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

Jessica Brown,
Hamilton County reporter

Jon Craig,
Enquirer statehouse bureau

Jane Prendergast,
Cincinnati City Hall reporter

Malia Rulon,
Enquirer Washington bureau

Carl Weiser,
Blog editor

Howard Wilkinson,
politics reporter

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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Legislators named 'watchdogs of the treasury'

Five Republican state lawmakers from the Cincinnati area were named "Watchdogs of the Treasury" today by United Conservatives of Ohio.

State Sen. Patricia Clancy of Colerain Township, Sen. Robert Schuler of Cincinnati, Sen. Tom Niehaus of New Richmond, Rep. Bill Seitz of Green Township and Rep. Jim Raussen of Sprindale were among 21 state legislators given the award for 2005-2006 by the Sharonville-based group.

The award goes to state lawmakers who demonstrate a commitment to wise state spending and conservative fiscal policy.

To choose recipients for the award, the group evaluates each state legislator’s voting record on issues they deemed "most indicative of the conservative point of view."

"I am honored to receive this award and will use it as added motivation to continue to fight for responsible fiscal policy in the Senate," Clancy said.

While helping shape the 2005-2006 state budget, the legislators voted to hold state spending to its lowest growth level in 40 years and avert double-digit spending increases in the Medicaid program.

The legislators also are credited with crafting or supporting a tax reform package that included a 21 percent across-the-board income tax cut for all Ohioans while eliminating certain state business taxes that discouraged productivity and job growth.

Meanwhile, at the White House...

First Lady Laura Bush announced today that this year's holiday theme will be "Deck the Halls and Welcome All."

Here's the fact sheet e-mailed to reporters this morning about decorations at the White House:

Red Ornament Balls - 4,638
Garland - 1,089 feet
Christmas Trees - 17 trees
Wreaths - 269
Christmas Cookies - 20,000
Mini Tarts - 5,000
Chocolate Truffles - 15,000
Sweet Potatoes - 2,100 pounds
Rack of Lamb - 3,000
Filets of Beef - 500
Crab Claws - 4,000 pounds
Shrimp - 4,000 pounds
Guests expected - 45,000

Mallory to Pat DeWine: You go guy

Read to the bottom of the story here

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Driehaus retains House leadership post

State Rep. Steve Driehaus of Price Hill was reappointed the third-ranked Democrat in the Ohio House Tuesday night.

Driehaus has held the post of House Democratic Whip since January 2005.

The Cincinnati Democrat, meanwhile, nominated Rep. Joyce Beatty of Columbus to retain the House Democratic Leader's job when the Ohio General Assembly convenes its 127th session on Jan. 2.

Driehaus noted that the acrimony-free leadership vote was a testament to Beatty’s ability to bring members together and unify the caucus as a team while improving Democrats’ clout in the legislature.

"We’ve had divisive leadership battles in the past," Driehaus said. "The fact that we are unified right now says a lot about Rep. Beatty’s leadership style."

House Democrats gained seven seats Nov. 7, their largest as a party since 1972. But Republicans will retain a majority of seats, 53 to 46, in January.

In January, Beatty became the first woman to lead Democrats in the House when Rep. Chris Redfern resigned his leadership post to focus on his new role as chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party.

Beatty, Driehaus and the rest of the current House Democratic leadership team were re-elected by acclamation and without opposition.

Rep. Fred Strahorn of Dayton was reappointed as Assistant Democratic Whip, a post he has held since March.

DeWine headed to Haiti

Sen. Mike DeWine, his wife, Fran, and their 23-year-old daughter, Alice, are traveling to Haiti this week. It will be DeWine's last trip as a U.S. senator to the island he has taken a personal interest in during the last 12 years that he's served in Washington.

DeWine lost his re-election campaign to Democrat Sherrod Brown last month.

During the trip, the DeWines will meet with Haitian political leaders, and visits to local schools. Sen. DeWine last visited Haiti with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 2005 as part of a delegation to show support for Haiti’s presidential election.

He introduced the Haiti Economic Recovery Opportunity (HERO) Act just before the election that would improve the economic and political situation in Haiti by promoting trade. The bill would use trade incentives to encourage the Haitian government to make reforms. The Senate approved a similar bill in 2004, but it wasn't voted on in the House.

The DeWines will return from Haiti on Saturday. Sen. DeWine will be in Washington next week for his last congressional session.

Portune: Hooray Pirtle, forget Dantonio

Yesterday -- Nov. 28, 2006 -- officially was designated as Laurie Pirtle Day in Hamilton County in an action taken today by commissioners.

Pirtle (pictured) is the University of Cincinnati women's basketball coach who earned her 300th career Tuesday with with a 74-57 win over Murray State.

Commissioner Todd Portune, an avid sports fan, presented the proclamation with the designation at today's commission meeting and it was adopted.

Portune said he also prepared last weekend a proclamation for (then-) UC football coach Mark Dantonio, urging him to stay as the head Bearcat.

Dantonio, though, accepted the head coaching job Monday at Michigan State University.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Beware: Putin is Pepper's pal

If you honk off David Pepper after he becomes a Hamilton County Commissioner next year, be careful.

After graduating from college, Pepper worked for a thinktank that sent him to St. Petersburg, Russia, to help help American and Russian businesses spur the local economy.

While there, Pepper befriended the St. Petersburg vice mayor -- former Russian KGB head and current Russian President Vladimir Putin who is coming under scrutiny after a former KGB spy and Putin critic Alexander Litvinenko mysteriously and suddenly died last week from radiation poisoning.

Litvinenko, on his death bed, blamed the Kremlin for his death, a claim Putin denies.

Pepper joked today his ties with Putin should help him as a commissioner.

"Now, I'll call him to protect me," Pepper said.

"He'll remember me fondly."

Pepper: Parrrr-tay

Three weeks after he became a Hamilton County Commissioner-elect, David Pepper is throwing a bash to celebrate.

Here's the release Pepper just sent out. Pepper is particularly fond of the Longworth fajitas, so that may explain the party venue:

Party down and enjoy some complimentary appetizers as we celebrate just about everything- the holidays, our victory and everyone's hard work! We will also be presenting some special (slightly embarrassing) awards to some of our great supporters.

Thursday, December 7th
6:00 p.m.
Longworth’s Tavern in Mt. Adams
1108 St. Gregory Street (map)

RSVP to justad dpepper@davidpepper.com.

Who's invited? All elected officials, supporters, friends and volunteers who helped along the campaign trail (it’s never too late to jump on the bandwagon).

O'Reilly must pay $5,000

Sharon Coolidge reports:

Attorney Jim O’Reilly must pay a $5,000 fine for running misleading television advertisements about his opponent, Judge Patrick Dinkelacker, in the 1st District Court of Appeals race, a commission of five judges appointed by the Ohio Supreme Court determined Tuesday.

Dinkelacker won the election 64 percent to 36 percent.

Strickland taps Fisher for first cabinet post

Gov.-elect Ted Strickland nominated his first cabinet member today.

Lt. Gov.-elect Lee Fisher will become the new administration’s director of the state Department of Development, upon confirmation by the Ohio Senate.

Fisher's annual salary has yet to be determined, but could be up to $150,000 if he serves in the dual role.

Gov. Bob Taft also asked his lieutenant governor, Bruce Johnson, to serve as the director of development. Prior to that, former Lt. Gov. Maureen O'Connor also served as director of the Department of Public Safety

At a news conference today, Columbus Mayor Mike Coleman, who heads Strickland’s transition team, called Fisher’s appointment “the first big step toward turning our state around.”

Fisher said economic growth, success and prosperity is the number one issue facing Ohio. He also said that the department will focus in on the “unbreakable link between educational attainment and economic prosperity.”

“We are going to focus on education early,” Strickland said at the news conference.

The development department’s relationship with Ohio’s Board of Education and department of education was left unclear except that Strickland said he was going to be very engaged in working with the state school board.

Other issues discussed today include:

*Fisher said that there are changes that he and Strickland would like to make in Ohio’s Third Frontier Program although they both support the program’s concept.

*Strickland said that, in preparation for the budget he must present to the legislature at the beginning of the year, he will probably make one more cabinet nomination before accepting other recommendations from his transition team.

*Neither Strickland nor Coleman would reveal who is on the transition team but, Strickland said, an announcement of the team would be made soon.

*With the Ohio General Assembly debating mental health insurance parity, Strickland was asked his position. Strickland said he has always supported the concept of insurers providing as much mental health-care coverage as they do for other forms of health care and that, within the past 24 hours, he has contacted Democratic and Republican leaders in both the Ohio House and Senate to make his position known.

Schmidt wins

From the Schmidt campaign

Schmidt Winner
Thanks Supporters and Boards of Election

Cincinnati, OH—Today, the official results from all 7 Boards of Elections has been tallied and Congresswoman Jean Schmidt is victorious in her bid for reelection.

“I’d like to say thank you to all the workers at the boards of elections across the district for their work to ensure that every vote has been counted,” said Schmidt.

“I’ve worked hard in Congress for the people of Southern Ohio and I look forward to continuing that work thanks to the confidence that the voters of the Second District have shown in me,” continued Schmidt.

“I’ve been honored by the number of volunteers and supporters who have worked so hard to help make this possible and would like to extend my thanks to each and every one of them,” concluded Schmidt.

Issue campaigns raised at least $32.5 million

Issue campaigns have become a goldmine for political consultants and advertising types. A study released today by Ohio Citizen Action found contributors to the state's four issue campaigns raised more than $32.5 million through Oct. 18. Final figures are due to Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell's office by Dec. 15.

More than half the money raised came from gambling proponents, who contributed $19.5 million on Issue 3, which would have placed slot machines at seven horsetracks and two stand-alone sites in Cleveland. About 57 percent of Ohioans voted against Issue 3 on Nov. 7.

River Downs Investment Co., which operates a racetrack in Anderson Township, contributed $2 million to the proponents' total, according to finance reports. Lebanon Raceway in Warren County contributed $47,658 as well as to the Ohio Legacy Fund.

In contrast, opponents to Issue 3 contributed about $701,000, although it's likely more donations will be reported in this month's reports to Blackwell's office.

The full study is available here:

An overview of the history of statewide ballot initiatives and successful ballot campaigns in Ohio can be found here:

Catherine Turcer, legislative director for the public-advocacy group, said the dualing smoking issues were the first since 1950.

Proponents of the less-restrictive smoking ban, Issue 4, which was defeated, contributed $6.3 million. Proponents of Issue 5, the total ban on smoking in public places and workplaces which won, raised $1.8 million through Oct. 18.

Supporters of Issue 2, which raised Ohio's minimum wage to $6.85 an hour on Jan. 1 raised nearly $3 million, nearly two-thirds of the total coming from labor unions. Opponents, mostly major restaurants and corporations, raised more than $1.2 million in a failed attempt to defeat Issue 2.

Turcer said the $32.5 million raised is possibly the most money raised in any election year for ballot issue campaigns, at least in recent state history.

Wulsin concedes

Wulsin to Concede Congressional Race

Democratic Candidate Victoria Wulsin to Address OH-02 Certified Votes
From the Wulsin campaign:

Cincinnati, OH – Dr. Victoria Wulsin, the democratic candidate for Ohio’s Second Congressional District, will concede to Jean Schmidt in her race for Congress. Five of the seven counties in Ohio’s Second Congressional District have certified their provisional ballots, all seven counties have certified actual ballots and absentee ballots.

What: Wulsin to Concede Congressional Race Press Conference

Where: Soteni Headquarters
2166 Kemper Lane
Cincinnati, OH

When: Tuesday, November 28, 2006 – 12:00 Noon

Monday, November 27, 2006

Hamilton County completes its vote count

Hamilton County completed its count of nearly 4,200 provisional ballots Monday night. While Victoria Wulsin had a net gain of 641 votes in her race against U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt -- she would have to pick up 78 percent of all uncounted ballots in Clermont County to trigger a recount.

Hamilton County Board of Elections Director John Williams reported that Wulsin picked up another 2,409 votes on Monday to Schmidt's 1,768 votes. That put Wulsin's lead at 50,210 to 44,447 in Hamilton County.

But Schmidt still leads in the 2nd Congressional District -- which includes all or parts of seven counties by 50.5 percent to 49.5 percent, or 119,201 votes to Wulsin's 116,735 votes, according to the latest returns. There are an estimated 2,300 provisional ballots to be counted Tuesday in Clermont County before election results can be certified.

Wulsin would need to win nearly 1,800 of the 2,300 uncounted votes to trigger an automatic recount -- which occurs when the winning margin is within 0.5 percent.

Tuesday is D-Day in Schmidt-Wulsin race

Clermont and Hamilton counties are expected to finish counting about 6,300 provisional ballots Tuesday in time to certify election results.

Late today, U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt led Democrat Victoria Wulsin by 3,107 votes, a net gain of 242 votes after uncounted absentee, military and provisional ballots were included in the totals of five of seven counties in the 2nd Congressional District.

Wulsin must win about two-thirds of the uncounted ballots to pull close enough for an automatic recount. She has refused to concede, saying every vote must be counted.

Earlier today, U.S. Rep. Deborah Pryce was declared the winner in the 15th Congressional District. But the Upper Arlington Republican suffered a net loss of 2,482 to Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy when provisional votes were counted, triggering an automatic recount.

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