Politics Extra
Enquirer reporters give the scoop on what your politicians are doing

Jessica Brown,
Hamilton County reporter

Jon Craig,
Enquirer statehouse bureau

Jane Prendergast,
Cincinnati City Hall reporter

Malia Rulon,
Enquirer Washington bureau

Carl Weiser,
Blog editor

Howard Wilkinson,
politics reporter

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

Post election open thread all weekend

Talk about the stuff you might have missed Tuesday, the jail tax, and anything else about the election.

On Sunday the Enquirer brings you the cool maps and analysis you junkies have been waiting for, courtesy of Greg Korte.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Governor-elect Strickland's first moves

Columbus -- Since winning in a landslide Tuesday night, governor-elect Ted Strickland has made two important appointments.

The first was expected and predictable. Strickland appointed his alter-ego, John Haseley, as the transition team director and, when the time comes in January, his chief of staff. The governor-elect has had Haseley on his staff since 1996 and made him chief of staff in Congressman Strickland's office in 1998.

Last spring, as the gubernatorial campaign was getting underway, Strickland told a reporter that Haseley was going to be his campaign manager only to call the reporter back three hours later to ask that the appointment information not be published. Strickland explained that Haseley had turned him down.

In a later interview, Haseley said that he thought Strickland needed a big-name Washington consultant to be manager in order to be taken seriously in his nascent bid for Ohio's CEO.

Strickland gave Haseley the title of campaign director and the rest in history.

Actually, Haseley is one of only two people who can speak for the governor-elect -- the other one is Strickland's wife, Frances.

The second appointment Strickland has made is that of chair of his transition team, Columbus Mayor Mike Coleman, once Strickland's competitor for the Democratic nomination.

Annie Hall, Enquirer Statehouse Bureau.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Not Ready For Prime Time Budget

Call it the $1.2 billion budget that isn’t ready for prime time.

Not yet, anyway.

City administrators sent out press releases and made phone calls to reporters at 10 a.m. Thursday, saying City Manager Milton Dohoney, Jr. was to hold a press conference at 1 p.m. to present his version of the 2007-08 city budget.

City spokeswoman Meg Olberding said at 10 a.m. that the budget was “at the printer,” so the actual document couldn’t be released to an Enquirer reporter. But, she said, there would be a presentation about what was in the document.

At about 11 a.m., Olberding called the Enquirer, angry that we had announced on the web that the press conference was happening.

At 12:28 p.m., Olberding sent out a press release (no phone calls) canceling the press conference. “More time is needed to ensure that the entire budget is ready for release,” the press release says.

So what happened between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.?

When reached by phone, Olberding denied any political pressure was put on the manager to cancel the press conference, and denied saying the document was at the printer. “I said it was going to the printer,” Olberding said.

That’s not what Dohoney told members of city council in an 8:15 a.m. e-mail announcing the press conference to city council members.

“Given that we will all have to work together to come up with a final product I thought you or perhaps one of your aides would be interested to hear what I will be presenting first hand,” the memo says. “The budget materials are not back from the printer but we will use visuals to explain the administrations proposals.”

The mayor would like to do several things in the next budget – expand his own staff, open new government offices for environmental issues and planning – that some council members are against.

After those concerns were expressed, Dohoney agreed to postpone the press conference until next week, the sources said.

The situation is yet another example of how some council members are distrustful of the mayor.

Another clear-cut example happened Wednesday.

Portman reflects on Ohio’s election

White House budget director Rob Portman was heavily invested in Ohio’s elections. The former congressman, who still lives in Terrace Park, was in Greater Cincinnati this past weekend actively campaigning for area House members and Sen. Mike DeWine.

Portman headlined a GOP rally in Deer Park on Saturday morning, visited a Blue Ash call center, ate lunch with GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell at Price Hill Chili, then went door to door for Rep. Steve Chabot in Reading.

On Monday, Portman held media events with DeWine in Cincinnati and Rep. Geoff Davis in Northern Kentucky over new economy numbers.

In the end, Chabot, Davis and (probably) Rep. Jean Schmidt were safe. Why?

“It was a tough climate this year in Ohio,” Portman said today. “But I think Congressmen Steve Chabot, Jean Schmidt, Geoff Davis were able to separate themselves from the larger concerns about ethics and Iraq and about other issues.”

But why were they successful when DeWine wasn’t?

“I don’t know how to explain the difference,” Portman admitted.

Is it further proof that all politics is local?

“To some extent,” Portman said. “People know Steve, so it was local in some sense, almost personal. Rather than the national issues being the determining factor, it was about those particular candidates.”

Look for more about Portman in an upcoming edition of The Enquirer.

Check your firearm at the door

Senate President Bill Harris joined House Speaker Jon Husted Thursday in telling hundreds of government workers and lobbyists that they expect a positive, productive working relationship with Gov.-elect Ted Strickland, a Democrat.

Harris, a Republican from Ashland and former career officer in the U.S. Marine Corps., said one great thing about our democracy is elected leaders can disagree and not worry about people shooting them.

"I don't plan to get shot," Harris joked during the 12th biennial Impact Ohio conference at the Columbus Convention Center.

Husted, a Republican from Kettering, said he was relieved to lose only seven seats in the 99-member Ohio House. That's because his internal polling showed Republicans could lose as many as 11 seats, threatening the GOP lock on a majority. There were other Republican-controlled Houses around the nation, including Michigan, Indiana, Minnesota, Iowa, that suffered more serious losses to the Democratic Party, Redfern said.

"I see Chris Redfern down here, and I tell you, I cannot hug him," Husted joked about the state Democratic Party chairman.

Because of term limits, there will be about 40 new House members in the 127th session of the General Assembly which begins in January, Husted said.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Ted, Ted, Ted

A capacity crowd of volunteers jammed Strickland campaign headquarters in downtown Columbus today to greet their newly-elected governor.

"Ted, Ted, Ted," they shouted.

In walked Ted Celeste, much to the delight of fans of his brother and former governor, Richard Celeste. Ted Celeste defeated incumbent state Rep. Geoff Smith Tuesday, one of seven seats gained by Democrats in the Ohio House.

When Strickland finally strolled in, the governor-elect shouted, "Ted."

"Ted," Celeste replied. The pair of Teds hugged as Democratic volunteers broke into cheers.

Richard Celeste was the last Democrat to win a governor's race in Ohio, in 1986.

Portune: `A new era'

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune made an unexpected appearance before Cincinnati city council Wednesday, and told council members that a new era of cooperation would begin once new commissioner and fellow Democrat David Pepper takes office.

Pepper's election Tuesday marks the first time since 1962 that Democrats have had a majority of the three-member commission.

Portune said he wants to hold quarterly joint meetings between the county commission and the city council. Jail overcrowding, riverfront development, and county-wide development are just a few of the issues the two legislative bodies have in common, he said.

"Voters spoke to us all on a national, state and local basis and we are about to usher in a new era of city-county relations," Portune said. "We have an opportunity for a fresh beginning in a way that has the county and the city working together to put forward the best solutions to all of our issues."

Portune said the defeat of Issue 12, which would have raised property taxes to build a new permanent jail, tops the list of issues to work on.

"We still have to confront that very important issue," Portune said. "It will require that we sit down together."

After his public comments, Portune said the city's temporary jail idea would be one possible solution to consider. "It's certainly in the mix. But the city and county need to sit down and identify a range of options."

Portune has often complained over the past four years that, with a Republican-controlled commission, he has been left out of the loop on many issues. He said that practice will end now.

"I met with (County Administrator) Pat Thompson today and told him that I not only expect it to change but that I insist it will change," Portune said. "Not only for me, but for all of us, including (Republican) Pat DeWine. None of us will tolerate a situation where a commissioner is cut out of the loop."

Mallory: `Stand at ease.'

Easily the most interesting thing that happened at Wednesday’s Cincinnati city council meeting is something that didn’t happen at all.

After the regular business portion of the meeting, council members are allowed to bring forward by-leave items that weren’t on the agenda. It takes six members of council to vote to waive the rules to bring the issue to a vote.

Council member Jeff Berding was about to do that with a resolution that would require items voted out of committees to be placed on the council agenda the next week.

Just before Berding was about to do that Wednesday, Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory told the council to stand “at ease,” and proceeded to lobby Berding to wait a week before introducing the resolution.

The discussion was an animated one, and lasted more than 10 minutes. It was inaudible to the audience because it happened in a corner of council chambers and out of range of the microphones.

Berding eventually agreed to the delay, but wasn’t happy about it afterward. When asked if he was “uncomfortable” with the way the mayor handled the situation, Berding responded:

“Very much so. I’m uncomfortable because I feel that we are not following the rules. It’s ironic because we’re not following the rules on a matter that’s about changing the rules for the better.”

A rule change forcing the mayor to place items on the agenda passed out of the Rules Committee two weeks ago. That item gave the mayor 30 days to place committee-approved items before council.

Berding’s resolution Wednesday was different in that it requires committee-approved items to go directly to the clerk of council, and that the clerk place it on the next week’s agenda.

Mallory said that difference was the reason he asked for the delay.

“He had a some kind of motion he wanted to offer which I had not seen,” Mallory said of Berding. “It had not been through the committee process. The particular motion was not the same motion that was voted out of committee. That’s what raised a concern to me.”

Berding said the rule change is necessary because City Solicitor Rita McNeil has issued an opinion that says once a resolution has been passed out of committee, council can’t vote to waive the rules and force the issue to a vote. That leaves it up to the mayor as to when, or if, it’s placed on the agenda.

Council member Leslie Ghiz has said that power amounts to a pocket veto, where the mayor doesn’t have to place items he disapproves of on the calendar for a vote of the full council.

“The reason we’re all trying to do this is so council can work professionally,” Berding said. “We’re just trying to do our business. We don’t want to play games with the mayor.

“It’s unprecedented that legislative matters are kept from council.”

Berding said he agreed to wait a week “in the interest of keeping council and the mayor working together in a positive way.” He said eight council members are solidly behind the idea, and he doesn't expect that to change.

Council members agree that the mayor has delayed placing items he disapproves of on for a vote. The most notable example was a resolution brought forward by Ghiz that would require the mayor to pay for his bodyguard out of his own budget, rather than the police officer’s salary and overtime charges coming out of the police budget.

That issue was only brought forward for a vote on a week when Berding – a supporter of the idea – was out of town. It was eventually referred back to the Law and Public Safety Committee by council member Cecil Thomas.

Another example is an idea to rearrange the make-up of the Port Authority’s board, which was voted out of the Economic Development Committee in March, but has never been placed on an agenda.

When asked why he thinks the mayor wants another week, Berding said “He doesn’t support it.”

Ghiz had a more succinct explanation.

“He wants another week to beat people down,” Ghiz said. “He should have that discussion in a public session, but he doesn’t want to be accountable. He doesn’t want to take a stance on anything. So he’s circumventing the public process and trying to keep his opinion out of the public sector.”

When asked if Berding’s resolution indicates a larger issue of council not trusting the mayor, Mallory responded that he’s simply misunderstood.

“I’m not sure what motivates them. I think there is a lack of understanding about the need for the legislative process be fluid.”

Wulsin: It ain't over.

The Wulsin campaign just issued this release:

Wulsin demands that boards of elections follow procedure and counting all the votes

Cincinnati, OH – "This election is by no means over," said Victoria Wulsin today about her race for Congress against Jean Schmidt. "Thousands of absentee and provisional ballots have yet to be counted. Until all the votes are counted, this race continues."

Wulsin sent a letter to all 7 boards of election today requesting information on the number of provisional ballots cast and the number of absentee ballots still left to be counted.

"The central principle of our democracy is that the people of this country choose our own government," the letter said. "The integrity of that democracy therefore requires that each vote be counted."

Those absentee votes include military families and civilians living abroad. Because that information is not yet available district-wide, it is premature to declare either candidate victorious.

In the coming days, the boards of elections will verify the provisional ballots and citizens will have the opportunity to check whether their provisional ballot will be counted. Later, those qualified ballots will be tallied and included in the final race figures.

In the coming days, the Wulsin campaign will examine the possibility of a recount.

Dusty rules, Condit drools

Auditor Dusty Rhodes (pictured) earned the most vote of any candidate on the Hamilton County ballot in Tuesday's election.

Rhodes, the long-serving Auditor who in the mid-1990s was the lone elected Democrat in Hamilton County government, earned 209,097 votes -- or 100 percent in his race.

Yes, he was running unopposed -- but he still won votes from 74 percent of the total number of Hamilton County voters.

The Hamilton County Board of Elections reported that 282,190 of the county's 566,930 voters voted Tuesday. That's 49.78 percent.

On the other end of the spectrum, James J. Condit Jr. received the least votes -- 42.

Condit was a write-in candidate for the 2nd Congressional District.

Pepper: Hey, thanks

Here is a release from the Pepper campaign:

A heartfelt thank you for all of your support and your vote in yesterday's election!

Special thanks to all of you who passed out literature, worked the polls, made phone calls and put up yard signs—and a special thanks to all those elected officials (Commissioner Portune, former Commissioner Dowlin, Mayor Mark Mallory, Councilmember Jeff Berding , former Reading Mayor Earl Schmidt, North College Mayor Dan Brooks and others across the county) who energetically supported the campaign.

I would like to especially thank and congratulate my opponent, Phil Heimlich, for waging a tough, hard- fought campaign.

As I said in my acceptance speech last night, I am dedicated to bringing this county together so we can move forward. I will work with all parties and all residents to bring about progress on public safety, the Banks, and quality life issues in our many great communities.

Finally, we are planning a Volunteer Thank You Party in the coming weeks. We will let you know the details soon.

Thank you again for making this great victory possible!


Brown's finished?

Cleveland - When stopped briefly Tuesday night in his hotel upon return from his victory party at the Cleveland Public Arena, Senator-elect Sherrod Brown answered two important questions about his future.

He said that he thought that he could work extremely well with the senior Senator from Ohio, George Voinovich. Brown said he could, "Absolutely work with Senator Voinovich, particularly on economic development and all kinds of budget issues."

Brown, who will be 54 on Thursday also said that the U.S. Senate is the "last political job I'll ever hold." Unlike a good number of his new colleagues, he said that he would never run for President.

Ack! Bill the Cat to demand a recount

Bill the Cat, a two-time Radical Meadow Party nominee for president, received at least one vote in the Ohio 2nd Congressional District Tuesday.

Even with voting systems that electronically scan and count every ballot without human eyes ever having to look at them, some votes can only be counted by hand.

They're the write-in votes, and they were counted early this morning. The highest-profile race with write-ins was the 2nd Congressional District, so that the final, unofficial results actually look like this:

Schmidt, Jean Republican 115,817 50.58%
Wulsin, Victoria Democratic 112,952 49.32%
Noy, Nathan
179 0.08%
Condit, James J Write-in
49 0.02%

But those also-rans don't even include the dozens of didn't-runs who did not register as write-in candidates, but nonetheless received some measure of support from voters looking for an alternative to the Wulsin-Schmidt duopoly.

They included more than a few votes for former U.S. Rep. Rob Portman, plus Mickey Mouse, Bill Cunningham, Mike McConnell, Bill the Cat, Tom Brinkman Jr. and John Murtha.

And then there were some voters who apparently thought it was an essay question, and tried to use the tiny write-in space as a federal government suggestion box. Suffice it to say that elections staffers who have been working for 18 hours straight don't have the inclination or the legal authority to tally up those answers.

Hastert won't seek leadership post

As expected, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., won't seek the post of Minority Leader next year.

An excerpt from his lengthy statement:
“As a former wrestling coach, I know what it is like when your team takes second place in the state tournament. It hurts. And so it is with politics.

“This morning I called Nancy Pelosi to congratulate her. At the beginning of the next Congress she will make history as the first female Speaker of the House. Her achievement follows from a lot of hard work and determination, and I respect that.


“The men and women of the Republican Conference in the House are dedicated public servants. I can think of no higher honor than to have been entrusted by them with the Speaker’s gavel in four consecutive Congresses. Together we accomplished many good things for the American people and together we will always be proud of those accomplishments.

“The Republican leader in the 110th Congress will have the responsibility to emphasize conservative values and reform principles. I will not seek this role, but will support our leader to the best of my ability as I return to the full-time task
of representing the people of the 14th district of Illinois who have honored me 11 times with the privilege of serving them in the House of Representatives.”

In case you just woke up, Democrats took control of the U.S. House after elections came out last night.

That means the path is clear for House Majority Leader John Boehner, a West Chester Republican, to seek the job.

But he'll have competition.

Rumsfeld reaction

Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Wednesday before news of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's resignation broke that if he were the president, he would ask for Rumsfeld to resign.

“As I suggested this morning, I thought it would be wise for the president to make a change, and I’m pleased he’s doing so. I’m looking forward to the confirmation hearings for Dr. Gates,” he said later.

Rep. Steve Chabot, a Westwood Republican, also praised the resignation.
"I clearly believe it's time for new leadership at the Pentagon. As the president has said, I think this will bring fresh prespective to the situation in Iraq and the changes that need to be made."


Senator-elect Sherrod Brown: "2006 is about change in Ohio, and Secretary Rumsfeld's resignation is a necessary step in ensuring a new direction in Washington. I look forward to working in a bipartisan manner in the Senate to come up with a winning exit strategy that begins redeployment of our troops over the next two years."

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky: “I deeply appreciate Secretary Rumsfeld’s many years of service to our nation. I hope his efforts to bring our military into the 21st Century, his leadership on homeland security, and his tireless efforts to refocus our efforts on emerging threats will continue.

"I also want to commend the President for his nomination of Bob Gates, he is a man of great experience and will be a strong leader at the Pentagon. I look forward to his confirmation in the Senate."

House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH): "Donald Rumsfeld has served the President ably and admirably throughout his term as Secretary of Defense. His aggressive pursuit of the Global War on Terror has been exactly what America needs in the post-9/11 world. His vision and his passion will be missed.

"I want to thank Secretary Rumsfeld for his service and I look forward to working with President Bush's new choice for Secretary, Robert Gates, on efforts to strengthen national security and keep America safe."

Rep. Jean Schmidt: "While I have not been one to call for his resignation, sometimes there comes a point when the distraction of ones service overshadows his contribution. His resignation will allow the media to focus more on issues and less on personality. I thank him for his service."

Voters smiled on local levies

Good news came Tuesday night to all 25 Hamilton County communities where officials had asked for levies. While people were sending some Republicans packing and rejecting the countywide tax increase for the jail, they were supportive across the board of their own communities.

Street levies in North College Hill, Cheviot, Springfield Township all passed. Operating levies in Golf Manor and Glendale also passed. The same goes for fire levies from Elmwood Place to Sycamore Township.

Walter Cordes, village administrator in Glendale, has a theory: no negative campaigning.

“We don't threaten people,” he said. “We don't say we’re going to shut down garbage collection. We try to just give out the facts and hope voters come to what we think is the right conclusion.”

Who called who, when

Sen.-elect Sherrod Brown said he got a flurry of phone calls on election night from possible presidential contenders in 2008: former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barak Obama.

“This is an important state, people know that,” Brown said.

Btw, in case anyone is wondering, Brown said no one asked him if he'd consider being their vice presidential running mate.

“This will be the highest office I will seek … I hope to serve more than six years," Brown said, clearing up the issue.

He said Republican Sen. Mike DeWine, who he beat 56-44 percent, also called him.

"It was a relatively short call. An amicable call. Surely a difficult one for him to make and I appreciated the class he had in making it," Brown said.

He said he hadn't spoken yet to Republican Sen. George Voinovich but he planned to today. Voinovich said he also wanted to talk to Brown today.

Voinovich, a former Ohio governor who watched the election returns from his TV set at home in Cleveland, said he had spoken to Gov.-elect Ted Strickland earlier, but not on election night. He said he was trying to reach DeWine but hadn't talked to him yet.

Brown, meanwhile, said he also spoke to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., last night about his committee assignments. He wants the Senate Finance Committee, which has oversight of trade and Medicare and Medicaid, but said he knows that's a difficult committee for a freshman senator to land.

Who does Ted Strickland owe?

Ohio Citizen Action, a non-partisan public advocacy group, released an analysis of Gov.-elect Ted Strickland's campaign contributions to see which special interests and companies might be cozying up to the first Democrat elected governor in 20 years.

The report, titled, "Who does Governor-elect Ted Strickland owe? And what do they want from him?" can be found here:


Campaign contributors to the governor's race do have an agenda, according to Catherine Turcer, legislative director with Ohio Citizen Action. The group's analysis of Strickland's contributor base in Congress and the 2006 governor's race, his record in Congress, and his
gubernatorial platform show a candidate whose commitment to the interests of the coal mining and coal-fired electric utility industry is unmatched since Jim Rhodes, Turcer said.

Also prominent are electric utility companies and labor unions, including the United Food and Commercial Workers, Service Employees International Union, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Laborers International Union and the Sheet Metal Workers Union, according to today's report.

Outspoken and aggressive: Meet Ohio's two senators

As if the fact that Ohio's two U.S. Senators are both from northern Ohio isn't bad enough, here's another fact that might be hard for Republicans in southwest Ohio to swallow:

Both lawmakers - one Republican and one Democrat - say they plan to continue riding the Bush administration on several issues, namely the budget deficit and Iraq war.

Sen.-elect Sherrod Brown, a Lorain Democrat, told reporters Wednesday that he plans to press the president for a plan to withdraw from Iraq in the next year or two. And he doesn't plan to alter his intense anti-Bush rhetoric one bit.

“I’m going to be outspoken,” he said. “I think you run as you serve.”

Meanwhile, Sen. George Voinovich, a Cleveland Republican, told reporters on a conference call Wednesday that the election outcome has emboldened him to be more forceful in the need to cut federal spending and eliminate the budget deficit.

"I am going to be much more aggressive with my colleagues and the administration that we have to deal with some of these problems," he said.

Voinovich also said, although it was in an extremely cautions and overly diplomatic way, that if he were Bush, he'd ask Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who has been criticized by Democrats and Republicans alike for his handling of the Iraq war, to resign.

UPDATE: Rumsfeld has announced his resignation.

Warren delay raises eyebrows

Jessica Brown reports:

The way Warren County is handling some of its absentee ballots is not unheard of, but is raising some eyebrows.

The county board of elections is waiting until Nov. 21 to count 2,000 to 3,000 absentee ballots.

Board Director Susan Johnson said it is standard procedure to hold off on counting the ballots because they were voted Friday or Saturday or were received at the board office by mail Monday or Tuesday. Ballots received that close to Election Day typically aren’t counted right away because there is no way to verify that the voters didn’t also vote at the polls, she said.

The Ohio Secretary of State’s office said today that the procedure is not unheard of.

“I’ve heard of other boards doing what you’re describing and I’d have to check with our legal council to find out if that is in compliance with state regulations,” said spokesman James Lee. “It very well may be.”

But elections lawyer Cliff Arnebeck said waiting that long to count those absentee votes could be trouble.

“I don’t think that is reasonable,” he said. “Our concern is if you create that kind of delay you’re inviting potential manipulation. In absentee ballots, those are supposed to be counted the same time (as regular ballots.) A day would be reasonable to count the rest of them. But the idea of counting them on the same scale as provisional ballots is problematic.”

Provisional ballots – in which the person’s vote is questionable because of issues like arriving at the wrong polling place – do not have to be counted until Nov. 21.

Johnson said the county also received 1,850 provisional ballots.

The delay leaves several issues with margins fewer than 3,000 votes in limbo, including the Kings school levy which failed by 284 votes.

Turning points?

Speaking to reporters in Cleveland this morning, Sen.-elect Sherrod Brown said there were two turning points in his race against two-term Republican Sen. Mike DeWine that he thinks helped him win.

The first was when he and his wife, Connie Schultz, a Pulitzer prize winning columnist for The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, decided that they were going to run on progressive values, progressive issues and fighting for the middle class - and that they wouldn't back down.

The second was tactical, when DeWine ran a TV ad in which he attacked Brown's stance on national security by showing an image of the burning twin towers from Sept. 11, 2001. The only problem - The burning twin towers was a doctored image, not video from the actual terrorist attack.

"At that point, a lot of you in the media began to question a lot of the things he did," Brown said.

More evidence that money doesn't always win elections

More than $36 million was spent on Ohio's U.S. Senate race that Democrat Sherrod Brown won yesterday 56-44 percent over two-term Republican Sen. Mike DeWine of Cedarville.

Here's the breakout, according to the most recent campaign finance reports filed:

Brown spent nearly $9 million.

DeWine spent $11.8 million.

Independent groups, including the national Democratic and Republican parties, spent nearly $16 million combined.

Stung by loss, Middletown meets tonight

Jennifer Baker reports:

Middletown City Council is expected to meet tonight to discuss what’s next after voters overwhelmingly rejected increasing the city’s earnings tax from 1.5 percent to 2.25 percent.

Voters rejected the increase 60 percent to 40 percent.

The tax rate, which raises about $18 million a year, hasn’t been increased since 1968.

The increase would have generated an additional $9 million a year to spend on roads, sewers, police, parks, and a rainy-day fund. City Manager Bill Becker had predicted the higher tax also would have spurred economic development.

Middletown has been struggling since the AK Steel lockout began in February.

More money but not more programs

Jennifer Baker reports:

In one of Butler County’s closest races, voters narrowly passed a five-year, 1-mill levy to generate $7.5 million annually for mental health services.

The levy passed by about 1,600 votes; 51 percent to 49 percent. Early indications are that a recount will not be necessary, said Terry Royer, director of the Butler County Mental Health Board.

About 5,000 residents depend on the county’s public mental health services. But service costs are rising and other sources of income are shrinking.

If the levy hadn’t passed, the agency would have made $1.5 million in cuts to an already-depleted system, Royer said.

The levy will cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $31 a year. The additional money should start coming in by spring.

The mental health board does not plan to add new programs.

“I will probably recommend increased funding to programs we already have,” Royer said.

The mental health board contracts with about a dozen agencies that provide counseling, medication and case management, including services for senior citizens and children.

The board also funds a court diversion program for the mentally ill with substance abuse problems and a treatment alternative court at Fairfield Municipal Court.

A night of state Democratic gains

In addition to winning four of five executive branch jobs and a U.S. Senate seat, Democrats picked up at least seven seats in the Ohio House of Representatives, their political party's best gain in 34 years. Even so, the House currently would retain a Republican majority of 53 to 46 seats during the next two-year session that begins in January. Democrats also reported their first net gain in the Ohio Senate in 14 years where the GOP lost one seat, retaining a 21-to-12 majority.

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern, who won re-election to the House, said 46 seats is enough to sustain any vetoes by incoming Gov. Ted Strickland. "We will be able to carry Ted Strickland's agenda," Redfern said at a morning news conference.

Democrats successfully defended all but one of the 39 Ohio House seats they held heading into Tuesday’s election. And House Democrats produced historic gains despite spending less than 25 cents for every $1 spent by Republicans, according to House Democratic spokesman John Kohlstrand. The House Republican caucus raised $7.8 million through Oct. 18, according to campaign finance reports. House Democrats had raised $1.7 million – the most in at least 12 years for the caucus.

House Minority Leader Joyce Beatty, D-Columbus, said she’s pleased by the results, and optimistic that House Democrats will play a strong role in working with Gov.-elect Strickland to turn around Ohio.

"Government of, by and for one political party at the Statehouse is now over," Beatty said. "The voters sent a clear message Tuesday. They want leaders who will chart a new course that moves all Ohioans forward."

Redfern also bragged about David Pepper's win as Hamilton County commissioner, saying that was a race the state Democratic Party helped finance.

With the election of two Republican justices Tuesday, the seven-member Ohio Supreme Court becomes all Republican for the first time since 1921. Redfern said he sent a letter to Justice Paul E. Pfeifer today inviting him to join the Democratic Party. Pfeifer often joins the lone Democrat, Alice Robie Resnick, in key votes on labor, school-funding and insurance cases. But Resnick is retiring Dec. 31.

Redfern also said Democrats are not conceding congressional seats held by Republican incumbents Jean Schmidt of Miami Township and Deborah Pryce of Upper Arlington.

Meanwhile, Redfern boasted that Democrats benefited from the culture of corruption that soured voters in Ohio yet their campaign were outspent 2-to-1 by the state Republican Party. The politics of division and distortion by Ken Blackwell and other Republican officeholders "has soundly been rejected," Redfern said.

The state chairman promised sweeping reforms in the first 100 days of office by newly-elected Democrats within the offices of Secretary of State, Attorney General and Ohio Treasurer. "We understood that reform was desperately needed," he said.

Bengals bite back

Payback, especially in politics, can be a bitch.

That’s what incumbent Republican Commissioner Phil Heimlich found out last night when he was ousted by Commissioner-elect David Pepper.

Heimlich was part of the Hamilton County push for the government to sue the Cincinnati Bengals, hoping to collect tens of millions of dollars after a deficit was projected for the sales tax fund that pays the mortgage on Paul Brown Stadium.

The team sued the Bengals and the National Football League, claiming they used their monopoly power to win a stadium lease that was far more favorable to the team than to taxpayers footing the bill.

Hamilton County voters passed a 1996 half-cent sales tax to pay for stadiums for the Bengals and Cincinnati Reds.

That sales tax fund is projected to have a deficit of at least $191 million when the stadium mortgages come due more than 20 years from now.

The Bengals say they are blameless because the approximately $450 million cost cited by county officials for the cost of Paul Brown Stadium includes about $100 million to buy land and do public improvements for The Banks -- a $600 million commercial, residential and retail neighborhood planned to sit between the two stadiums that itself is very controversial.

After Hamilton County sued the team in federal court, the team won. Negotiations began for a settlement but then two of the three Hamilton County commissioners – Heimlich and Todd Portune – voted to appeal the case. It still is pending.

At least five Bengals front office employees – and the team’s lawyer -- contributed $32,000 to the Heimlich's opponent:

* Bengals President Mike Brown -- $20,000;
* Bengals Business Development Director Troy Blackburn -- $5,000
* Bengals Vice President, Player Personnel Paul Brown -- $3,000
* Bengals Senior Vice President, Player Personnel Peter Brown -- $3,000
* Bengals Director of Sales and Public Affairs Jeff Berding, also a Cincinnati Council Member -- $250

Bengals attorney Stuart Dornette -- very active in local Republican politics – also gave Pepper, a Democrat, a campaign donation of $1,000 at an Aug. 22 event.

Blackburn also gave $619 his in-kind contributions to the Pepper campaign for that Aug. 22 event -- $21 for invitations and stamps and $598 for food and beverages.

That is in addition to another political payback produced last weekend by two other Republicans, one also employed by the Bengals.

John Dowlin was a Republican Hamilton County commissioner who served with Heimlich for two years – until Heimlich recruited Republican Pat DeWine to beat Dowlin in a primary.

Dowlin’s name was on a full-page Enquirer ad for two days last weekend where a group call “Citizens for Good Government” urged Heimlich’s defeat.

Dowlin admitted he was encouraged to participate in the ad by another former Republican Hamilton County Commissioner – Bob Bedinghaus.

Bedinghaus was the commissioner who pushed for the 1996 sales tax increase to pay for the stadiums.

He also negotiated the lease with the team, a lease Heimlich blasted as “an outrageous giveaway,” that resulted in Bedinghaus being voted out of office.

After his defeat, Bedinghaus took a new job – with the Bengals, as director of development for Paul Brown Stadium.

Butler animal shelter to start plans today

Jennifer Baker reports:

The director of Butler County’s animal shelter said he meets at 3 p.m. today with county officials to “move full steam ahead” on building a new, larger animal shelter.

“It is a really good day for Butler County animals and people,” said Leland Gordon, executive director of the county’s animal shelter in Trenton, which has grown outdated, overcrowded and unsanitary. “It is just so gross there it’s unbelievable.”

In one of the more emotional campaigns of the election, animal lovers pushed a one-mill, 0.5-mill levy to raise about $3 million for a new animal shelter.

The owner of a $100,000 home will pay about $15 for the one-time levy.

The animal shelter, operated by the non-profit Butler County Humane Society, is the county’s only open-admission shelter, meaning it takes all animals, even aggressive and sick ones.

The society occupies a 54-year-old, 6,000 square-foot building on seven acres.
Gordon said he hopes the new shelter will be twice the size of the current one.

Money from the levy won’t start coming in until the spring. In the meantime, the shelter has to hire an architect, draw up design plans and find a place to build the new shelter, he said. It either will go on land the county owns or a four-acre parcel the Humane Society owns next to the existing shelter, Gordon said.

A new facility could be built by the end of next year, he said.

But passing the levy won’t stop the need for fundraising to operate the shelter, he stressed. In fact, it will elevate it.

The county will own the new facility, but Butler County Humane Society still will have to raise proceeds to run it.

The agency’s current $660,000 budget includes about $200,000 from county dog license fees and other government money, Gordon said. The rest comes from donations.

“It is so important the community continues to donate to us,” he said. “I don’t want the public to say, ‘Oh they got a fancy new building.’ Without the Humane Society running it, it will be an empty building.”

How to help: Donations can be sent to: Animal Friends Humane Society, 5225 Trenton Road, Trenton, OH 45067. For information, visit www.animalfriendshs.org or call Leland Gordon at 513-867-5005.

Money doesn't always talk

Apparently, money doesn’t win elections.

Despite raising over $1 million – and spending almost double what he spent per vote four years ago – incumbent Republican Commissioner Phil Heimlich was ousted in Tuesday’s election.

In campaign finance reports filed with the Board of Elections, Heimlich raised $1,047,000 – an all-time high for a Hamilton County commission race -- through Oct. 18, the last reporting date before the election.

With that, Heimlich received 129,539 votes – or $8.08 per vote.

When Heimlich was elected commissioner four years ago, his campaign raised $592,867 and got 143,638 – or $4.13 per vote.

By comparison, Commissioner-elect David Pepper (pictured) raised $847,000 through Oct. 18. He received 143,951 votes – or $5.88 per vote.

Those prices are likely to rise.

Campaign reports were only through Oct. 18. Any money raised or spent after that is to be included on the Dec. 15 final campaign finance reports.

Final Pepper-Heimlich results

With 100 percent of the vote in, David Pepper will become Hamilton County’s newest commissioner, winning by 14,412 votes.

Commissioner-elect Pepper’s win gives Democrats a majority on the three-member Hamilton County Board of Commission for the first time since 1962.

Pepper won 143,951 votes, or 52.6 percent.

His opponent, incumbent Republican Phil Heimlich, received 129,539 votes, or 47.4 percent.
Heimlich’s loss came despite his incumbency, Republicans being in the majority in Hamilton County and raising over $1 million.

Pepper raised over $800,000 for his campaign.

Hamilton County voters also voted down a proposed sales tax increase that would have paid for a new jai and approved two renewals of two existing special-use property taxes.

-- Issue 12, the proposal to raise the sales tax a quarter cent to pay for a $230 million jail and $30 million property tax rollback, lost by 14 percentage points – 153,244 (57.1 percent) against; 115,251 (42.9 percent) for.

-- The Children’s Services levy, providing foster care, adoptive and other services, won with 185,538 votes (68.2 percent) for and 86,607 (31.8 percent) against;

-- The Health and Hospitalization levy, paying for health care for the poor, easily won with 184,904 votes (68.2 percent) for and 86,106 votes (31.8 percent) against.

Pepper to tackle jail issue

Cliff Peale reporting:

David Pepper will spend today thanking campaign supporters and volunteers, but the new Hamilton County commissioner says it won't be long before the county once again tackles financing for a new jail.

Pepper beat incumbent commissioner Phil Heimlich by about 14,300 votes. Voters rejected a sales-tax increase to pay for jail construction, 57 percent to 42 percent.

Pepper said he'll start talking to fellow commissioners and law-enforcement officials about the jail. He doesn't foresee an immediate proposal after he takes office in January, but called it "an issue for the here and now."

Tuesday's jail vote "reflects real skepticism with the approach. It was so political. It was an election year ... A lot of people just didn't trust it."

Final Hamilton County election results

It took several hours but Hamilton County's Board of Elections has results with 100 perent of the precincts reporting. The board, though, hasn't updated its web site, so here are the results.

The overall election results are here.

The precinct-by-precinct breakdown of the results is here.

Warren delays counting absentee ballots

Jessica Brown reports:

Between 2,000 and 3,000 absentee ballots in Warren County will not be counted until Nov. 21 – a move that could potentially affect a Kings school levy which failed by fewer than 300 votes.

Board of Elections Director Susan Johnson said Wednesday morning it’s standard procedure that absentee ballots that are voted Friday or Saturday or are received at the board office by mail on Monday or Tuesday are not counted right away because elections officials have to verify that the voters didn’t also cast a ballot at the polls.

“We got most of them counted that we would normally count,” said Susan Johnson of the board of elections. “Usually the ones that come in right before Election Day don’t get counted until the official count ( on Nov. 21) because we have to verify they didn’t go to the polls twice,” Johnson said. “Also, the ones that came back in the mail, we didn’t have time to validate those Monday or Tuesday.”

With a change in Ohio law that allows anyone to file an absentee ballot, many more absentee ballots were filed this year. Now, there's a higher volume of uncounted absentee ballots, making them a bigger issue that could affect some races.

Although the percentage of uncounted ballots is about the same as in years past, the volume is about three times greater because of the sheer number of absentee ballots voted this year.

For example, in the last governor’s race the elections board received about 2,800 absentee ballots. This year it received 9,600.

“There is a bigger volume. I don’t know that the percentage is different,” Johnson said.

Kings Superintendent Charles Mason said last night that the board’s decision to hold off on counting those ballots was “disappointing.”

The Kings $27.2 million bond issue failed by 284 votes – or 48 percent to 52 percent, according to unofficial results from the board of elections.

Liberty to start planning fire stations

Jennifer Baker reports:

Township Fire Chief Paul Stumpf said today he hopes to begin hiring more full-time firefighter/paramedics next year - and start drawing up plans to replace one older fire house and build a fourth.

Liberty voters passed a five-year, 3.5-mill fire levy by 59 percent to 41 percent with all 297 precincts reporting. The levy will cost the owner of a $100,000 home $107.19 annually and collect $2.6 million a year.

Township officials say the increased funding is expected to start coming in by the spring.

The new fire stations could cost up to $5 million. Construction on both could start in late 2008 or early 2009, depending on township trustee approval, Stumpf said.
“Everybody realizes how busy we are getting,” the fire chief said. “They drive the roads. They see the growth. They hear the sirens and see the vehicles going up and down the road.”

Liberty’s population is about 33,000, up from 9,249 residents in 1990.
Its population is expected to surpass 80,000 by 2030, according to the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments.

The increased funding would help the township employ a total of 40 full-time firefighter/paramedics by 2011, Stumpf said. Next year, he hopes to hire three more and fill two vacancies for a total of 21 full-time firefighter/paramedics.

Now, the township has 53 part-time firefighter/paramedics.

Last year, the department had 1,849 service runs, 71 percent of which were for emergency medical services, he said. That’s up from 1,245 runs in 2000.

“Our biggest problem is we get two or three emergencies at the same time and when the fourth one comes in we don’t have the people to respond,” Stumpf said. “Obviously we use mutual aid from surrounding departments, but everyone is getting busy. We need to beef up to make sure we have the people to respond.”

Wulsin refuses to concede

Cliff Peale reporting:

Convinced that she still has a chance to beat U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt in Ohio's Second Congressional District, Democratic candidate Victoria Wulsin will meet with election lawyers and call boards of elections around the district this morning.

Schmidt, for her part, considers the election over "and went for a really long run this morning," a spokesman said.

Results reported last night showed Schmidt with 50.51 percent of the vote, with a margin of about 2,300 votes over Wulsin. Wulsin spokesman Ady Barkan said provisional and absentee ballots could tip the balance and that the campaign would consider asking for a recount.

"We wouldn't be doing this if we didn't think we had a chance to win," he said.

As for Schmidt, she's doing congressional work this morning, spokesman Matt Perin said. This weekend, she'll be running a marathon in Richmond, Va., he said.

"It's her fourth election in 18 months, so she knows what to do the next day," he said.

Restaurant guests 'will have to pay'

Cliff Peale reporting:

It won't be long before visitors to Ohio restaurants see higher prices after voters approved Tuesday a constitutional amendment to increase the state’s minimum wage, one restaurant owner said today.

Starting next year, the minimum wage for servers, who rely on tips for most of their pay, will increase to $3.43 per hour from $2.13 per hour. Craig Maier, president and chief executive officer of Frisch's Restaurants Inc., said the measure would cost his company about $3 million a year and will mean increased prices early in 2007.

"The guest will have to pay it," Maier said.

Frisch's operates about 100 restaurants in Ohio, and servers can be about 30 percent of the total staff. Smaller restaurants will see a bigger impact, Maier predicted.

But he said the most onerous impact for business will be the privacy and record-keeping provisions. Under the amendment, employers must maintain complete pay records for all employees for at least three years after they leave the job, and provide free copies of those records to people acting on their behalf.

The amendment garnered about 56 percent of the vote Tuesday.

Strickland to express gratitude

Cliff Peale reporting:

Ohio Governor-Elect Ted Strickland is scheduled to thank volunteers at his campaign headquarters in Columbus this afternoon.

Strickland, who beat Republican Ken Blackwell by 60 percent-37 percent in Tuesday's voting, and his wife Frances will appear at the 2 p.m. rally.

This morning at 10 a.m., Ohio Democratic Party chairman Chris Redfern will hold a post-election press conference at party headquarters. Aside from Strickland's resounding victory, Democrats won statewide races for U.S. Senator, and Ohio attorney general, secretary of state and treasurer.

Boehner loses his title

House Majority Leader John Boehner will have to turn in his title, new office suite in the U.S. Capitol and - possibly - $18,300 raise after Democrats won enough House seats to take control of the U.S. House for the first time in 12 years.

The West Chester Republican has said he'll run for House Minority Leader, but he'll have competition and the loss of the chamber might hurt his chances. Shortly after results came in last night, here's what he said in a statement:
“I’d like to congratulate House Democrats on a hard-fought campaign.
We are deeply disappointed in the outcome, but as Republicans we must recommit
ourselves to the principles that brought us to the majority and renew our drive
for smaller, more efficient, more accountable government.

“I’ve said since January during my run for Majority Leader that
that we as Republicans must return to the spirit of ’94 and its focus on
reform. The American people strongly supported our ideas and agenda in
1994, and they still do. We made progress this year by instituting greater
fiscal discipline, rejecting some $45 billion in wasteful Democrat spending,
enacting comprehensive earmark reform, and continuing to provide tax relief, but
clearly we must do more and we must do better.

“Our challenge as Republicans is to regain our confidence, our courage, and our energy to address the big issues that matter – balancing the budget by reducing the size of government and cutting wasteful spending, reforming entitlement programs that aren’t sustainable for our children and our grandchildren, providing tax relief
to enhance freedom and prosperity for American families, and strengthening
national and border security.

“If Republicans stand together and unite behind solutions and ideas that move us closer to our common vision of a freer, more prosperous America, I’m confident the American people will return us to the majority in two years.”

Anyone seen some votes lying around?

There are two missing precincts in Hamilton County, both in Cincinnati.

Cincinnati 13-H is in North Avondale and votes at the Rescue Temple Church, 824 Mann Place.

Precinct 6-B is just three blocks from the Board of Elections in the southwestern corner of downtown, and votes at Christ Church Cathedral, 318 E. Fourth St.

Elections officials don't yet know where they are.

"Godzillions" of ballots in Wulsin race?

Timothy M. Burke, the chairman of the Hamilton County Board of Elections and the county Democratic chair, said it's conceivable that there are enough provisional ballots yet to be counted to keep Wulsin in the running mathematically.

"It is certainly theoretically possible," he said.

Provisionals are ballots where the eligibility of the voter is in question -- most likely because there was a question about their identification, a change of address or a change in polling location.

But as of midnight, no one knows how many of those ballots there are.

"I went downstairs and said, 'Give me a number,'" Burke said. "And the numbers I got were 'godzillions' and 'tons.' Those are the kinds of responses I got from our highly professional staff. But in all seriousness, we don't know. But it's clear there are going to be thousands -- not hundreds -- of provisionals just in Hamilton County."

Also uncounted are an unknown number of ballots that could not be counted at the polling place because the scanners jammed or otherwise malfunctioned. Those were put in provisional envelopes, though their validity isn’t questioned. And then there are perhaps a few hundred overseas absentee ballots yet to arrive.

Chabot says '93 Buick helped

Cliff Radel reporting:

"They kept saying I've changed," Steve Chabot said in his victory speech. "But as I drove around the district today people said, 'hey that's a '93 Buick. You really drive that thing.' Now I can never sell that thing."

In the crowd chanting "Chabot, Chabot, Chabot" and pumping his fist was Colerain Township Trustee Jeff Ritter. He said, "Steve Chabot embodies the West Side with his values and morals.

Also in his victory speech Chabot thanked his opponent John Cranley for "making this a spirited battle."

When asked what turned around the election for him Chabot jokingly said "when the Enquirer chose not to endorse me. I saw my numbers shoot straight up."

Supporters of Issue 5 pass statewide smoking ban

Ohio voters soundly rejected Issue 4, a limited ban on smoking in restaurants, bars and other public places, but supported Issue 5, which calls for a complete ban on smoking in workplaces and public places.

"We are so grateful to Ohio voters who saw past the tobacco companies’ smokescreen and voted to create a healthier future for Ohio workers and future generations," said Tracy Sabetta, co-chair of SmokeFreeOhio's campaign.

"Tobacco companies spent millions, but could not defeat thousands of passionate volunteers from across the state who worked countless hours to make this dream a reality," Sabetta said.

The SmokeFree Workplace Act will officially be state law in 30 days. It may take a little longer for the Ohio Department of Health to craft rules to enforce Issue 5.

Ohio is the 15th state to pass stronger smoke-free laws. The list includes: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Montana, Utah, Vermont and Washington State. Several countries have smoke-free laws, including Italy, Ireland, and Scotland.

Cranley congratulates Chabot

Cranley, with his fiancee, arrived at his party right at midnight, just after learning he'd lost the race.

"I just want to congratulate Congressman Chabot on his relection and I want to congratulate him on winning the race. I have tried to call him. So if anyone's listening, please have him call me back."

"We have just run a phenomoneal race. We've worked so hard.

Wulsin: No concession. Count every vote.

Eileen Kelley reports:

As it approached midnight, Victoria Wulsin remained not only optimistic, but thrilled to have pulled as many votes as she had.

“It’s really amazing to be this close in a race that nobody thought would be this close. This is phenomenal,” said Wulsin.

“This race is still too close to call. We’re going to have to count every provisional ballot.”

When Wulsin called out into the crowd to find out how long it may take to finalize the vote count, she was told days.

”Days? Oh well party on,” she said.

She also took the time to remind her supporters of the victories the Democratic party had made throughout the area and nation.

“I think all of us are felling better then good tonight,” she said. “Win or lose, we are going to have a great celebration because we have all come together. This makes me so proud and so eager to be your next congress woman.”

"Next time! Next time!"

John Cranley had one last request for the dozens of helpers, many of them young people: stay committed to public service.

"I want everyone to have a good time tonight,'" he told the about 75 people still gathered at what they hoped would be a victory party. "I just want you to know that I''m extremely proud of this campaign, proud of all of you. Let's all figure out a way to turn this incredibly positive energy..."

The group didn't let him finish his sentence, interrupting with "Next time! Next time!"

He urged them all to not lose hope.

"You put yourselves on the line to make this country a better place, to fight for your ideals. What's important is to take those skills, take that energy and continue to commit yourselves to public service."

Supporters of Issue 2, minimum wage increase

Issue 2 supporters issued this news statement after the statewide initiative passed:

"Ohio’s working families may earn a victory tonight as early vote totals indicate that Issue 2 will win. Passage will increase Ohio’s minimum wage from $5.15 to $6.85 an hour starting Jan. 1 and will provide for increases each year thereafter as the cost of living rises.

"Voters recognized the basic fairness of raising the minimum wage and ensuring that it keeps pace with the cost of living," said State Sen. C.J. Prentiss, D-Cleveland, and co-chair of Ohioans for a Fair Minimum Wage. "And they responded at the polls today by supporting Issue 2."

Co-chair Tim Burga of the Ohio AFL-CIO added that "boosting the wage is not only a victory for workers, but also a victory for Ohio’s economy." He said that "states with higher minimum wages perform better economically because when workers earn more they buy more, which benefits local businesses."

Voter approval of Issue 2 marks the first real wage increase for Ohioans since Congress last increased the wage to $5.15 in 1996. Mary Keith, Chair of Ohio ACORN said, "Minimum-wage workers have been denied a raise for far too long and tonight voters righted this wrong."

Burga, Prentiss and Katy Gall of Ohio ACORN thanked those throughout the state "who knocked on doors, made phone calls, and went the extra mile to make sure voters knew the importance of passing Issue 2 and raising Ohio’s minimum wage."

Warren workers tired, go home without count

The Warren County Board of Elections is shutting down for the night without counting about 2,000 mail-in and absentee ballots.

The four-person board voted unanimously to leave without completing the tallies, leaving some issues like the King Schools levy in the balance. The leftover ballots will be tallied when the official count is completed Nov. 21, said Susan Johnson, director of the board of elections. Johnson said the workers were tired.

"We don't want to stay here another six hours to count them," she said.

Chris Gaffney, Warren County Democratic Party Chair, said there were no local races that looked like they would be affected by the remaining ballots.

"I have no issues with what they decided. I trust the people in there," Gaffney said.

Kings schools officials would disagree.

With 98 percent of the voted counted Kings’ $27.2 million bond issue was losing by 216 votes – 52 percent against and 48 percent for the property tax increase.

“It’s disappointing,” said Kings Superintendent Charles Mason when he learned of election officials' decision late Tuesday evening.

He declined further comment.

But earlier in the day Mason tried to vote in his South Lebanon precinct and was handed the wrong ballot – one without the Kings school issue.

“I live in South Lebanon and the precinct is split with some of the homes in Kings school system and others in Little Miami schools. The poll workers were supposed to give me the right ballot but they didn’t,” said Mason. “The poll workers are supposed to know what they are doing.

“It should never happen, especially in an election as important as this one. Even those who oppose our bond issue need to be able to vote on it,” he said.

Kings school officials e-mailed a notice Tuesday afternoon to school parents alerting those that vote at split precincts to make sure they receive the proper ballot if they live within the Warren County school system.

But Johnson said at the time that the problem only affected “a couple of people at one precinct early today and the problem was caught and corrected early.”

Warren County officials said earlier in the evening that they were experiencing difficulty scanning in absentee and mailed in ballots.

Warren County received about 10,000 mail-in ballots this year, which are “way more” than past elections, Warren County Administrator David Gully said.

The scanning machines had trouble reading ballots that were crumpled or wrinkled in the mail-in process, Gully said.

Although the machines are designed to be fed several hundred ballots at a time, election workers had to feed them individually. In some cases, election workers transcribed votes to fresh ballots when individual ballots would not scan correctly. Gully did not know how many had to be transcribed.

-- reporting by Jennifer Mrozowski, Jacob Dirr and Michael Clark

O'Reilly concedes in judge race

From Sherry Coolidge:

At midnight, 1st District Court of Appeals candidate Jim O'Reilly conceded:

"While I respect and accept the voters’ decision, I must express my concern at the loss of diverse viewpoints now that the appeals court becomes 6-0 Republican, and the Supreme Court shifts to 7-0 Republican. The citizens of Hamilton County told us they wanted change, but their votes were roughly the same as the last contested race, in 2002, which also lost by about 60-40. Our campaign reached thousands of Hamilton County residents and found support in dozens of communities. We thank those who worked for change and we hope that future challengers will work as hard and devote as much energy to the needs of the people as our team members have done. We remain convinced that accountability will someday come to our courthouse. "

Chabot victory statement near

Steve Chabot will be coming down to his party in 10 minutes to make his victory statement. He leads John Cranley by 10,397 votes with 99% of the Hamilton County precincts reporting.

Schmidt: I won

Jean Schmidt declared victory moments ago, to the cheers of dozens of supporters.

"This has been a very hard fought fight," she said. "We've got a lot of work to do. This has not been an easy night for Republicans across the nation."

- Dan Horn

DeWine reflects, but only a little

Margaret McGurk reporting from Columbus:

From Mike DeWine's brief news conference after his concession:

He declined to assess what caused the mortal wounds to his race. "The post-mortem of the campaign will be to others to do -- and probably me, later on."

He did acknowledge the anti-Republican mood that gripped Ohio. "I saw the problems, I saw what was going on on the state level and the national level. I knew all that. But I'm an optimist.

"The climate was difficult. We could not cut through that."

He spoke of meeting people on the campaign trail who told him they liked him and approved of his work in the Senate, but would not vote for him this year. "That happened over and over. That tells you a lot about this race." He declined to elaborate. "You can fill in the blanks."

As for his next step, he said, "I don't know." However, he noted, "I am 59. I have a lot of energy. ... My wife, Fran, says it would probably not be a good idea for me to retire. We will see. Time will tell." He later added that he would be interested in work that reflects his interest in child welfare.

As for leaving the Senate behind, he said, "I have loved every job I have had. Every single one of them. I don't think I wasted a day in this job."

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Last post from GOP party in Columbus

No confetti here. Not much screaming either. This reporter just learned from a GOP spokesman that the crowd has moved downstairs to the bar, where there is some serious drinking going on.

Another reason this "party" is clearing out (and this is a correction from an earlier post) - Apparently the bar here is a CASH BAR.

Over and out. Don't want to be the last one here...

"A bit of butt kicking"

At 11:40 p.m., the vote 63 percent for Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Patrick Dinkelacker to become a 1st District Court of Appeals Judge, Dinkelacker spoke out at his campaign party downtown.

He was greeted by cheers.

“It looks very, very good. I’ve got promises to keep to people, to myself, my family, especially my family, and to you all. I told you I would do everything I could do to take this home.You guys know me. I wanted to do this above board and right. And thanks to you all, we did it right. And when opponent didn’t, we still did. You know what every once in awhile the nice guy does finish first.

...I think we did a little bit of butt kicking tonight."

At that, the group, many prosecutors and people who work in the courthouse, erupted into cheers.

Heimlich to Pepper: You win

Commissionere Phil Heimlich telephoned David Pepper to concede.

Pepper took the call from Heimlich, walked into the kitchen area of Arnold's Bar & Grill, and told Heimlich it was a great race.

He then told Heimlich to thanks his parents on Pepper's behalf -- but Pepper refused to declare himself the winner until it was statistically impossible to lose.

Quiet at Heimlich party

Steve Kemme reports:

Phil Heimlich's supporters fell silent as he stepped to the microphone to concede defeat in his bid for re-election.

With his wife, Rebecca, and his parents, Dr. Henry and Jane Heimlich at his side, Heimlich spoke not only of his defeat by David Pepper, but also the defeat of the quarter-cent to pay for a $230 million jail and $30 million property tax rollback.

"I'm very disappointed because of the crime we have," he said. "I think it's critical that we get a new jail."

He thanked his wife, his parents, and his supporters and he feels proud of his service to Hamilton County.

"In the last two years, we've gotten more reforms in county government than the previous 20 years," he said. "I'd like to look at the things we've accomplished and not focus on just one lost election."

Last post from Brown party

I can't see the keys on my computer because it's covered in confetti.

Annie Hall

Canary pins at Brown party

Annie Hall reports

Canary pin was given to Brown by mine workers symbolizing the canary in the mine. Many in the crowd are wearing canary pins. It represents pro-union.

The crowd went crazy when the TV said the Dems won the house. I've been in a lot of crowds and this one hurts my ears.

Voinovich on DeWine

Republican Sen. George Voinovich of Cleveland just became Ohio's "senior" senator. Here's what he had to say about Republican Sen. Mike DeWine's loss tonight:

“I’m very disappointed tonight. I’ve lost my partner and someone who has done a great job for Ohio. We’ve been a great team for Ohio and I will miss his leadership. I welcome Sherrod Brown to the Senate and will work with him to better the lives of all Ohioans.”

Note: Since Brown is from Lorain, this now means that both of Ohio's U.S. senators are from northern Ohio.

2nd Congressional counties

These numbers just faxed in to board of elex. They are final unofficials from their respective counties:

Schmidt: 3,558
Wulsin: 5,597

Schmidt: 35,388
Wulsin: 27,550

Schmidt: 6,624
Wulsin: 7,058

Other counties have not reported.

Boehner wins, to no one's surprise

House Majority Leader John Boehner just announced that he won re-election in a news release e-mailed to reporters. He's reportedly in Washington right now.

“I am grateful and humbled by the support from my friends, neighbors, and constituents here in southwest Ohio. I want to thank the voters in the Eighth District for their support, and I look forward to continuing to serve on your behalf in Congress.

“We’ve made a lot of progress in our efforts to keep America prosperous, spend taxpayer dollars wisely, secure our borders, and strengthen national security – but we have a long way to go. I promise to keep up the fight, and will continue to work towards a smaller, less costly, more accountable federal government.”

Boehner, a West Chester Republican who represents most of Butler County, still doesn't know if he gets to keep his other job - the job of being majority leader, that is. News networks are projecting that Democrats will take the U.S. House.

Chabot widens lead

Cliff Radel reporting:

More cheers from the Steve Chabot camp. He has widened his lead over challenger John Cranley. With 3% of Hamilton County precincts reporting, Chabot has 59% of the vote to Cranley's 41%.

Hamco - lots of little things going wrong

Board of Elections Chairman Timothy M. Burke said the next round of results will be 14,000 absentees that have been quietly counted in a corner all night. He said a combination of new procedures and a higher turnout were holding up the results.

"It's not one big thing that went wrong. It's a bunch of little things that slowed things down," he said.

GOP party thinning out

So they are playing The Killers, a great rock band, but the GOP supporters at the election night party here in Columbus don't look like killers. They look tired. And they're already starting to leave ... Two party goers were just overheard on their cell phones trying to decide where to go next.

The two top of the ticket races have gone the other way. First GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell conceded to Democrat Ted Strickland. Then, just now, two-term Republican Sen. Mike DeWine conceded to Democrat Sherrod Brown.

So... Franklin County Republican Party Chairman Doug Preisse -- apparently looking for some good news -- announced that Republican Rep. Dave Hobson, who had no real opposition, just won.

He also just introduced Columbus area Reps. Pat Tiberi, who is projected to win, and Deb Pryce, whose race a party spokeswoman said is too close to call.

"I say to you, we are going to win," Pryce told a cheering crowd of a couple hundred.

Jail vote disappointing to Deters

The Issue 12 party ended early as the jail levy was down.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, co-chairman of the campaign, said: "I'm disappointed, it's looks like it's not going to pass. The primary reason is because I know what it means to the city and county -- crime will continue to spiral out of control. Now the commissioners will have to make some very hard choices. We have to have a new jail."

Chabot fares well in Butler Co.

From Cliff Radel:

Jessica Towhey, Congressman Steve Chabot's press secretary, reports that 100% of the results are in from Butler County for the Chabot/Cranley race. Chabot received 6,253 votes or 68% and Cranley received 2,929 votes for 32%.

"That's what we expected to do in Butler County," Towhey said.

Chabot and his family were watching the results for Hamilton County in a room at the Hyatt Regency Hotel several floors above where steam was picking up in his election-night party at Champ's Sport Bar.

Strickland's formal statement

Minutes after he began his victory speech at the Hyatt on Capitol Square, Democrat Ted Strickland's campaign released this formal statement:

An audio clip of Strickland is available at the following link: http://www.tedstrickland.com/page/-/ElectionNight.mp3.

"Dear Friends, I am proud and humbled to stand before you tonight as Ohio's next governor.

"And I am here to tell you that we are standing at the threshold of the rebirth of our great state. Starting this morning, Ohioans of all walks of life went to their polling places and made the clear, unmistakable choice for change. The choice for hope over despair. The choice for unity over division.

"I want you to know that I have heard that message and I am moved and strengthened by it. I will be a governor who will work to unite all Ohioans to turnaround Ohio. Ohio's challenges are considerable. But I know that our good hearts and hard work are more than up to the task.

"But we can't tackle our challenges divided. There is a time and place for campaigns and spirited contest.

"But it's time for us to put aside our personal disagreements and work together in common purpose to create new jobs, improve our schools and increase access to quality health care.

"I believe that the people of Ohio are sending us a clear message to abandon the politics of divisiveness and, instead, focus on the core issues that matter most in their lives. What are those issues?

"*Creating living-wage jobs

"*Building an education system, from pre-school through college, that doesn't just compete with our neighbors like Indiana and Kentucky, but rivals the best schools in the world.

"*Making sure that high quality health care is available to those who need it.

"These are not Democratic or Republican issues. And there are no strictly Republican or Democratic solutions to these issues. But there are common-sense solutions.

"Lee Fisher and I have a plan. Our Turnaround Ohio plan will work to keep the jobs we have by investing in our strengths and bring us the jobs of the future by making sure we have the most educated workforce possible.

"I've tried very hard to craft priorities that will bring us together in a commitment to service. I think Turnaround Ohio responds to the issues that make a real difference in the lives of Ohioans. And I'm eager to work with the leaders of all parties in Ohio to find common agreement to move our state forward.

"Over the past 18 months, I have been moved and humbled by the inherent decency of the people of Ohio. But, I have not been surprised. I grew up on a small dirt road in southern Ohio called Duck Run. I am the son of a steelworker and one of eight brothers and sisters. We didn't have much growing up, but we had each other and that was more than enough.

"We also had a strong, vibrant community that revolved around church and our neighbors. In the Duck Run of my childhood, who you were and how you treated others mattered a lot more than what party you voted for. Your dedication to each other was respected a lot more than how much money you had. We believed we were all in it together -- and we were.

"The same is true today. Ohio is a great state, with an economy that could be among the largest in the world, but our greatest strength is each other. I'm so proud to be from Ohio. I believe in the future of Ohio because I have faith in the people in Ohio.

"Now, you may have noticed this chain made out of construction paper. For months now a dedicated volunteer in our campaign's Columbus office has written the name of everyone involved in our effort, every volunteer, every staffer on a link of this chain. As of tonight, we have thousands of links in this chain.

"That chain represents the bond of common brotherhood that links all of us together here in Ohio. If we listen to the better angels of our nature we will be linked together by our hope, by our passion and our belief in a better future. There may be storm clouds on the horizon from time to time, but nothing is as strong as we are when we're working together.

"This is my pledge to you, the work of my administration will be the work of all of Ohio and all Ohioans. And I welcome all Ohioans in this effort to turnaround Ohio. Positive change just can't happen without Democrats, Independents and Republicans all working together.

"I am also deeply committed to restoring civility and respect in our public life. And I have faith and hope that legislative leaders in both houses will want to join me in that effort. We may be members of certain political parties, but we each are something more important by far, we are proud Ohioans and free Americans.

"At the end of the day, the success of my administration will be based not by the size of the victory tonight, but by how much difference we make in the lives of everyday Ohioans. Those who work as hard as they know how in order to build a good life for the families they love.

"The people of Ohio have sent a clear message, they want more than just a change of political parties, they want a change in the way our government is run. They want a return to civility and they want us to focus on a clear plan to Turnaround Ohio. I pledge all my heart and soul to that effort.

"I hope and pray that you will join me in the work ahead.

"Thank you, God Bless you and God Bless the great state of Ohio."

Blackwell's concession statement

About 8:47 p.m., Ken Blackwell's losing campaign sent out this e-mail conceding the governor's race:

He said he had just called Ted Strickland to congratulate the Democrat.

Following are Blackwell’s comments to Strickland:

"Ted, you ran a good race and have won a tremendous opportunity to lead the people of this state to better days, a stronger economy and a higher quality of life. Congratulations and best wishes for a successful tenure as governor of the greatest state in America."

Gov. Taft congratulates Strickland, his wife

Gov. Bob Taft of Cincinnati, who is completing his second four-year term, just issued the following statement about his successor:

"I wish to congratulate Congressman Ted Strickland on his election as Ohio’s 68th governor. I also offer my best wishes as he leads state government through the challenges and new opportunities that will be encountered in the next four years. I want to also congratulate Ohio’s next First Lady, Frances Strickland.

"Through my eight years as governor, my administration effectively managed
state government through challenging budgets under very difficult economic
times. Our hard work and strategic investments have positioned Ohio’s
economy for growth and enabled our state government to achieve financial
stability as the Strickland administration begins.

"In the days ahead, members of my staff, my cabinet and I stand ready to assist Governor-elect Strickland and his team to ensure a smooth, professional transition to the new administration."

DeWine concedes race to Brown

"Just a moment ago, before I came on stage, I called Congressman Brown to congratulate him."

Schmidt at home freshening up

From Dan Horn:

Jean Schmidt's husband is here at GOP headquarters in Batavia. Her bus is here. Her name is everywhere, plastered on signs, shirts and walls. And several dozen excited campaign workers are here.
So where is Jean?
"She went home to get a hot shower," said her husband, Peter.
He said she'll be along shortly.

DeWine just took the stage

Republican Sen. Mike DeWine just took the stage, following his wife, Fran.

"As you can see from this family, I am a very lucky man," DeWine said as about 18 family members surrounded him.

Clermont counting goes well

From Jay Pope, reporting from Clermont County Board of Elections:

Within an hour after boards of election were directed not to report any results to the public, Clermont County Board of elections had reported 100 percent of the precincts. Mike Keeley, Clermont County Board of Elections Director and his team posted the final results to their Web site shortly before 10 p.m.

"It went as well as it was scripted this morning," said Keeley who has been in the position since March, overseeing the May primary. "Thank God for the staff--it was a team effort. All we wanted to see were the correct results."

Clermont final results weren't posted until after 8 a.m. for the primary.

Republican ? Ghiz at Pepper's party

Leslie Ghiz, a Republican Cincinnati Council Member, is at David Pepper's party sporting a Pepper sticking and cheering him on.

Ghiz, a close personal friend of Pepper's, is standing in front of the television and paying rapt attention to the results as they scroll across the screen.

She also seems to have an interest in the race between Republican Steve Chabot and his challenger, John Cranley, a Democrat on the Cincinnati City Council.

DeWine to speak soon

Not sure what he's supposed to say, but we're told Republican Sen. Mike DeWine is here at the GOP election night party in Columbus with his large family and plans to take the stage shortly.

AP has already called Ohio's U.S. Senate race for Democrat Sherrod Brown, after exit polling showed Brown leading DeWine 57 percent to 43 percent. Actual results have been delayed due to polls staying open in Cuyahoga County until 9 p.m.

Cheers as Chabot widens lead

From Cliff Radel:

More cheers just went up at Champ's Sports Bar as the results were announced that Steve Chabot had widened his lead on opponent John Cranley by 3,000 votes.

The incumbent Congressman leads his challenger 58% to 42%.

Stand my ground

The Associated Press declared Ted Strickland the winner over Ken Blackwell shortly after 8 p.m., based on exit polling.

Strickland, the first Democrat elected governor since Richard Celeste in 1986, is about to give his victory speech at the Hyatt at Capitol Square.

He took the stage as "Stand My Ground" by Tom Petty played. "I am proud and humbled," Strickland said. "I will be a governor who will work to unite all Ohioans to turn around Ohio. . . It's time to put aside our differences."

Strickland promised to improve schools, improve health care and secure jobs for all Ohioans.

Davis declares victory

Incumbent Republican Geoff Davis declared victory Tuesday night over Democrat Ken Lucas in Kentucky's 4th Congressional District.

With 78 percent of the 575 precincts reporting results, Davis was leading Lucas, 51 percent to 44 percent. Libertarian Brian Houillion had 5 percent.

Hurrah for results

From Cliff Radel:

A shout went up at Champ's Sports Bar at 10 p.m. when early results showed that Steve Chabot had an 8 percent lead over John Cranley.

What's holding up the Hamco returns

Mike Dyer reports from the Hamilton County Board of Elections:

John Williams tells Mike that he's starting to see results come through. He cited the massive turnout, the ballots were two pages, and the county was using scanned ballots for the first time in a general election.

Brown crowd swells

In the past 30 minutes more than 500 people have descended on the Public Auditorium in Cleveland awaiting their candidate, Sherrod Brown, to show.

The crowd is boisterous and beside themselves celebrating the good news for Ohio Democrats being televised via closed circuit from Columbus.

Two Cincinnatians have been found in the crowd.

Steve Wessel, 20, of Milford is in Cleveland because "I wanted to see our next senator." It's exciting, said Wessel, and the crowd clearly agreed with him. Wessel did some phone-banking for Brown over the past few days.

Laura Janneck, 23, of Oakley said she is here because she's "an enthusiastic Democrat" who believes Brown is a great leader. She spent several hours volunteering for the "Vote No on 4 and Yes on 5" campaign. "It's so great to see so many Democrats in one place," Janneck said.

Chabot staffer outta there

Cliff Radel reports

With no election results as of 9:52 p.m. for the Chabot/Cranley race
for Congress, Mike Emsminger, Chabot's campaign manager just left
Chabot's party at Champ's Sports Bar to go to the Board of Elections

Columbus crowd bubbles over Brown

The hallways along the bars are bustling, but it was CNN's declaration at 8:50 p.m. that Sherrod Brown had beaten Republican U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine that sent the capacity Capitol Square Hyatt crowd over the top.

Brown, a Democrat celebrating in Cleveland, hooked up with the Columbus party via a live videoscreen at 9:22 p.m.

"I thank you for the terrific grassroots efforts," Brown said. "We're going to send a new majority to Washington. So many of you have stood up for the middle class. I look forward to seeing all of you all over the state in the next six years."

"Stay tuned, more good news to come," declared Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern.

Blackwell speaks to supporters

Here at the GOP election night party, Ohio gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell, who just an hour earlier conceded to Democrat Ted Strickland:

"The clock of this election ran out on us."

"I think we were awash in a wave of change that we rode in on in 1994. We had an opportunity to lead and to stay true to our principals and put our state on a path to economic growth... and we came short. Let me suggest to you that the electorate sent us a message this evening."

"This evening the debate must change to a civil discussion."

"Ted Strickland and his team have run a good race and have won a tremendous opportunity to lead our state to a better quality of life, a stronger economy and much better days. I've called Congressman Strickland and congratulated him and extended my best wishes for a successful tenure as governor of the greatest state in the greatest country in all of human history."

"My strength as a public servant and as a leader comes from my faith," he said, telling the crowd that as he stood before them after his primary victory and praised God, "I say to you this evening in the midst of a political setback, to God be the glory."

Taking off the loafers

After campaigning since 6:30 a.m., John Cranley needed a break. He relaxed a little bit, supporters at his party say, and is having dinner with his family, fiancee and friends. He wants to wait for results from his race before coming to his party at the High Spirits Lounge.

There's a packed house waiting for him.

One man, apparently settling in for a long night, grabbed a small piece of floor space in front of a television, plopped down, rolled up the sleeves of his dress shirt and took off his loafers.

Lt. Gov. candidate Tom Raga speaks

Lt. Gov. candidate Tom Raga speaks to supporters at the GOP election night party in Columbus:

"It's been a hard year to be a Republican. I certainly appreciate your spirit."


He introduced his wife and daughter.


"Even though we weren't successful today, we hope that our campaign and energy contributed to the Republican turnout."

"The true test is how we respond tomorrow. Tomorrow is when we ask ourselves, how do we win again in the future?"


"As I look back to the campaign, I enjoyed every bit of it and I enjoyed it because I worked with Ken Blackwell."

And now........ Ken Blackwell!

Heimlich's mom and dad are here

Steve Kemme reports:

Phil Heimlich's parents, Dr. Henry and Jane Heimlich are enjoying themselves at his election night party at the Havana Martini Club.

Dr. Heimlich, a world-renowned physician who invented the Heimlich Maneuver, a technique to save choking victims, said he never was tempted to become a politician.

"I could never have been a politician," said Heimlich, 87. "However, in my life in medicine, I found there's plenty of politics between medical organizations and doctors."

Jane Heimlich said it's heartening for her to see so many of her son's long-time supporters at tonight's party.

"What really touches me," she said, "is to see so many people here who were Phil's supporters when he entered politics about 20 years ago. There's a loyalty and a kinship there that's wonderful to see."

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