennifer L. Brunner, got a D.

Former Rep. Bryan E. Flannery, a Democrat for governor, also got an F. In fact, no gubernatorial candidates received a grade higher than a B.

The fifth F went to state Sen. Marc Dann, a Democratic candidate for Attorney General.

The complete report will appear at this Web address later today:

Read Tuesday's Enquirer for the complete report card and additional details.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Politics open thread

There's a lot of political news in the Sunday Enquirer today. Post any comments here on

The death of Kabaka Oba

Bob McEwen's residency

The challenge to Cincinnati's new pot law.

Jim Borgman
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