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, May 05, 2006

Hartmann: Investigate Cuyahoga

Republican Greg Hartmann, the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts, faces Democrat Jennifer Brunner for Secretary of State this fall.

Both were unopposed in the primary this week; for the record, Brunner got 580,999 votes to Hartmann's 433,662, according to the Secretary of State's office.

Hartmann issued this press release today:

For Immediate Release
Contact: Mark Weaver

Secretary of State Candidate Greg Hartmann Applauds Secretary of State Investigation of Cuyahoga County
Board of Elections
Says voting errors in Cuyahoga County are unacceptable.

COLUMBUS-May 5, 2006- Greg Hartmann, candidate for Secretary of State, today applauded the investigation of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections and called on the Secretary of State to extend that investigation to all election operations in that county.
"I commend Secretary Blackwell for taking swift action on this matter, but there’s more to be done. The voting problems in Cuyahoga County are unacceptable in today's modern voting environment. Citizens in Ohio's largest county deserve to know why their election system isn't working." Hartmann said.

"The mishaps and blunders in the Primary Election in this county are completely unacceptable. As Ohio's Chief Elections Officer I’ll protect and preserve the integrity of Ohio's elections system to ensure that every eligible voter is encouraged and permitted to vote."

Noting that the voter turnout in Cuyahoga County was only 19%, Hartmann questioned whether Cuyahoga County will be able to handle the increased turnout in the fall, "In November when two or three times that amount of citizens will vote, Cuyahoga County's Board of Elections must be capable of handling a significant increase in turnout. Only through a strict and thorough investigation by the Secretary of State’s office can we be assured a fair election," Hartmann concluded.

Greg Hartmann represents the next generation of leadership in Ohio. As the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts, Greg has earned a national reputation for modernizing the office and making it more accountable to taxpayers. During the last two fiscal years, Greg has returned nearly $2 million to taxpayers, and he's been a leader in protecting Ohioans from identity theft.

Greg's professional career includes private sector experience managing West Coast operations for Airline Distribution Services, Inc. Greg served as an Assistant Prosecutor in Hamilton County, where he prosecuted thousands of criminal cases including many involving violent felonies.

Hartmann and his wife Tracy are raising their four children in Cincinnati.


Portune's "Dear Bob" letter

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune sent this letter to Reds owner Bob Castellini Wednesday, asking some questions about the new Banks Working Group - the new joint committee that will help pick The Banks' master developer:

Dear Bob:

Congratulations on yesterday's announcement of thirteen (13) specific recommendations
to the City of Cincinnati and Hamilton County about the Banks developer selection,
scope, financial planning, and development agreement. I appreciate the time and effort
you voluntarily placed toward assisting in moving the banks riverfront development
project forward.

Yesterday I received about a 30 minute briefing on the 13 points, the discussions and the
process that you undertook. I have since had the opportunity to carefully study the 13
points and also the proposed "RESOLUTION.. .ADOPTING POINTS OF
UNDERSTANDING" that was tendered to me and that I understand the Board of County
Commissioners has scheduled to act upon on Monday May 8, 2006 at our regularly
scheduled Staff Meeting beginning at 9:30 a.m. My review of the documents has resulted
in the identification of a variety of elements that I either do not fully comprehend, or that
I have questions about. Accordingly, I will detail those below and respectfully ask for
the favor of a written reply from you to each.

Read the rest here

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Dumas: Thank you, supporters

After being trounced at the polls Tuesday, Stephanie Dumas believes her candidacy still made a difference -- and she wants everyone to know it.

Dumas, a former Forest Park mayor, was defeated by former Cincinnati Council Member David Pepper -- 21,283 to 9,333 or 70-30 percent -- for the Democratic nominee for Hamilton County Commissioner.

She sent the Enquirer an e-mail at about 2:30 this afternoon asking to have published the following:


I'm extremely proud of how we ran our campaign and also the results of the election. We were few but powerful and in 2 and half months we managed to mobilize about 9300 people to vote for Dumas. The campaign was about so much more than me but about spearheading change and giving people options. Another critical element of the campaign was that it made people look critically at the unfairness of media coverage, the discriminatory practices of the democratic party when it comes to informing it's constituents about all candidates that are running.

How many people believed that there was only one Democratic candidate running for commissioner? How many actually saw my name on the back of the ballot? How many switched their party affiliation to vote for Blackwell?.

We accomplished alot with little time and little money. We awakened the conscious of the County and the Democratic Party and hopefully we will mobilize the people to become more politically active and bring about positive change. To my supporters and for those over 9,000 people who voted for me I thank you. I will not forget your commitment to give me your vote and I will continue to fight for your interest, your votes will not be in vain.
Respectfully Submitted, Stephanie Dumas"

Don't get between Cranley and a camera


Face time and name recognition mean everything when you are asking people to vote for you.

Cincinnati Council Member John Cranley, who also is running as the Democratic candidate trying to take the 1st District Congressional seat from Republican incumbent Steve Chabot, was late for Wednesday's press conference where city and Hamilton County officials announced they'd reached an agreement that allows the proposed $600 million Banks development to continue.

As politicans were speaking at the press conference, the car carrying Cranley pulled up and stopped in rush-hour traffic. Cranley jumped out of the car, ran across the street and jumped into the line of politicians, leaving himself on the end -- and likely out of view of the television cameras there.

Moments later, one of the videographers hoisted his camera to his shoulder and walked to Cranley's left looking for other shots. Out of the corner of his eye, Cranley noticed the camera..

He also noticed that a newspaper reporter -- who'd been standing in that spot since before the press conference started -- was between him and the rolling camera.

Cranley called to the reporter who was taking notes. When the reporter looked up, Cranley motioned for the reporter to step back -- so Cranley would be in the camera shot.

Cranley didn't speak at the press conference and wasn't involved in the discussions that led to the agreement.

UPDATE (2:56 p.m.):
Cranley called the reporter to apologize for that reporter's interpretation of Cranley's hand gesture.

"I would never even dream of doing that," Cranley said. "I was only trying to say 'Hi' to you. I can understand why you thought that. I'm sorry it looked that way."

Cranley swore "on a stack of Bibles" he would never ask someone to move so he could be in a camera shot "because that would be rude."

Pepper blasted Banks 'truce,' Heimlich

As Hamilton County and Cincinnati officials were announcing their deal to get the Banks development on the move, a campaign worker for David Pepper -- who is trying to take the seat held by Republican incumbent Commissioner Phil Heimlich -- was passing out a release blasting Heimlich and the deal.

A day after he won the Democratic nomination, Pepper was assailing the deal as a "truce" that cost taxpayers millions of dollars while get the process where it was a year ago.

Last June, commissioners announced they had agreed -- without the knowledge of other groups working to make the Banks a reality -- with a developer to give it exclusive rights for six months to see if it could start building. That deal fell through in December.

Since then, despite protests from Cincinnati Council Members, Hamilton County officials have interviewed prospective developers and named four finalists. They were prepared to select a developer until the last week or so when they engaged in talks with city officials and Reds owners. The result was Wednesday's announcement that a five-member group will make most of the new decisions on the Banks and its developer.

"After a year's worth of incompetence and mismanagement and millions of dollars wasted, we are right back to where we were last June," Pepper's release noted.

"This 'deal' is an admission that the County's entire approach of the past year was a mistake, and the millions of taxpayer dollars spent on the misadventure have been wasted."

Pepper's release didn't mention the other two commissioners, Republican Pat DeWine or Democrat Todd Portune, even though they were on the commission last June when the county took control of the Banks deal.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

What's next for Schmidt and McEwen?

For Rep. Jean Schmidt, who eked out a primary victory against challenger Bob McEwen last night, what's next is a full week of legislative activity in Washington.

Today's U.S. House schedule started with a debate over two energy/gas price bills, one that deals with price gouging and the other that deals with refinery capacity. This evening, the House plans to vote on the lobby reform bill.

Then this weekend, Schmidt is running in Cincinnati's Flying Pig Marathon.

"I'm taking the weekend off," Schmidt said last night.

More Schmidt comments...

About the negative direction the campaign took in its final days: "I certainly didn't want it to go in that direction. ... My opponent was lobbing negative attacks against me and at some point, you have to respond."
About McEwen, a longtime friend turned opponent: "I wish him well."
About whether she has any regrets on her primary, Schmidt said: "No."
About her race against Democrat Victoria Wulsin this fall: "I'll be just fine."

McEwen, on the other hand didn't immediately know what his week and weekend plans were. After losing his fourth attempt at a comeback to the U.S. House, the former southern Ohio congressman also was unsure if he'd run again.

"I cannot see the circumstances by which I would run again," he said last night.

Meanwhile, his wife, Liz, wasn't as forgiving on the negative ads: "It hurts me when people say things about my husband that are absolutely not true," she told supporters after her husband's concession speech.

A look at Schmidt's numbers

Today, rookie Rep. Jean Schmidt went to work in Washington secure in the knowledge that after just eight months on the job, voters in Ohio aren' t ready to toss her out.

"I'm so grateful that voters once again placed their trust in me," she said by phone from her Washington office last night.

Is that what voters did?

Schmidt, a Miami Township Republican, won nearly 48 percent of the vote in Tuesday's GOP primary election for the 2nd Congressional District, to beat challenger Bob McEwen, a former congressman from southern Ohio who got 42 percent.

But Republicans Deborah Kraus and James Constable got 6 percent and 4 percent, respectively.
That means that more people voted AGAINST Schmidt (36,449 people, or 52 percent) than voted FOR her (33,314, or 48 percent).

That also means that if McEwen - who lost to Schmidt by 3,703 votes - had gotten about half of the 6,838 votes that went to Kraus and Constable, he would have won.

Pepper goes on the offensive

Even before all of the votes were counted from Tuesday night's election, David Pepper's campaign issued a release attacking his opponent's "failed leadership."

Pepper spent much of Tuesday night drinking diet Cokes at Arnold's Bar, refusing to go to the Board of Elections before he was extremely confident that he had defeated Stephanie Dumas, his opponent in the primary to become the Democratic nominee for Hamilton County Commission. He crushed Dumas, 21,283-9,333, or 70 percent to 30 percent.

The Enquirer spoke to Pepper in the entrance of the Board of Elections at about 11:10 p.m. Tuesday. One hundred percent of the votes weren't tallied until about 1:45 a.m. this morning.

Pepper's first official release as the Democratic nominee to take on incumbent Republican Commissioner Phil Heimlich was e-mailed at 12:29 a.m. from Pepper campaign worker Anne Sesler.

The release noted the three main topics Pepper has raised -- and will continue to raise -- in attacking Heimlich.

Here is Pepper's release.

For Immediate Release For More Information May 2, 2006 Jeff Cramerding, 621-1150 or 703-5127 or Anne Sesler, 608-2498

David Pepper will now have the opportunity to face off with an incumbent Hamilton County commissioner after an impressive win in the Democratic Primary Election.

According to unofficial election results, Pepper prevailed over fellow democrat and former Forest Park Mayor Stephanie Dumas by a 70% to 30% vote.

"On issue after issue, after witnessing failure after failure, the voters are crying out for a change of direction in the County," Pepper said. "This November, we will provide that change and start a new direction for Hamilton County."

Pepper congratulated his primary opponent, Stephanie Dumas, for waging a "serious and thoughtful campaign. She has and will continue to be a wonderful public servant."

Pepper's win means he will take on Commissioner Phil Heimlich in November. As the President of the County Commission, Heimlich has presided over a series of public debacles, including Jail

Overcrowding, the Banks Project, and Drake Hospital. Under Heimlich's watch:

• over 8,000 prisoners have been released early from prison due to his failure to add permanent jailspace; police officials attribute much of the recent wave of violent crime to this unresolved crisis;

• the Banks Project remains a mud pit even though millions have been spent on lawyer's fees, and despite being the County's fixation for the past year. Amid this all-consuming focus on the river, other "quality of life" priorities across the entire County seem to have been forgotten.

• and Heimlich's much heralded "deal" over Drake Hospital collapsed when it was revealed that the county and the proposed buyer were tens of millions of dollars apart.

With such results, citizens continue to move out of the County at about 8,000 people per year, one of the highest rates in the country. And from the jail to the Banks, millions of dollars are being wasted due to Heimlich's failed initiatives and mismanagement.

"On project after project, Phil Heimlich has declared mission accomplished when in reality nothing's been accomplished but delay and waste," Pepper said. "In order to reverse the downward spiral in Hamilton County, we need to replace this failed leadership with new, optimistic and competent leadership. Leadership that solves the challenges we face efficiently and competently, and builds a long-term vision of a growing, prosperous region," Pepper said.

In his bid to unseat Heimlich, Pepper has already been endorsed by an impressive slate of bipartisan elected officials, including: County Commissioner Todd Portune, former County Commissioner (Republican) John Dowlin, Mayor Mark Mallory, and Democrat and Republican elected officials from Cincinnati and across the County.

Commissioner chides Lt. Gov., uh, commissioner

Democratic Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune didn't pass up an opportunity today to tease Republican Commissioner Phil Heimlich.

"I'd like to congratulate Phil on his win yesterday," Portune said at today's commission meeting.

Heimlich wasn't there because he was in secret talks with city officials trying to settle complaints that will help the Banks development project proceed. Heimlich was on Tuesday's ballot as an unopposed Republican candidate to retain his commission seat, getting 41,950 votes.

Todd, though, started smiling and explained he wasn't referring to Heimlich's primary win.

"His win happened several months earlier when apparently he had the clairvoyance to get out" as the lieutenant governor candidate for Republican gubernatorial hopeful Jim Petro, Portune said with a big smile.

Petro and Heimlich's replacement as lieutenant governor on Perto's slate were trounced Tuesday by J. Kenneth Blackwell, a Hamilton County resident. Blackwell beat Petro 3-1 in Hamilton County.

Blackwell now squares off against Democrat Ted Strickland for Ohio's governor's seat.

Hamilton County 100%

Complete Hamilton County results were posted at 2:05 a.m.

Here is the line on one of the last and most contested races, the Democratic 32nd House primary:

Dale Mallory 2,148 44.64%
Eve Bolton 1,988 41.38%
Eric Wilson 417 8.67%
Yvette Barbara Baldwin 259 5.38%

McEwen may challenge results

Ed Jenkins, Bob McEwen's campaign manager, said the McEwen campaign is considering challenging the results in Clermont County.

His statement, given to Enquirer Washington Bureau reporter Malia Rulon:

"It's our feeling that for the fouth straight election in a row, voters have witnessed irregularities in the voting process in Clermont County. Naturally, this creates suspicion in the integrity of the overall electoral process that merits further evaluation."

The Schmidt campaign response, from Allen Freeman: "I think it's a futile attempt. I don't know what standing he'd have to make a complaint. He was solidly defeated in Clermont County."

The final vote count in Clermont County, from the Board of Elections:





Hamilton County's slow count

Hamilton County election workers (from left) Chuck Swafford, Sherry Poland, and Dennis Predmore, and contractor Barbara White with voting machine vendor Hart Intercivic, look over precinct reports at the Hamilton County Board of Elections. (Photo by Carrie Cochran/The Cincinnati Enquirer)

The reason it took so long for the final handful of Hamilton County precincts to be counted Tuesday night (and early Wednesday morning) was that poll workers in some precincts were sending the paper ballots down to the board of elections, but not the digital memory cards from the optical scan machines that recorded vote totals.

As of about 12:40 a.m., all of the Hamilton County precincts were in except one precinct. Ten more precincts had been counted but not reported.

"We've got the paper ballots for all precincts, but we've been waiting for all the cards to come in,'' said elections director John Williams. "It's a new system, and some of the poll workers forgot that we need to have the digital memory cards.''

Williams said the back-up plan was to scan the paper ballots at the board of elections, but Williams said that would not be necessary because the final digital memory card was on its way to the board by 12:45 a.m.

Clermont pleased with vote count

Staff writer Steve Kemme reports from Clermont County that the vote count was completed without incident. Last November, the elections count did not finish until the next morning.

The elections staff completed its count at 11:35 p.m. Tuesday. Elections director Michael Keeley said he was pleased.

"Considering Clermont County's past history, it went great," he said.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

McEwen's campaign party now almost empty

Campaign volunteers Michael Klenk of Warren County and Mark Faust of Clermont County, both 12, hang the sign for Bob McEwen's hopeful celebration party during the GOP Primary at the New England Club. (Photo by Jeff Swinger/The Cincinnati Enquirer)

Minutes after Bob McEwen conceded the 2nd District GOP primary to Rep. Jean Schmidt, a somber crowd of about 100 supporters began clearing out of the New England Club in Anderson Township.

McEwen and his wife, Liz, stood in the hallway shaking hands with everyone as they left. McEwen's eyes were red and his voice wavered as he thanked supporters for their help.

Asked if he will now support Schmidt's campaign in the general election, McEwen said: ""Sure. Well, sure, of course."

Meanwhile, other supporters took down his "McEwen for Congress" sign that only a few hours ago a few excited children had strung up over the window.

The blue and white tablecloths are gone. The food is being packed away. All but one TV camera are now gone. And in the background, the music is playing "God Bless the USA."

Strickland's victory speech: 'Turnaround Ohio'

The Democratic gubernatorial nominee, U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland, shakes hands with people in the crowd during a primary night celebration in Columbus. (Photo by Terry Gilliam/The Associated Press)

U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland offered the following statement after being declared the winner of the Democratic primary for governor:

I am honored and humbled to accept the Democratic nomination to be Ohio's next governor. I look forward to the weeks and months ahead as we will take to the people a bold and comprehensive vision to return Ohio to greatness.

Right now in Ohio we have a leadership that seems to have given up on Ohio. Under their leadership, we've seen our great state buried under an avalanche of scandal, corruption, and, at times, criminal activity.

Ohio Democrats are united around a clear, workable plan called Turnaround Ohio to get our great state moving in the right direction.

Turnaround Ohio aims to keep and grow the jobs we have by investing in Ohio's strengths - like energy production, high-tech manufacturing and small businesses - and the plan will bring the jobs of the future by reforming education from pre-school through college, because, in the future, jobs will go where the workforce is best educated.

Our mission to restore Ohio to its rightful place as one of the greatest states in the nation starts tonight. Our mission to restore the hope to our state that has for too long been mired in cynicism and despair starts tonight. Our mission to Turnaround Ohio starts tonight.

We have faith in the future of Ohio because we believe in the people of Ohio. There is nothing wrong with our state that can't be fixed with our hard work, our passion, and our creativity.

I am deeply thankful for this opportunity to work with Ohioans across our state in the weeks and months to come to turnaround our great state.

Blackwell's victory speech: 'All the glory is God's'

J. Kenneth Blackwell, Republican primary candidate for governor, center, greets his supporters as he walks into the party to deliver his victory speech, Tuesday, May 2, 2006, in Columbus, Ohio. At left is his wife Rosa, superintendent of the Cincinnati Public Schools. (Photo by Kiichiro Sato/The Associated Press)

Five minutes to 11'clock and J. Kenneth Blackwell came to the podium.

Lara Mastin, chairwoman of Ohioans for Blackwell, introduced him.

"This is just the beginning," Mastin said. "We're going all the way."

With about 200 supporters looking on Ken Blackwell said, "We are going to cut the tax burden. We are going to change the economic climate. Ours is an agenda of progress and job creation. We are going to say (to those who have left Ohio) 'Come on back home.'''

"Message to Brother Strickland,'' Blackwell said, to which one fan replied, "He's no brother."

The Republican winner continued, "You can run but you can't hide. We're coming right at ya. We're coming right at ya. We respect change. We respect the future. There is no retreat in our bones."

Blackwell said you wouldn't know the real Blackwell was standing here if he didn't say, "All the glory is God's.''

"Ohioans deserve a better future and the Blackwell-Raga team intends to lead us all to it,'' he said, before extending an invitation for party unity. "It's now time for us as a party to get Ohio growing again.''

Blackwell said he looks forward to posting signs along the state's highways with Lt. Gov. Tom Raga "that Ohio is open for business again."

He thanked everyone for their talent, their treasures and prayers. He was joined on stage by his wife, Rosa, their two daughters, and runningmate Raga's family.

A few minutes later, U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine and his wife took the stage to thank supporters.

And Republican Auditor Betty D. Montgomery just arrived, too.

"I'm glad it's over. It's on to November,'' she said of her bid to return to her attorney general's job, which she held for two four-year terms.

"I'm going to try to do the best I can. I've never had to be in a negative race,'' she said, anticipating a lively general election campaign against Democratic state Sen. Marc Dann.

"I'm not afraid to define myself. I'm not afraid to defend myself,'' she said.

It's Schmidt: McEwen concedes

Former U.S. Rep Bob McEwen has conceded the 2nd congressional district primary to incumbent Republican Jean Schmidt.

Tonight, the voters of the Republican Party have made their choice," McEwen told a somber crowd as his wife, Liz, and daughter, Meredith, stood beside him.

"I must admit that I am somewhat surprised and significantly disappointed," McEwen said.

Everyone loves a winner

Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett, after months of chastising Ken Blackwell in his failed attempts to referee a contentious GOP primary, congratulated his party's nominee for governor in a statement tonight:

Ken Blackwell has proven himself to be the right candidate with the right message at the right time. He has the conviction to lead this state beyond the status quo and the skills to get us there. I have no doubt that the Democrats, and even some in the media, are underestimating his ability to connect with voters on the issues that matter. When it comes to his agenda of job creation, fiscal restraint, and government integrity, a lot of people are listening and liking what they hear.

Petro never expected to win Hamilton County

Ohio Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Jim Petro gives his concession speech in Columbus, Ohio. Petro lost the primary to Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell. (Photo by Jay LaPrete/The Associated Press)

Just a minute before 11 p.m., Jim Petro came back to his party to tell his supporters what they already knew - that he'd lost.

"You are all terrific,'' he said. "And I've got to tell you. This is more fun than winning. Almost. Not quite.''

He said he called Ken Blackwell on the only number he had for him, his cell phone. He left a message, then called again.

"It's interesting to leave a voicemail congratulatory message, but I was pleased to do so.''
Blackwell started campaigning two years ago, he said, had the advantage and could build on it.
He called the Blackwell campaign masterful.

"We didn't quite make it,'' Petro said. "But because of the effort of so many of you here....''
He thanked "the major newspapers in Ohio, with one exception.'' And when he started ticking off counties that supported him, someone yelled, "Hamilton!''

Petro said, "Where? They didn't endorse me.''

"I never expected it in Hamilton County,'' he said laughing, "but it was a nice effort.''

"I always told myself, from the first time I ran for office, if you're not prepared to lose, don't run. We were prepared to put forth the best campaign we possibly could.''

He said he wanted to campaign on truthfulness, facts and dignity. "I think we did all of that too.''
Regardless of what he does next, he said, "I am truly blessed. And I'm a winner.''

Montgomery claims victory

Ohio Auditor Betty Montgomery won her race for the attorney general nomination, but when she stepped up to the center podium at Jim Petro's party, she gave what sounded almost like a concession speech.

"We've had to choose in a family fight,'' she told fellow Republicans who supported Petro for governor. "But we're now beyond that... At the end of the day, we're Republicans - we have the best candidates.

"Tonight is hard. But at the end of the day, let's not forget what the prize is - to win in the fall.''

Live, from Washington, it's Tuesday night!

After inserting her ballot in a new voting machine this morning, Jean Schmidt watches her ballot disappear. The Republican congresswoman is in a Republican primary election battle against former US Rep. Bob McEwen. (Photo by Michael E. Keating/The Cincinnati Enquirer)

Cheers went up at U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt's campaign headquarters when she appeared briefly on TV from Washington, predicting victory despite election returns that show a tight race.

"I believe the trend shows we're going to be winning this race," Schmidt said. "I believe we're going to be happy at the end of the evening."

About two dozen supporters gathered around the television to hear their candidate weigh in, though many have been in touch with Schmidt throughout the evening. Her husband, Peter, said she calls in regularly for updates.

Asked if it's difficult for his wife to watch the results from afar, he smiled and nodded.

"She's doing fine," he said. "She's doing pretty good."

-- Dan Horn

It's Blackwell v. Strickland

Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, right, talks with Dr. Glenn Weaver before voting voting Tuesday, May 2, 2006, at the St. John's Unitarian Unversalist Church, in Cincinnati. Blackwell faces Attorney General Jim Petro for the GOP nomination for governor of Ohio. (Photo by Tony Tribble/The Associated Press)

The Associated Press called the race at 10:27 p.m. The Plain Dealer called it some time later.

And now, the Republican National Committee has acknowledged former Cincinnati Mayor J. Kenneth Blackwell as the GOP candidate for governor of Ohio.

In an e-mailed statement, statement RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman made it sound like the party establishment has been backing Blackwell all along:

For 30 years Ken Blackwell has fought to reform government for Ohio families and workers. His mission today is more important than ever before. He is committed to reforming government for the Ohio taxpayer and worker. His opponent is a Washington politician who has not passed a single law during his time in Congress. If Ohio voters want change they will support Ken Blackwell’s proven reputation of reform, not Ted Strickland’s history of staying with the status quo. I have often said that the Republican Party – the Party of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass – cannot be truly whole until it welcomes more African Americans back home. Great candidates like Ken Blackwell are one of the many ways we are doing exactly that. The Republican Party is united in its support for Ken Blackwell and will work together to ensure his historic election.”
As of yet, there's no acknowledgement of Blackwell's victory from the campaign of his GOP rival, Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro.

The Butler did it: results from up north

Final, unofficial results with all 295 county precincts reporting.

Butler County Auditor
  • Kay Rogers: 61 percent, or 15,306 votes
  • Roger Reynolds: 39 percent, or 9,675 votes

West Chester Fire Levy
  • For the Levy: 54 percent, or 4,290 votes
  • Against the Levy: 46 percent, or 3,617 votes

Ross Township referendum
  • To halt the rezoning for the farm: 72 percent, or 1,260 votes
  • To let the current zoning stand, allowing the project to be developed: 28 percent, or 479 votes
-- Jennifer Edwards

No one can say Ken doesn't have great timing

Ken Blackwell's staff is telling all the media here at the Hyatt at Capitol Square that he'll appear "straight up" at 11 p.m.... just in time for the live news conference of his victory speech.

And there are the cheers and whoops and hollars. He's shaking hands.

Live from the Petro 'victory' party

Greg Hartmann, Hamilton County's clerk of courts and the Republican nominee for secretary of state, played a card other candidates couldn't when he explained how he would be able to run and work hard for the job this fall:

"There's been talk here tonight of a challenging environment,'' he said. "Not so challenging, though, that my wife and I didn't decide to have our fifth child this summer.''

U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine also spoke at the Petro party, taking the podium behind a Jennette Bradley for state treasurer. He thanked supporters and his wife, Fran, whom he described as a mother of eight, grandmother of nine and survivor of 16 political campaigns.

"It's going to be a tough race,'' he said. "But we're going to run the same type of race we've always run.''

He said he will tell voters in all 88 counties that he is "someone for the last 11 years who has represented the mainstream of Ohio, who loves Ohio, who understands this state and what it needs.''

"This is a strong Republican ticket, from the top to the bottom. We're going to work together for a great race next November.''

-- Jane Prendergast

At last Falafel is relaxed

Jean Schmidt's supporters and campaign workers huddled together with cell phones and laptop computers as the early election results finally started to come in.

A few shouts of "Yes!" erupted when returns from Clermont County showed Schmidt with a narrow lead over McEwen. But she did well in Clermont last time around, and the election still went down to the wire.

So for now, the early returns are doing little to calm nerves.

"It is what is. We're anxious," said Schmidt's daughter, Emilie LaRosa. "It's the nature of the beast."

Speaking of beasts, the most relaxed party-goer was Emilie's dog, Falafel, a miniature Yorkie.

The dog lounged in Emilie's arms for much of the evening, taking an occasional break to nibble on scraps of lunch meat from the buffet.

Bob and Liz McEwen are here

Bob McEwen is waiting in another room for the results of today's GOP primary for the 2nd District where he's challenging Rep. Jean Schmidt. His wife, Liz McEwen, is talking with her friends, some of which drove up from Georgia and Kentucky for tonight’s party, in the hallway.

Meanwhile, the crowd here at the New England Club has swollen to more than 100 and it’s getting hot since the air conditioning is out. A few fans have been set up, but the heat has many guests sweating the results.

Here are a few predictions:

“Maybe I’m in a bubble, but I don’t know anyone who’s voting for Jean.”
-- Lauren Heis of Anderson Township, a McEwen supporter who helped to organize tonight’s party.

“I predict Bob McEwen will win overall, perhaps by a handful of votes. I also predict he’ll win in Clermont County.”
-- Jeff Hardin, vice chairman of the Clermont County Republican Club.

“When I predict, I jinx things, so I’m not predicting.”
-- J. Duffy Beischel of the Anderson Township Republican Party.

Very partial results

With just Adam, Brown and about half of Scioto precincts in, Bob McEwen is beating Jean Schmidt 52 percent to 41 percent. But the big counties are still out.

We have a Raga sighting

Ken Blackwell's lieutenant governor candidate, state Rep. Tom Raga of Mason, just showed up. Does that mean win or lose?

He's smiling, but Raga says initial results from too few precincts have been announced to know how it's going.

"We're going to do this (TV interview) and sneak back out,'' Raga said.

Raga's 8-year-old son, Rick, is with him, dressed just as sharp -- in a dark blue shirt and maroonish-red tie.

Daughter Colleen Raga, 14, and the candidate's mother, Joann Raga of Madeira, also are here.

"It's going to be a wonderful evening for us,'' Joann Raga says.

More Jean scenes

Dan Horn blog:

Jean Schmidt's twin sister, Jennifer Black, said the candidate was keeping busy in Washington while waiting for election results to come in tonight.

"I told her we aren't going to know anything until 9:30 and she said, 'OK, then I'll go to my next meeting,'" Black said.

She said Schmidt's day began at 4:30 a.m. with a six-mile run. She then went to a polling place to talk to voters, attended Mass at 11:30 a.m., visited another polling place and then flew to Washington at 3 p.m. to vote in Congress.
Schmidt's sister took a break from chatting with campaign workers tonight to help out a TV reporter with a 10 p.m. deadline.

With no election results and little drama, the reporter had nothing for the evening news. Black, after a brief conversation with the reporter, was happy to oblige.

She immediately stirred up the crowd, exorting Schmidt's supporters to cheer and applaud.
"This is her day!" she shouted as cameras rolled. "Thank you, thank you everyone!"

After the cheering stopped, she turned to the reporter and asked, "Is that OK guys?"

New Miami nixed

A combination bond issue and income tax that would have meant a new athletic stadium for in Butler County’s New Miami school district and more teachers for the 900-student district was today overwhelmingly rejected by voters 73 percent to 27 percent, with all four of district’s precincts reporting, according to unofficial results.

New Miami Schools Superintendent Robert Bierly said he was disappointed and surprised by the 46 percentage-point margin of defeat of its combination 3.25-mill bond issue and a 0.75 percent income tax increase.

Bierly said "we have to make some decisions" about budget cuts, including the district’s after-school academic programs, which helped raise the district in recent years from one of Greater Cincinnati’s lowest rated to the state’s second highest rating of "effective."

The bond issue would have paid for a new $2.1 million athletic facility that would have doubled as a community sports center for the community just north of Hamilton.

- Michael Clark

DeWine on winning his primary

Just got this release from the Sen. Mike DeWine campaign:
COLUMBUS - U.S. Senator Mike DeWine (R-OH) was nominated today by Ohio Republicans to represent the party in this year's U.S. Senate election. He issued the following statement:

"I am thankful for the support I received in today's primary. In the United States Senate, I have worked tirelessly to create and protect jobs for Ohioans, pushed for tax cuts for working families, improved health care for our kids, and ardently supported our men and women in the armed services and I look forward to a substantive discussion of the issues facing Ohio and the nation."

Petro arrives, hoarse from all those speeches

Jim Petro walked into his party room at the Athletic Club of Columbus at 9:20 p.m. to the cheers of the more than 100 supporters gathered to see him and the election results.

Hoarse from what he said was about 40 speeches over the weekend during his 1,000-mile bus tour, the attorney general said he and his wife, Joy, are "thrilled with all of you being thrilled.''

He said he chose to join his friends and supporters early -- even before the polls closed in Cuyahoga County -- "because we're all excited. This has been one of these weeks where we have sensed momentum every day.''

He came, he said, "to just take a moment'' to thank all the volunteers, county and regional party chairmen and his campaign staff. He said many have viewed his campaign as an "underdog campaign'' and that they had "kept it in the underdog column.'' The crowd laughed and cheered.

"Let me tell you, we feel excited because you're excited,'' Petro said. "We feel satisfied with the direction of our campaign. ... We didn't tell any fibs, we didn't try to distort the truth.''
Jim Petro walked into his party room at the Athletic Club of Columbus at 9:20 p.m. to the cheers of the more than 100 supporters gathered to see him and the election results.

-- Jane Prendergast

Early returns from Butler

Jennifer Edwards reports:

Early returns already coming in from Butler County Board of Elections:

The West Chester fire levy is passing; Butler County Auditor Kay Rogers is hanging onto her seat over challenger Roger Reynolds and the Ross Township rezoning referendum is overwhelmingly passing.

The gang's all here

By about 9:30 p.m., many of Ken Blackwell's key state aides and campaign advisers were among 200 people crowded into the room.

The secretary of state's former chief legal counsel David Kennedy and former elections director Dana Walch are here, as is Gene Pierce, Blackwell's campaign manager.

Statehouse lobbyist Tom Pappas was bumping elbows with consultants and supporters as were Ranjan Manoranjan and Nanda Nair, state vendors who are also loyal campaign contributors.

Walch, who's main duties used to be solving election problems like tonight's, said he doesn't miss the late-night chaos. He left the secretary of state's office to work on the campaign in July.

"I don't know how relaxed I am,'' he said. "My wife and I just had twins two weeks ago."

Who’s at McEwen’s party?

Besides more than a dozen young children running around, here is the Who’s Who of guests at Bob McEwen’s campaign party tonight:

Bob Schuler, Ohio state senator

Mark Quarry, Silverton city councilman

Russ Jackson, Anderson Township trustee

Jeff Hardin, vice chairman of the Clermont County Republican Club

Rick Brian, former mayor of Blue Ash

Bob Semple, former Adams County commissioner

Linda Rieg of Warren County, who started the Women for McEwen group

Jim Schifrin, author of the e-mail newsletter The Whistleblower

Reporters and cameramen from Channel 9 (ABC), Channel 5 (NBC), Channel 19 (FOX), Channel 12 (CBS) and Ohio News Network.

No official observers allowed

Staff writer Steve Kemme reports from Clermont County that the board of elections voted 4-0 not to permit representatives of the Jean Schmidt and Bob McEwen campaigns to officially observe the hand-counting of misprinted ballots.

This morning, Clermont election officials had to hold ballots for hand-counting later because some precincts got ballots that did not contain the Milford school levy.

It's not immediately clear how many ballots left the school levy off.

Just Win, Baby

William Mallory, Sr., father of 32nd Ohio House Democratic candidate Dale Mallory, said he doesn't give a hoot about tradition.

The elder Mallory first won a seat in the legislature in 1966, when it was called the 72nd District. Dale was 6 years old at the time. Mallory Sr. held that seat for 28 years, rising to House majority leader.

Mallory's other son, Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory, took the seat when the elder Mallory retired. Mark Mallory held the position for two terms, before being elected to the Ohio Senate in 1998.

Combined, the Mallory family held the House seat for 32 of the past 40 years -- a long tradition.

"I just want him (Dale) to win," Mallory Sr. said. "I'm not thinking about tradition at this point."

McEwen’s party doesn’t have alcohol either

In fact, it was a wonder the Bob McEwen campaign has a place to throw tonight’s party.

The campaign originally planned to hold the event at the Mercy Healthplex in Anderson Township, which is where McEwen announced earlier this year that he would challenge Rep. Jean Schmidt in the GOP primary for the 2nd District.

But when his campaign called yesterday to confirm, the reservation couldn’t be found and the room had already been booked.

“We had to scramble,” McEwen spokesman Michael Harlow said, adding that the campaign wanted to hold the party in Anderson Township because, “It’s Bob’s strongest place of support and close to his home.”

McEwen purchased a condo here last year.

So if they don’t have alcohol, what do they have?

Lots of bottled water and soda. Guests are munching on cheese, crackers, veggies, strawberries, meatballs, potato salad and sandwiches, which have already started to rapidly disappear!

They won't see Jean's face after all

Jean Schmidt supporters won't get to see their candidate live via satellite after all tonight, campaign manager Allen Freeman says.

Turns out, her campaign headquarters isn't wired for the satellite hookup that was expected from Washington later this evening.

Instead, she expects to talk to supporters back home via speaker phone.

"I don't think they're going to mind," Freeman said.

Carlo speaks

Ken Blackwell's spokesman, Carlo LoParo, just held an impromptu news conference with reporters.

"I just talked to Ken Blackwell. He's very excited. The mood here is very electric,'' LoParo said. "The Republican Party will be united tonight.''

A Cleveland TV reporter tells LoParo that the Ted Strickland campaign -- partying with other Democrats uptown at the Hyatt Regency -- has coined a nickname for their opponent: "Taftwell."

LoParo remains unfazed. "Ken Blackwell has a plan to control government spending... We move forward and take a message of job creation to the voters of Ohio. There's a lot of electricity here."

"Where's this electricity he's talking about,'' a photographer with the Akron Beacon Journal joked. "Does he mean the wires on the floor?"

Blackwell is upstairs with his family, watching election returns in a hotel suite. LoParo said the plan is for Blackwell to come down about 10:30 p.m. to talk to supporters and the media, and "start to party."

"We hope we give a victory speech,'' LoParo said.

"It takes a little of the suspense out of it."

Dan Horn reports

The delay in election returns turned Schmidt's campaign party into a low-key affair, at least in the early evening.

Instead of being glued to results scrolling across the TV, campaign workers munched pizza and talked casually at tables set up beneath "Schmidt For Congress" signs and large photos of George Bush and Dick Cheney.

The TV was tuned to Entertainment Tonight and, later, a police drama.

"It takes a little of the suspense out of it," said Allen Freeman, Schmidt's campaign manager. "But these people have worked their tail ends off, so this is an opportunity to get together and relax."

He said emotions will start running high as 9:30 approaches, and the results start rolling in. Because of the delay, many expect a large percentage of the results to come in quickly, rather than trickling in over the course of the evening.

"Normally you get to watch those results move in," Freeman said. "Now the board of elections just releases the numbers and you'll know."

The AP calls another one with two precincts...

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Republican incumbent Mike DeWine and Rep. Sherrod Brown easily won their primaries Tuesday, with voters validating what already had been considered one of the country’s top U.S. Senate races.

With two precincts reporting unofficial results, Brown won the Democratic primary with 1,015 votes, or 84 percent. DeWine beat two opponents with 1,311 votes, or 79 percent.

The stakes of the race were raised by the political climate in Ohio, where Gov. Bob Taft pleaded no contest to an ethics violation and U.S. Rep. Bob Ney is at the center of a Justice Department probe of Capitol Hill influence-peddling.

Are you sure you want Blackwell's job?

Greg Hartmann, Hamilton County Clerk of Courts and the Republican candidate for Secretary of State just walked in with his campaign consultant, Mark Weaver, and campaign director Robert Kovey.

Already, TV crews are asking Hartmann, who was unchallenged in the primary election, whether he really wants Ken Blackwell's chaotic job.

On WBNS-TV in Columbus, Hartmann promises to "improve access and improve innovation."

Earlier tonight, Hartmann said he met his Democratic opponent for the first time. He ran into former Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Jennifer Brunner at Du Amici, the same downtown restaurant where Gov. Bob Taft celebrated his bond issue victory in November.

"She's very nice,'' said Hartmann, dressed in a snappy blue striped tie and Navy suit. "We're going to have a spirited campaign.''

One Republican said he was in a campaign pool, betting on the Blackwell primary race against Jim Petro race. He predicted a margin of 15 percentage points.

"That's great color," I said.

"You can't print that,'' he said en route to the parties for Petro and Treasurer Jennette Bradley at the Athletic Club.

There are about 100 Blackwell supporters here now, about 10 minutes to 9, some of them watching Bill O'Reilly grill someone about immigration on a big-scheme TV. Now Rush Limbaugh is on with O'Reilly.

Now that's an early call

The AP reports:

COLUMBUS, Ohio – U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland handily won the Democratic nomination for Ohio governor on Tuesday, signaling the party’s best chance in years to regain control of bellwether Ohio amid an investment scandal that has swept through the GOP-controlled state.

With 2 precincts reporting, Strickland had 1,023 votes – or 84 percent – to 197 votes for former state Rep. Bryan Flannery.

Strickland in the fall will face the winner of an as-yet-undecided Republican primary between Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell and Attorney General Jim Petro. The state delayed release of results when polls closed, after a county judge ordered one precinct to stay open late because of voting problems earlier in the day.

To the bars!

From the Schmidt party...

After a long day of stumping for their candidate, Jean Schmidt's supporters were greeted at her headquarters with a buffet of pizza, fried chicken, mixed nuts and a fruit bowl.

But those looking for something more -- namely a cold beer -- were out of luck. Schmidt's campaign office is based in Clermont County's Republican Party headquarters, which doesn't allow alcohol.

So when they learned election returns would be delayed until 9:30 p.m., several campaign workers made a beeline for two bars across the street, the Clermont Inn and the Goldminer's Tavern.

- Dan Horn

From the Schmidt party

Reporter Dan Horn is blogging the Jean Schmidt campaign party

Connie Bare was among the first to arrive this evening at Jean Schmidt's campaign headquarters on Main Street in Batavia.

As Schmidt's Clermont County campaign manager, Bare had spent the day handing out campaign fliers and chatting up voters across the county.

"If I was a drinker, I'd have a drink," Bare said, moments after walking in the door. "It's been a long day."

Bare said voter turnout seemed low in Batavia. She said low interest in the primary and the lack of other issues, such as school levies, on the ballot probably drove down turnout.

She said she voted absentee so she could devote her day to rousing voters to cast ballots for Schmidt. Decked out in a red, white and blue Schmidt T-shirt, she spent the day driving from polling place to polling place in search of voters.

"We got a good reception from everyone," she said.

McEwen's party getting started

About 35 people, including a dozen children and several reporters, are now at Bob McEwen's campaign party, getting set up for the big night.

McEwen is challenging Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Miami Township, in the GOP primary election for the 2nd Congressional District. If he wins, the former congressman from Southern Ohio would be making a 14-year comeback.

McEwen's party, which is being held at the New England Club in Anderson Township, started at 8 p.m., but McEwen spokesman Michael Harlow said the candidate and his wife, Liz, aren't expected to show up until about 9 p.m. because McEwen wanted to work the polls right up until they closed at 7:30 p.m.

A computer has been set up to monitor election results. Right now, it's showing a slide show of pictures from the McEwen campaign. A few children set up a "Bob McEwen" banner across the window. A half dozen tables have been set up with white and blue tablecloths and red, white and blue hats and other centerpieces adorning them.

Folks right now are munching on chips and veggies as TV cameramen are set up their tripods pointing at the small stage.

Now, it's time to wait...

Party like it's ... hey, where's the party?

Dale Mallory, Democratic candidate for the 32nd Ohio House District seat occupied by his father and his brother for 32 of the past 40 years, reserved the back room at McFadden's Restaurant & Saloon for his victory party.

But at 8:30, some 90 minutes after the polls closed, the room is empty with the Florida Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies playing on television to no one.

Dale Mallory, whose brother is Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory, was impeached as president of the West End Community Council earlier this year over his perceived support of the controversial CityLink project, a one-stop social services shop proposed on Bank Street.

Mallory is being challenged in the primary election by former Hamilton County recorder Eve Bolton, along with Yvette Barbara Baldwin and Eric Wilson.

At 8:35, Mallory's campaign consultant Dan Phenicie showed up and said the mayor is "on his way."

Let the party begin.

Clermont sheriff: No votes being impounded

Amid a swirl of anxiety over the vote-counting in Clermont County, Sheriff A.J. Rodenberg made an unsolicited call to the Enquirer early Tuesday to knock down what he called a "rampant rumor'' that his deputies were seizing ballots cast in Tuesday's election.

"I want you to know that there is no truth in those rumors,'' said Rodenberg. "We would not do that unless we were asked to by the Board of Elections and it would have to be some extraordinary reason for us to do that.''

Apparently, the rumors started circulating after representatives of two 2nd Congressional District candidates - Republican Bob McEwen and Democrat Thor Jacobs - made requests of the board of elections to have campaign observers watch the ballot-counting, after reports that there were problems with some ballots in the Milford School district and because of ballot-counting problems Clermont County has had in recent elections.

"Nothing much we can do"

As the second floor lounge of the Columbus Athletic Club fills up, aides to gubernatorial candidate Jim Petro are watching the results on TV, including reports from the camp of their opponent, Ken Blackwell.

Kim Norris, a Petro spokeswoman, said "there's nothing much we can do'' about the voting snafu in Cleveland, other than possibly wait a little longer for results.

She said she hopes the campaign got the message out that Petro "is the leader'' who can cut government, attract more jobs to Ohio and refocus on higher education.

"They just believe that he is the man who can do that,'' she said. "It's been a fantastic campaign. We've just had great support across the state.''

Norris said she didn't know when Petro would show up at the party.

Petro and his wife voted about 8:15 a.m., then he went to work at his attorney general's office for much of the rest of the day.

No results until 9:30!

We are hearing that the Secretary of State has forbidden election results from being released until 9:30 p.m. More coming.

This is the result of a polling problem in Cuyahoga County.

Warren County turnout light; Little Miami higher

From reporter Janice Morse:

Susan Johnson, Warren County elections director, said that overall voter turnout was light, hovering around only 25 percent. Johnson said the Little Miami Schools' levy appeared to be drawing a somewhat higher percentage of voters, though she didn't have an estimate.

Schmidt's twin sister works the polls

Staff writer Cindy Kranz reports from Clermont County that Jennifer Black was campaigning for her twin sister, U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt, outside of Boyd E. Smith Elementary School, one of the busiest polling places in the county.

"I've been here since 6:15 in the rain," Black said about 5 p.m. "You have to get here early. They're usually standing in line.”

Black was spending the entire day outside the polling place, except for an hour and a half when she went to Mass, voted and had breakfast. Her husband substituted for her while she was gone.

"Are you Ms. Schmidt?" a voter asked her.

"No, I'm her twin sister,” Black said. “She's in D.C. right now voting for us."

Black said she’s been standing outside of Boyd E. Smith school since 1990 for a variety of elections.

She knows now to bring about three changes of clothing or layers for all kinds of weather. Her car is loaded with slacks, shorts, tights and turtlenecks.

“You don’t come here with one pair of shoes. You learn. I’m on my second pair today. The first ones are sopping wet.”

Quiet end for Butler County auditor contest

From reporter Jennifer Edwards:

One of the nastiest primary races in the region, the Republican race for Butler County Auditor's Office, has come to a surprisingly quiet end.

After weeks of bombarding voters with fliers, commercials and trading election complaints and accusations, both camps reported no troubles today.

The auditor's race was especially heated here this year because the Butler County Republican Party endorsed Roger Reynolds, not the longtime incumbent, Kay Rogers.

Rogers fell out of favor with party fathers last fall when the county's fiber optic network erupted in scandal (she oversaw the system at that time).

Scott Owens, executive director of the Butler County Republican Party, spent most of the day outside polls at Freedom Elementary School in West Chester Township. He wore a Reynolds T-shirt and held a sign promoting West Chester's fire levy, also on the ballot.

One voter, he said, "walked by me, pointed at the T-shirt and fire levy sign and said 'you have both of my votes and thank God it all comes to an end tomorrow!' "

Testing, one two three, testing

Television crews, including the Ohio News Network, are testing their equipment here at the Hyatt on Capitol Square about 7:40 p.m. in anticipation of Secretary of State Ken Blackwell's arrival. Running-mate Tom Raga, a state representative from Mason, also will be here.

Supporters began to arrive about 8 p.m., but we're hearing a Cleveland-area judge just ordered polls open until 9:30 there because of voting machine problems.

Blackwell's gubernatorial campaign spokesman Carlo LoParo was correct in warning reporters "limited filing space is available."

There are eight chairs for reporters here, and five are taken already. "This is one of the smallest rooms I've ever been in,'' said Doral Chenoweth, a photography editor with The Columbus Dispatch.

The triangular-shaped room, dubbed the Congressional Ballroom, measures no bigger than 50 by 70 feet, with the space for supporters about the size of a school classroom.

There's a red, white and blue Blackwell-Raga for Governor sign at the front of the room and a cash bar to the left. Beers cost $4 apiece, and wine goes for $6.25 a glass. Mixed drinks are $6.

No major eats yet, prompting ONN's Dan Wiest to comment, "The campaign is all out of money."

There are large salted pretzels and bowls of various mustards as well as salsa and chips.

"Where's the party?'' another TV reporter asked. "It's clearly not here. This is the media holding pen."

Luckily the Enquirer has a wireless computer card to send my blog items. The Hyatt's charging $375 apiece for an internet connection here.

The Columbus hotel overlooks the Statehouse and is within site of the Riffe Office Tower, the building that Blackwell aspires to work at in January.

Ding dong. 7:30 p.m.

Polls are now closed and the counting has begun.

From the Petro party

Jane Prendergast is blogging from Jim Petro's party in Columbus...

All's quiet this early at the party place for Petro's gubernatorial campaign, the Columbus Athletic Club.

Aides are hanging up green and white banners and lining up nametags for the guests coming later - they hope - to celebrate the attorney general's bid for higher office.

You can definitely tell something's going to be going on in downtown Columbus tonight - in the two blocks between here and the party spot for Petro's opponent, Ken Blackwell, there are a dozen TV satellite trucks lined up along Broad and Third streets.

It must have been a long campaign for Petro's aides. Their drink of choice, so far, tonight: Red Bull.

Butler turnout low, except in Ross Twp.

This report from the Enquirer's West Chester newsroom:

Turnout in Butler County is low. Sampling was conducted about 6:30 p.m., an hour before polls were to close, said Betty McGary, deputy elections director for the Butler County Board of Elections.
  • In two high turnout precincts in Hamilton, turnout was 6 and 8 percent, she said.
  • In Oxford, turnout at three precincts was 6, 8 and 16 percent.
  • In West Chester, turnout also is low; nine precincts were sampled and the average turnout is 15 percent, she said.
  • Middletown's average is 8 percent, she added.
  • In Ross Township, however, turnout is unusually high, 25 percent at one precinct sampled there. That's due to a heated rezoning referendum on the ballot for Ross voters.

The Banks -- inch by inch

Hamilton County and City of Cincinnati officials are inching toward an agreement that would allow the $600 million riverfront development to proceed, Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory said Tuesday.

The mayor, along with city and county officials, met at Great American Ball Park with Reds' owner Bob Castellini Tuesday morning. Mallory called Castellini a "facilitator" and said he has been helping the two sides discuss their differences over how to select a developer and pay for the project.

And while the city has called for a mediator to settle some of those differnces, Mallory said Castellini is not playing that role.

"Signs are good that we'll come to some agreement on how to mediate," Mallory deadpanned at the press conference. "That was a joke. Come on, people, lighten up."

There hasn't been much to laugh about, as the two sides have bickered publically over the project for the past four months, with each accusing the other of acting in bad faith.

Mallory said Tuesday's discussions focused on the cost of the project -- a planned mixed-use development of shops, housing, hotels, a park and entertainment -- and the county's plan for paying for it.

The city disputes the county's estimate of the cost for the underground parking garage -- which is vital to the development because it will lift it out of the Ohio River flood plane. The county says the garage will cost $50 million; the city says it will cost closer to $80 million.

There is also disagreement over how much revenue the garage will bring, and how to use that cash. The county wants the revenue to help pay off debt associated wtih building the two sports stadiums; the city would like the revenue to pay for garage construction.

Why do the two sides need a third party to spur discussion on what everyone agrees is the most important development project in the region?

“There are people in this community who have a lot to offer, and have a calming effect,” Mallory said. “Bob Castellini is one of them.

“I think we have a better understanding of the county’s financial structure and how things are put together,” Mallory said. “It’s a free-flowing discussion. We’re inching closer together.”

Reporter Michael Clark reports from Warren County:

Warren County Board of Election officials said this afternoon that a handful of polling places may have handed voters from the Little Miami school system incorrect ballots that had no listing of the district’s $62.5 million bond issue.

Susan Johnson, director of the Warren County Board of Elections, said her office has received reports that "two or three" of the 28 precincts in the Little Miami school system may have mistakenly passed out an unknown number of ballots to voters from that school district that were intended for residents of adjacent Kings and Clinton-Massie school systems.

Ballots for Warren County residents from Kings and Clinton-Massie school districts have no listing of the Little Miami schools tax issue.

"We have called some polling places to remind workers to hand out the correct ballots," said Johnson.

The Little Miami bond issue, which would go to building new schools and repairing aging buildings, lost by just 62 votes in November out of more than 8,000 votes cast. Today’s vote is the fourth time in less than two years the district has sought voter approval for new tax money for school buildings.

Johnson said if a Little Miami resident noticed their ballot had no Little Miami school tax issue listing, they could have simply asked polling workers for new ballots. If they did not and turned in the ballot, then the votes will be counted as cast, she said.

High-maintenance Heimlich

Even though he is running without an opponent in today's primary, Republican Hamilton County Commissioner Phil Heimlich still found something -- even if tongue-in-cheek -- to complain about.

"My name is on the back of the ballot," Heimlich said this afternoon. "It will look like nobody voted for me."

Hamilton County's new voting machines require voters to use an ink pen to color in boxes on the ballot that then is scanned into a machine to be counted. The ballot is one page but has candidates and issues on both sides of that page.

"It might look like the only ones who vote for me are my immediate family -- and even that is in question," Heimlich cracked.

Especially, he noted, because his family comes from what the commissioner said was a long line of "tax-and-spend Democrats."

"I was the first Republican my mom ever voted for," he said. "Wait, I take that back. No one knows what goes on when they get behind the curtain."

Heimlich will face a challenge for his seat in the November election from the winner of the race between Democrats Stephanie Dumas and David Pepper.

McEwen wants vote count observers in Clermont

Bob McEwen has sent a representative to the Clermont County Board of Elections to ask that his campaign and that of incumbent Jean Schmidt be allowed to have official observers watching every step of the vote count tonight in Schmidt's home county of Clermont.

Clermont County has had numerous ballot-counting problems in recent elections, including one that resulted in a windfall of votes for Schmidt that enabled her to defeat Democrat Paul Hackett in last summer's special congressional election.

This morning, Clermont election officials had to hold ballots in some precincts for hand-counting later because some precincts got ballots that did not contain the Milford school levy.

"There have been enough problems in Clermont County to warrant this,'' said Mark Faust, a McEwen supporter whom the campaign asked to keep an eye on the Clermont vote count.

"To avoid the appearance of impropriety, we are going to ask for observers, to elmininate this cloud that has hung over Clermont County for the past few elections.''

Faust said shortly after 4 p.m. that he was about to have a meeting with Clermont elections director Michael Keeley to ask that the observers be admitted.

Ohio elections law requires that such requests be made 11 days before the election, but Faust said he believes that Keeley "is a fair and honorable person.''

So what is McEwen up to today?

Malia Rulon reports:

According Bob McEwen's campaign, the former southern Ohio congressman who is challenging Rep. Jean Schmidt in today's GOP primary for the 2nd Congressional district, is out shaking hands with voters at the polls in Miami Township, which is Schmidt's hometown.

"This is the one day every two years that a voter can speak the loudest and clearest to their representative. The people have a right to be heard, and I want to hear them in person to the greatest extent possible," McEwen said.

He also praised how his campaign is going: "The voters seem to be responding well to my message of 'more jobs, not more taxes.'"

The McEwen campaign is also monitoring election irregularities in Clermont County.

We'll continue to post updates here on the Politics Extra blog.

Surprises at Colerain polling place

Staff writer Denise Smith Amos reports that some Colerain Township poll workers at the Colerain Community and Senior Center encountered a few surprises Tuesday morning.

An overnight storm had caused a power outage, which led to a surge, which apparently started the coffeemakers. Poll workers arrived at the community center to find the coffeemakers overflowing with hot coffee.

Later, workers began smelling smoke in the large community room where the ballot machines were. Workers checked to make sure the new machines weren’t overheating. Someone noticed smoke coming from the adjacent kitchen. A microwave had turned on after power was restored, and it was burning a cloth towel someone had left inside overnight. A voter quickly carried the microwave outdoors.

The Colerain Center serves Precinct QQ and Precinct S voters.

Precinct S mistakenly received Precinct R’s ballots, causing the new voting machines to spit out the ballots that voters had completed. About 8 a.m., correct ballots were delivered. The incorrect ballots will still be counted, poll workers said, even though the machine wouldn’t read them. Poll workers dropped the ballots into a slot on the side the machine. Those votes will be manually counted later, poll workers said.

Schmidt has left Cincinnati

After voting in Loveland early this morning and working the polls in Clermont County, Rep. Jean Schmidt has departed Cincinnati for Washington, D.C.

Schmidt's office said the congressman is expected to land in D.C. around 4 p.m. today.

Why the rush back to Washington?

Schmidt chief of staff Barry Bennett told the Enquirer last week that she needed to get to the U.S. Capitol for a series of votes scheduled for 6:30 p.m. tonight.

Are these votes really that important?

Actually, members of Congress take their votes very seriously. Those who miss votes have been accused of being "absent congressmen" and Schmidt has only missed one vote in her first 6 months on the job.

Tonight, the House plans to vote on 14 bills. But they are non-controversial bills that could pass on voice votes, meaning that recorded votes might not even be taken. These are the votes scheduled for tonight:

1) H.R. 5107 - Earl D. Hutto Post Office Building Designation Act
2) H.R. 4811 - John Paul Hammerschmidt Post Office Building Designation Act
3) H.R. 4674 - Governor John Anderson, Jr. Post Office Building Designation Act
4) H.R. 4995 - Ronald Bucca Post Office Designation Act
5) H.R. 4101 - Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy Post Office Building Designation Act
6) H.R. 3351 - Native American Technical Corrections Act of 2006
7) H.R. 2720 - Salt Cedar and Russian Olive Control Demonstration Act
8) H.R. 3929 - Dana Point Desalination Project Authorization Act
9) H.R. 3418 - Central Texas Water Recycling Act of 2005
10) H.R. 4943 - Prevention of Fraudulent Access to Phone Records Act
11) H.Res. 697 - Congratulating the people and Government of Italy, the Torino Olympic Organizing Committee, the International Olympic Committee, the United States Olympic Committee, the 2006 United States Olympic Team, and all international athletes upon the successful completion of the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Turin, Italy
12) H.Con.Res. 392 - Recognizing the 58th anniversary of the independence of the State of Israel
13) H.Con.Res. 90 - Conveying the sympathy of Congress to the families of the young women murdered in the State of Chihuahua, Mexico, and encouraging increased United States involvement in bringing an end to these crimes
14) H.Res. 658 - Supporting the goals and ideals of World Water Day

Schmidt's GOP opponent in the 2nd Congressional District primary - Bob McEwen - sent out a press release criticizing her departure.

Excerpt from release: "The move comes as Schmidt’s campaign is imploding after she was caught lying on her resume and claiming false endorsements. Schmidt has also taken heat for spending tens of thousands of dollars hiring Liberal Democrat activist lawyer Stan Chesley to claim her challenger is not an Ohio resident. The Chesley claims were dismissed at both the state and federal levels."

McEwen: "I will never abandon the voters on this important day."

Milford schools alert to ballot issues

Staff writer Cindy Kranz reports that Milford School District Superintendent John Frye is concerned the district's operating levy wasn't on the ballot in early voting in some Union and Miami township precincts.

Frye immediately asked the school district’s lawyer to begin researching what needs to be done to contest the election if that’s what needs to happen, said Valerie Miller, district spokeswoman.

A Milford schools parent from Union Township, voting about 8:30 a.m. at the Cincinnati Nature Center, discovered the school levy was not on the ballot and alerted election workers, Miller said. That was two hours into the voting day.

The district’s 7.9-mill operating levy has been among the most hotly contested of eight school issues on the ballot in four Greater Cincinnati counties.

“This poor community has been battling this issue for months, and now for this possibility that the outcome might not be known for months, whether there’s a recount or need for a second election. It’s a mess. It’s frustrating,” Miller said.

Mallory vs. Yates: "The Forgotten Election"

Democrats in the 9th Ohio Senate District - which includes most of the city of Cincinnati - will find two familiar names on their ballots today in a race for a party office that has been bubbling just below the surface during the primary season.

Cincinnati mayor Mark Mallory is running for the position of state central committeeman; his opponent is State Rep. Tyrone Yates, a former Cincinnati councilman.

Both want to be on the Ohio Democratic Party's governing body. Democrat voters in each of Ohio's 33 state senate districts will choose a committeeman and committeewoman today.

The Hamilton County Democratic Party did not endorse a slate of candidates for the state central committee positions, but the county party chairman, Tim Burke, has made his preferences known.

Burke sent a personal letter to thousands of county Democrats asking them to vote for the candidates he favors, including Mallory.

Yates took umbrage at this, objecting to the fact that the party never gave the candidates an opportunity to make their cases for a party endorsement.

Clermont elections board has an early glitch

Polls had barely opened Tuesday morning when poll workers in at least three precincts in Miami and Union township realized they had a stack of misprinted ballots that did not include a Milford school levy.

One voter called The Enquirer to say that after he marked his optical scan bllot sheet, a poll worker asked him not to scan it but to put it in a box that could be hand-counted later.

The same thing happened at Republican congresswoman Jean Schmidt's own polling place in Miami Township.

Supporters of Schmidt's GOP primary opponent, Bob McEwen, have been fanning out to precincts in Clermont County where the problems have occured and say they plan to follow the unscanned ballots to the board of elections tonight in Batavia.

The Clermont County Board of Elections, which has had significant vote-counting problems in the past three elections, managed to get corrected ballots to the polling place by mid-morning.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Bogus slate alert

Jennifer Edwards reports from Butler County:

Officials with the Butler County Republican Party said Monday they question the authenticity of a mailer marked “Republican Pro-Life Endorsed Slate Card” distributed to the public and at a local church.

Carlos Todd, party chairman, said the card was not issued by the Ohio Right to Life group or the Republican Party. Ohio Senator Gary Cates, R-West Chester Township, also questioned the credibility of the group behind the mailer, “Citizens for a Better Butler County.”

“The information given on the slate card and their treasurer is inconsistent with what is on file with the board of elections,” Cates said. “It appears this is a bogus slate card.”

The senator noted that several pro-life candidates including Roger Reynolds, who is running for the Butler County auditor’s seat, were not listed on the card. Instead, Kay Rogers, the current auditor, was listed as the candidate to vote for on the slate card, according to a copy of one. Cates is the co-chair of Reynolds campaign. This year, the Butler County Republican Party did not endorse Rogers for the first time; they endorsed Reynolds instead.

The Heimlich Remover

David Pepper plans top make at least 10 appearances Election Day in his bid to beat Stephanie Dumas and become the Democratic candidate for Hamilton County Commissioner.

Dumas will make appearances all throughout Hamilton County on Election Day, she said, but had no specific agenda.

After the polls close, though, she will be at her campaign headquarters, 7030 Reading Road, Suite 450, in Jordan Crossing.

Pepper and his campaign also plan to take advantage of the procedure that made the Republican opponent a household name.

In a take-off on the Heimlich maneuver popularized by Dr. Henry Heimlich, father of incumbent Republican Hamilton County Commissioner Phil Heimlich, Pepper is dubbing his fall campaign the "Heimlich Remover."

Here is Pepper's Election Day schedule:

7:00 a.m.: Vote/Playhouse in the Park
Location: 53 Eden Park Drive, Mt. Adams

7:30 - 9:00 a.m.: Greet Voters/Bond Hill
Location: Bond Hill Community Center, 1501 Elizabeth Place, Bond Hill

9:15 – 9:45 a.m.: Breakfast/Roselawn
Location: Frischs

10:00 - 10:30 a.m.: Greet Voters/Lincoln Heights
Location: Valley Homes, 972 Medosh St.

10:45 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.: Greet Voters/Springfield Township
Location: Faith Lutheran Church, 8265 Winton Road

12:45 to 1:45 p.m.: Lunch with Supporters/Blue Ash
Location: Marx Bagels, 9701 Kenwood Road, Blue Ash

2:00 – 3:30 p.m.: Greet Voters/Wyoming
Location: Wyoming Civic Center, 1 Worthington Avenue

3:30 – 4:30 p.m.:Greet Voters/Colerain Township
Location: St. Bernard Community Center, 7130 Harrison Avenue

4:45 – 5:45 p.m.: Greet Voters/Clifton
Location: St. John’s Unitarian, 320 Resor Avenue

6:00 – 7:00 p.m.: Greet Voters/Mt. Lookout
Location: Ault Park Pavillion, 5090 Observatory Circle

Time: TBD
Location: Hamilton County Board of Elections. Pepper will stop-by for post-election interviews.

8:30 - 11:30 p.m.: 'Heimlich Remover' Launch Party -Arnold's Bar and Grill
Location: 210 E. Eighth Street, Downtown Cincinnati

Green, Libertarian candidates file their petitions

As major party candidates made final primary election campaign stops today, Ohio Green and Libertarian Party candidates filed petitions for candidacy at the Ohio Secretary of State's office.

Columbus attorney and journalist Bob Fitrakis, a candidate for governor, and his running-mate for lieutenant governor, Anita Rios, turned in at least 10,900 signatures, according to their campaign manager, Dorri Steinhoff.

Tim Kettler, candidate for Secretary of State, filed more than 10,000 signatures for the race of Secretary of State.

Their campaign themes include:
-- Zero tolerance for corruption
-- Bring our troops home now
-- Developing a dynamic economy
-- "Putting people first" in health-care, education, the environment and voting rights.

More details on their campaigns can be found here:
and here:

Earlier today, Bill Peirce and Mark Noble, the Libertarian Party candidates for governor and lieutenant governor, filed nominating petitions with more than 13,000 signatures.

Independent candidates must file at least 5,000 valid signatures, compared with the 1,000 required of Democrats and Republicans.

"When offered a chance to sign, people everywhere were eager to give a new voice a chance to be heard," said Peirce, an economics professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

For details, go to: www.peirceforohio.com

Is this you?

From today's Washington Post:

In an unscientific Web survey of 36,000 people, Blogads reported that political blog readers tend to be age 41 to 50, male (72 percent), and earn $60,000 to $90,000 per year. Two in five have college degrees, while just a tad less have graduate degrees...

The survey noted that political blog readers tend to read blogs for 10 hours per week, often for "news I can't find elsewhere."

Bob McEwen's letter to the Enquirer editor

Bob McEwen, who hopes to unseat Rep. Jean Schmidt Tuesday, sent this letter to Enquirer editor Tom Callinan on Friday.

April 28, 2006

Mr. Tom Callinan
Editor, Cincinnati Enquirer
312 Elm Street
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202

Dear Mr. Callinan:

Less than 24 hours after being reprimanded by the Ohio Elections Commission for a “reckless disregard for the truth” Congresswoman Jean Schmidt repeated those same falsehoods in a massive media blitz. Just days after pledging to the Cincinnati Enquirer editorial board not to mention her opponent by name, she took advantage of the weekend to make claims we know are untrue. Previously, the seven counties of Ohio’s 2nd Congressional District were represented with distinction by Rob Portman

One of her many false claims is that I personally wrote bad checks. This was a broad attempt by the House Democrat leadership seeking to cover up its poor management of the House Bank more than a decade ago. Many members, myself included, demanded a full accounting of the House Bank, a special prosecutor was appointed, a complete audit was made, and the vast majority of us were given what the press called “letters of exoneration.” Coincidentally, my good friends Jack Kemp, Dick Cheney and I received our letters of exoneration on the same day. This is a truth of which Jean Schmidt has full knowledge and she publicly spoke of it when the exoneration was initially made. The letter itself is readily available at
www.bobmcewenforcongress.com. Jean Schmidt further seeks to distract attention from her harmful voting record in support of the massive new taxes and fee increases which caused Ohio to sink to 47th in new job creation and carry the third-heaviest state and local tax burden among the 50 states. She creates this distraction by distributing photographs of a property Liz and I own near Washington DC. She then repeats the charge concerning our residency, a charge which was dismissed by the Ohio Elections Commission on Thursday.

It has been my privilege to serve among the leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives representing the state of Ohio. My legislation expanded the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, which was necessary for Comair and Delta to use as a hub; built the Appalachian Highway, opening up southern Ohio to commerce and hope; built the water system so necessary for Clermont County to prosper, so significant that the Clermont County Commissioners have named it the Bob McEwen Water Treatment Plant. My votes in support of lower taxes and greater economic growth are very much needed at this point in time for our state. With a son in the Marines, I understand the challenging times we face and I care deeply that our district’s voice is heard with respect in Washington. Jean Schmidt and I will face the voters on Tuesday. I eagerly await their judgment.

Sincerely, Bob McEwen

The frantic 48

We'll be doing a lot of blogging on the last 48 hours of the primary election.

On Election Night, the political team will be live blogging from the various parties - from Columbus to Clermont.

Here's a press release from the Bob McEwen campaign about Rep. Jean Schmidt's new ads:

McEwen: Schmidt Knows Ads Are False

Anderson Township-- Less than 24 hours after being reprimanded by the Ohio Elections Commission for a "reckless disregard for the truth," Jean Schmidt repeated those same falsehoods in a massive media blitz. The ads began airing moments after Schmidt vowed on Newsmakers not to make such false claims. Just days after pledging to the Cincinnati Enquirer editorial board not to mention her opponent by name, she violated that pledge took advantage of the weekend to make claims she knows are untrue.

Said McEwen spokesman Michael Harlow, "previously, the seven counties of Ohio’s 2nd Congressional District were represented with distinction by Rob Portman. We were warned by her previous opponents that she would get nastier and more desperate as the race entered its final days. After being found by the Ohio Elections Commission to have a ‘reckless disregard for the truth,’ she airs negative attack ads with claims she knows to be false."

Said McEwen spokesman Michael Harlow, "the bogus, desperate charge concerning lifelong Ohio residents Bob and Liz McEwen is desperate as it is vicious. The issue of Bob McEwen’s voting residence has been cleared up at both the state and federal level, after Jean Schmidt hired Democrat activist Stan Chesley to sue Bob and Liz personally. The bogus charge was quietly dropped on Wednesday. She knows these ads are false and the McEwen campaign is looking into legal action. Jean Schmidt further seeks to distract attention from her voting record in support of the massive new taxes and fee increases which caused Ohio to carry the third-heaviest state and local tax burden among the 50 states."

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