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

Jessica Brown,
Hamilton County reporter

Jon Craig,
Enquirer statehouse bureau

Jane Prendergast,
Cincinnati City Hall reporter

Malia Rulon,
Enquirer Washington bureau

Carl Weiser,
Blog editor

Howard Wilkinson,
politics reporter

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Redfern and DeWine cruise on The Love Boat

It sounded like it might be a steel-cage death match. It turned out to be a campfire sing-along.

Chris Redfern, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, and Kevin DeWine, deputy chairman of the Ohio GOP (and soon to be chairman) had a joint appearance Friday at a luncheon in Eastgate sponsored by the Clermont County Chamber of Commerce. It was billed as a discussion fo Ohio's role in the 2008 presidential campaign, but the two party leaders - before a very Republican crowd of about 200 Clermont Count business people - spent most of their time talking about everything but the 2008 presidential race, with a lot of questions from the audience that were serious, issue-oriented inquiries that had little to do with horse-race politics.

Redfern and DeWine - both state representatives - agreed on a lot of things:

Yes, Ohio's March 4 primary might be a competitive affair, with the issue of who the party presidential nominees still up in the air.

Yes, Ohio will be a key state in the fall campaign.

Yes, there will be a big donnybrook in Ohio in 2010, when the parties will be fighting for control of the State Apportionment board, which will re-draw legislative district lines after the 2010 U.S. Census.

The most curious thing about the Clermont Chamber event had nothing to do with either Redfern or DeWine. It had to do with the Democratic primary in the 2nd Congressional District.

The two major candidates, Victoria Wulsin and Steve Black, were both on hand, despite the fact that you could count all the Democrats in the room on both hands. There were about 20 tables in the banquet room; the Democrats all crowded around one of them.

Nonetheless, there was Wulsin, planting herself at the front door, shaking every hand that came by. Black was inside, working the room.

At least 90 percent of the people they met Friday have no more chance of voting in the Democratic primary March 4 than they do of someday playing golf on the moon.

Voting machine smackdown

The voting machine debate is getting increasingly partisan.

Statement by Ohio Democratic Party Executive Director Doug Kelly regarding GOP Chairman Bob Bennett's Partisan Attacks on the Secretary of State. You may use all or part of the following:

"Fresh from his secret, closed-door meeting with Republican election workers, GOP Chairman Bob Bennett is lobbing unfounded accusations concerning, of all things, excessive partisanship. Unlike Bennett, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner has been notably open and bipartisan in her approach to safeguarding the integrity of Ohio's elections, examining policy with an advisory group of Republicans and Democrats and even launching a series of public town hall meetings across the state."

"Surely, the Ohio Republican Party can find a more credible voice on election issues than Bob Bennett, a man who was let go from the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections after his embarrassing tenure of incompetence and neglect. The Ohio Republican Party may long for the old days of Ken Blackwell and his partisan-driven administration, but the people of Ohio do not."

Watch the video here

Update on Engineer raise

Hamilton County Engineer William Brayshaw met with and tried to smooth things over with his workers today after they harshly criticized him for taking a pay raise when they didn't get one.

You may remember our earlier report on this issue.

Brayshaw and Ted Hubbard, the chief deputy engineer and second-highest-paid department employee updated the Enquirer today.

They said Hubbard had agreed in December to forgo his own 2008 raise and take a pay cut in order to balance out Brayshaw getting his raise. Hubbard said he wasn't asked to do it. He offered because in the past Brayshaw has given workers raises even when he didn't get one himself.

County Commissioners froze salaries for non-union workers because of the tight 2008 budget. They asked department heads, in the interest of fairness, to consider donating their own raises back to the county.

The Engineer did not. His salary comes from a different fund so it doesn't affect the county's bottom line. But workers were furious and fired off a critical letter.

Brayshaw said he thinks discussions today have helped to soothe some of those hard feelings.

"I think it's (the relationship) been mended. They realize I've been funded differently," he said. "If they would have known it ahead of time they would have reacted differently."

The engineer's raise is set every four years by the Ohio General Assembly and comes out of the county's restricted road and bridge fund. Brayshaw, who now makes $104,230, once went for four years without a raise but still gave workers their raises, he said. That might happen again starting in 2009, he said, depending on what the General Assembly decides.

Hubbard emphasized he was not pressured to take a pay cut for Brayshaw. He offered to do it, he said. All that was laid out for workers. Many, though not all, were satisfied with the explanation, said Hubbard.

"There are many years when myself and staff and employees got raise when Bill didn’t," said Hubbard. "It's perfectly appropriate for me to take an adjustment down to make up for Bill's raise."
Hubbard's salary was $103,700 last year. It dropped to $100,0861 this year becuase of the agreement. The average salary last year in the department (including Brayshaw and Hubbard), was about $46,000.
Hubbard and Brayshaw also noted that employees may still get their raises if the department does well financially. That will be decided in July.

And Brayshaw also rejected claims that he "double dips." He said he was fired by the Ohio Department of Transportation (rather than having retired) in 1983 and he collects no retirement from that organization. He also said he is not getting any money from the county Storm Water District, though he continues to assert he is owed the back pay from the years he served as its head.

"I don't have any other income other than the engineer's office," he said.

'The Deal' no big deal at Dem meeting

Howard Wilkinson was there.
Enquirer file

Mallory beats Deters...

In Cincy magazine's latest "Power 100."

Excerpts: "Through all the factors considered in deciding The Power 100, one key question determined how much weight we placed towards each individual. If this person made a personal call to you and requested a favor, how willing would you be to act?"

1. Robert Castellini, Chairman, Castellini Co. This savvy, determined businessman got The Banks moving, took over as chair of the Cincinnati Business Committee and whipped out the checkbook for Reds relief pitching.

6. Mark Mallory, Mayor, City of Cincinnati. He has performed better than his critics presumed, both behind the scenes and as a cheerleader for the entire region.

15. John Boehner, Congressman. As West Chester’s answer to Nancy Pelosi, the House Minority Leader is arguably the most powerful Republican in the land, outside of the White House. The 2008 elections will say much about where he goes from there.

19. Joe Deters, Hamilton County Prosecutor. No huge victories, no major setbacks. Hamilton County’s strongest Republican is well-positioned to move up the political ladder.

Most Likely to Generate National Media Attention:
Butler County Sheriff, Richard Jones. Immigration will be a hot-button issue in the 2008 national elections, and you can bet Jones will be pushing that button like a Playstation 3. His position? The sign in the sheriff's parking lot is a hint.

Biggest Comeback: Roxanne Qualls. She was mayor when the position was mostly ceremonial. Now back on City Council, insiders say she wants a turn as a mayor that now has some real power. Mark Mallory is watching her every move.

Political Star Rising: Minority whip in the Ohio House of Representatives in 2000, Steven L. Driehaus is making impressions as a smart, personable politico with a future. He’s a fiscally conservative Democrat from the heart of western Cincy (Elder High School, class of 1984). Some day we may see a showdown between Driehaus and another powerful state rep from the west side, Republican Majority Whip Bill Seitz — maybe for Steve Chabot’s seat in Congress.

Read more here

Thursday, January 24, 2008

City will use beet juice to de-ice roads

They'll show it off Friday morning. Here's the release from the city:

Tests will see if beet juice mixture can help clear snow and ice on roadways

WHAT: The City of Cincinnati will be testing an anti-icing product made from processed sugar beets to help keep roads clear during snow events. The product, called Geo Melt, is a natural product that works well when mixed with either granular salt or liquid salt brine to keep ice from forming on the roads before a storm.

Geo Melt also assists with melting snow and ice once the precipitation has fallen onto the roads. When combined with salt or brine, the beet juice freezes at a lower temperature than salt alone allowing the treatment to be effective at temperatures even below zero. Salt with calcium chloride is typically only effective to about 20 degrees. The mixture reduces the corrosive properties of salt and improves its effectiveness.

The sugar beet juice is brown in color so motorists will see salt and brine on roadways that is somewhat brown instead of the traditional white. Citizens should note that Geo Melt is processed differently than beet juice that can be purchased at grocery and health food stores, and so would not see similar results with home remedies.

The City will test the beet juice in six locations representing different various road conditions. The City of Cincinnati will test the product to determine the effectiveness of this additive on our particular road conditions during January and February.

GOP Chairman blasts Brunner for intimidation

Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett called on Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner today to restore "bipartisan respect and cooperation" to Ohio's election system.

In a news statement issued shortly after Brunner, a Democrat, released results of a statewide survey (see related item below), Bennett cited numerous reports of Brunner's ongoing "heavy-handed tactics" with county election board members for disagreeing with her directives.

"I've heard from board members across the state who are frustrated and threatened by the culture of intimidation coming out of the secretary of state's office," Bennett said. "Jennifer Brunner's message to these longtime elections experts is do it my way or you're fired. Her arrogance is appalling, and quite frankly it shows a profound disrespect for people who have decades of experience running elections in this state."

"She's constantly putting out these threats," Bennett said. "And it does absolutely nothing to inspire loyalty and respect among these board members. Quite frankly, I'm convinced she'd get rid of every one of them if she had the choice. Jennifer Brunner wants to run the elections system in this state like a dictator. I think she'll find out pretty quickly that she needs these people a lot more than they need her."

Bennett also criticized Brunner's "arrogant response" to criticism of her proposals raised by election officials at a recent statewide conference, where she interrupted a Republican board member from Mahoning County who praised his county's touch-screen voting system.

Jeff Ortega, a spokesman for Brunner, said her record on bipartisanship has been clear.

"Secretary of State Brunner asked for and received cooperation from a bipartisan mix of elections officials to help her in crafting recommendations from the recent Project EVEREST report."

Additionally, she has met and talked on a bipartisan basis with elections officials from throughout this state and the public on these important issues, Ortega said. One public hearing was held Tuesday and nine additional town hall meetings are planned.

"Bob Bennett may still be harboring some animosity after his forced resignation from the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections last year," Ortega said.


Survey says. . .

Despite a directive by Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner ordering all county Board of Elections members to respond to a survey about voting systems by a Friday deadline, Brunner's office has not received responses from 98 of the boards' 352 members as of today.

Jeff Ortega, a spokesman for Brunner, said it's unclear what legal or punitive action board members could face. The office's election division is calling tardy members -- which make up about 28 percent of all board members today, Ortega said, adding: "Just fill out the survey.''

Brunner's survey found 61 percent of Republican board members are not concerned about a scientific report last month that all of Ohio's voting systems "carry serious risks to voting integrity." About 71 percent of the Democratic respondents, however, said they are concerned about the study's findings.

The survey also reflects a split within county boards when asked if they wanted to keep touch-screen voting machines -- which Brunner recommends replacing. If funding is available, about 31 percent of all respondents favored switching from touch-screen to optical scan -- which uses paper ballots.

Of the optical scan counties, only 13 percent said they'd agree to counting ballots centrally instead of at the precinct level.

Preliminary results indicate a general resistance to change, even if funding is provided, Brunner said.

254 total respondents out of 352 (72 percent of total)
133 or 53 percent Republican
121 or 48 percent Democrat

Do you have concerns as a result of the EVEREST findings (Direct Recording Electronic & Optical Scan counties)?
Total respondents 254
180 responded no (71 percent of total)
110 or 61 percent Republican
70 or 39 percent Democrat

68 responded yes (27 percent of total)
20 or 29 percent Republican
48 or 71 percent Democrat
(Four Democrats and two Republicans did not respond)

Do you wish to change your county's voting system to Central Count from the current precinct-level count? (Optical scan counties only)
Total respondents: 97
80 responded no (73 percent of total)
41 or 51 percent Republican
39 or 49 percent Democrat

14 responded yes (13 percent of total)
10 or 72 percent Republican
4 or 29 percent Democrat

7 did not respond

If funding is available to cover costs, do you wish to switch from touch-screen to Optical Scan or Central Count? (touch-screen counties only)
Total respondents: 158
92 responded no (58 percent of total)
44 or 48 percent Republican
48 or 52 percent Democrat

50 responded yes (31 percent of total)
26 or 52 percent Republican
24 or 48 percent Democrat

16 did not respond

"Change is difficult for many people, and our election officials seem to be struggling with our recommendations to move to optical scan paper ballots to provide more security and accountability for Ohio’s election system," Brunner said in a news statement. "We must move forward now to prepare for November."

Since the results of Brunner's EVEREST report were made public last month, Brunner said her office "has been barraged with unsolicited calls and e-mails from individuals in the voting public who are mostly in favor of the need for the study and the proposed recommendations."

The running tally of responses is nearly 4-to-1 in favor of Brunner’s plans to move to a paper ballot optical scan system to protect the integrity of the vote, according to her staff.

"Most voters seem to be asking why the controversy over a change to paper ballots that will provide for greater accountability and confidence that their vote will be counted," Brunner said today.

For readers able to access an Excel spreadsheet of all respondents, go here


Flannery and his old company

New Cincinnati school board member Michael Flannery, three weeks into life as an elected official, is perhaps still best-known by his former titles, standup comic and reporter for WCPO-TV Channel 9.

On Thursday morning, he merged his roles as comic and politician - and needled a videographer for his former employer.

At a dedication ceremony for the newly built Academy of World Languages magnet school in Evanston, Flannery followed Ohio First Lady Frances Strickland and CPS Superintendent Rosa Blackwell in short speeches. The trio did the usual political speaking, heavy on acknowledgements, public thank-yous and uplifting remarks, but light on actual news.

Near the end of Flannery's speech, he turned his attention to WCPO's videographer. Despite the low likelihood of news, the region's news media turned out for a view of the First Lady and the photogenic school children dressed in world cultural garb.

"I'd like to thank the Channel 9 camera guy for coming in in the middle of the governor's wife's statements," he said. "Can I get you anything?"

With a comic's timing, he then landed the punchline: "Maybe a watch?"

Dems meet tonight for first time since 'the deal'

The Hamilton County Democratic Party is holding an executive committee meeting tonight, the first since party leaders struck a deal to allow Democrat Todd Portune and Republican Greg Hartmann to run without party-endorsed opposition this year.

That issue is not on the agenda, but may come up.

The party’s executive committee is expected to discuss whether to endorse in contested races in the March 4 primary, such as the 2nd Congressional District race. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the Laborers Union Hall at 3457 Montgomery Road, Evanston.

Meanwhile, Citybeat's Porkopolis blog reports on a letter party chair Tim Burke sent out defending the deal.

Read it here

You can talk about The Deal here

Workers furious at county boss

Jessica Brown reports:

Workers in the Hamilton County Engineer’s office are mad their boss is refusing to forgo his 2008 raise.

They told him so in a fiery Jan. 11 letter signed by about 61 workers.

Read the full letter here

“We thought you were the team leader? Shouldn’t the team leader set the example for the whole team? Your actions speak otherwise,” they wrote to Engineer William Brayshaw in a letter obtained by the Enquirer. “How do you justify your actions Mr. Brayshaw? If the budget is in this much trouble, isn’t your job … to do YOUR part to correct the problem?”

Because of budget cuts, county workers are not expected to get raises this year. Hamilton County commissioners this month urged department heads to give up their own raises too and donate the money back to the county coffers.

Several department heads, including all three commissioners, agreed to do so. Brayshaw, who will make $104,230 this year, did not.

“The way we see it, the only people that have done their part and continue to do their part to help the budget is us, not you!,” the workers wrote to Brayshaw. “Do you even have a conscience? How can you expect us to respect you as our leader?”

Brayshaw said he will be speaking with workers on Friday about the issue. He declined to respond to the letter before that.

“I’m planning to meet with employees first. I don’t want to talk about it in the media before I talk to my employees,” he said.

Brayshaw said he opted not to give up his $2,839 raise because it does not come from the county’s general fund -- the pot of money most employee salaries come from, including those of all the other department heads.

County engineer salaries come from the General Assembly Road and Bridge fund, a state pot of money. Therefore Brayshaw’s raise didn’t impact the county budget.

Although Brayshaw could still choose to donate his raise to the county, he says he will not.
“If I donate to anyone, I’ll donate to the church,” he said, though would not confirm whether he does indeed intend to donate it to the church.

Brayshaw noted he did not lay off any of his workers, despite layoffs in other departments. If his department is doing well financially mid-year, he may still consider employee raises, he said. Although the commissioners didn’t budget any money for employee raises, the final decision is made by department heads.

As for the letter: “It’s critical and they didn’t really understand,” he said, “so I plan to go out and explain the facts.”

The engineer’s office employs 159 workers down from 176 last year due to attrition and is responsible for maintenance and snow and ice removal on the county’s roads and bridges. Brayshaw has served as engineer since 1991. He is running unopposed for re-election in November.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Who rules Cincinnati?

From Dan La Botz:

A NEW STUDY titled "Who Rules Cincinnati?" published on the Internet today argues that seven corporations have dominated the City of Cincinnati's economy, society and politics leading to "distorted development" and "grotesque contrasts between rich and poor" with "a particularly damaging impact on the African American population."

The study, a compendium of information on Cincinnati-based corporations, their revenues, profits and the salaries of their officers, and their political contributions, also describes the role of corporate coalitions such as Cincinnati Business Committee (CBC), Downtown Cincinnati Incorporated (DCI), and Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC).

The study also found that two families, the Lindners and the Peppers, the first associated with American Financial Group and the second with Procter and Gamble, play an inordinate role in the financing of local political campaigns and candidates. This is the first such study of wealth and power in Cincinnati since Polk Laffoon IV wrote "Who Runs Cincinnati?" published in the former Cincinnati Post in the 1980s.

Read the study here

La Botz calls himself an "independent scholar and community activist."

Schmidt weighs in on Heimlich news

Earlier today, former Hamilton County commissioner Phil Heimlich bowed out of the 2nd District GOP primary election.

This afternoon, Rep. Jean Schmidt, the Miami Township Republican who he was trying to unseat had this to say about the announcement:

"I wish him the best. I know that the decision he made was not an easy one. But I understand that he was doing what was in the best interest of his family and the community, and I wish him all the best."

Ohio's budget: Uh oh

A $1.9 billion deficit? Here's the story, with the report

From DeWine aide to DeWine campaign manager

Hamilton County Commissioner Pat DeWine announced today that his aid, Charlie Norman, will be leaving the job in order to work on DeWine's election campaign for Common Pleas Court judge. DeWine said Norman will likely end up being the campaign manager.

Norman will be replaced in DeWine's office by Shasta Callihan, a previous intern there.

CPS levy strategizing

Supporters of Cincinnati Public Schools' second attempt to pass a tax hike say they don't need too many more "yes" votes this time around, even though they lost by a wide margin in November. They just need a lot fewer "no" votes.

In a strategy meeting last week, campaign coordinator Jan Leslie estimated that the schools need about 30,000 votes to pass the 7.89-mill emergency tax levy on March 4.

That would be just 935 votes more than they got in November, when they registered 42.2 percent. The difference, of course, is that they're banking on much lower turnout in March.

If their count is accurate -- that 30,000 votes would equal a majority of votes cast, then "no" votes would decrease by nearly 10,000 from the November count of 39,675 anti-school tax voters.

But Leslie admits her calculations are complicated by the uncertainty of the presidential primary season. CPS's chances to get those 30,000 votes depends a lot on which party, if any or both, still has a competitive presidential race.

"Certainly historically, we've had a lot of support from Democrats, so one would assume if it's a hotly contested Democratic race, there would be more Democrats coming to the polls," Leslie said.

Anti-tax mainstay State Rep. Tom Brinkman, R-Mount Lookout, now in his own race for Congress, said November's defeat was broad and deep -- the entire electorate is untrusting of CPS, no one group of voters or political party, he said.

"I think they're overstrategizing," he said, again predicting a CPS defeat.

Ghiz, A Baby and Willie

UPDATE: Ghiz will be on 700 WLW at 1:30 p.m. today, says Rich Walburg, assistant program director/executive producer.

Leslie Ghiz's office confirms today that the councilwoman is pregnant. She's 12 weeks along.

She has made no secret that she and her new husband, Steve Aziz, wanted to have a child as soon as possible. They married in November.

We assume Willie Cunningham will be delighted. He has been urging Ghiz to become the first to be pregnant and on council at the same time.

She'll be on his show today or tomorrow to talk about it.

Heimlich bows out of 2nd District race

UPDATED. 1:40 p.m.

Former Hamilton County commissioner Phil Heimlich has ended his bid to unseat Rep. Jean Schmidt in the 2nd Congressional District primary.

In an e-mail release Wednesday morning, Heimlich cited two reasons for his withdrawal - the Hamilton County Republican Party’s endorsement of Schmidt last Friday and the recent entry of State Rep. Tom Brinkman Jr. into the race.

"Mr. Brinkman’s candidacy serves no purpose other than to assure Representative Schmidt’s re-nomination,’’ Heimlich said in the news release. "There is no reason to put the Republican Party through a tough primary battle when victory isn’t possible."

Barry Bennett, Schmidt’s congressional chief of staff, said Schmidt "considers Phil a good Republican with a lot to offer the party in the future."

Friday night, the Hamilton County Republican Party’s executive committee passed over two Hamilton County Republicans - Heimlich and Brinkman - to endorse Schmidt, a Clermont County Republican. The vote was not close - Schmidt was the favorite of 69 members, while Heimlich had 33 votes and Brinkman 5.

Heimlich – who entered the congressional race after losing his county commission seat to David Pepper in 2006 - told the Enquirer Wednesday morning that he had no real expectation of picking up the county party endorsement in Hamilton County – or any of the other six counties in the 2nd Congressional District.

"County party organizations have a tendency to back the incumbent, even when it is to the detriment of the party,’’ said Heimlich.

Heimlich had put together a formidable campaign organization, complete with paid staff and a slick campaign website. Through last fall, he had raised more money than Schmidt. He said Wednesday that his campaign had raised about $350,000.

Some of that money, Heimlich said, would be used to pay campaign staff and outstanding bills. The rest, he said, he would keep in his campaign account "for opportunities that may come up in future years."

Heimlich said he will ask election officials in all seven counties of the 2nd Congressional District to remove his name from the March 4 primary ballot.

Heimlich’s withdrawal means that Schmidt will face two opponents in the March 4 primary – Brinkman and Nathan Bailey, little-known Republican from Stonelick Township in Clermont County.
Heimlich's full statement:

Ever since the endorsement decision was made by the Hamilton County Republican Executive Committee on Friday, I have been discussing the future of my campaign with my wife, my family, my advisors and many of my supporters.

In light of the outcome of the Hamilton County endorsement, and with the late entry of Tom Brinkman into the race, I am announcing today the end of my candidacy for Congress.

Mr. Brinkman’s candidacy serves no purpose other than to assure Representative Schmidt’s renomination. There is no reason to put the Republican Party through a tough primary battle when victory isn't possible. To do so would only lead to the ultimate benefit of the Democratic Party and its liberal agenda.

I offer my heartfelt thanks to all the donors, volunteers and grassroots activists who supported our effort to keep this district in Republican hands. Their generosity and commitment will always be deeply appreciated.

Finally, I am requesting the various Boards of Elections within the district remove my name from the primary ballot if possible
Here is Brinkman's statement

Mr. Heimlich's departure from the race this morning has radically altered the election-day landscape, giving Tom Brinkman more volunteers, more money, and more attention - in short, all of the things a campaign needs to win. If Republicans in the 2nd District want a candidate who will control spending, limit government, and take a stand for life and liberty, Tom Brinkman is the clear choice, and his record proves it.

"The news today doesn't change the fact that I am still the challenger in this race," Brinkman said, "but my record, after having twice earned the "Most Principled Legislator" title in Ohio gives me a clear advantage, and I will work tirelessly to earn that same title in Washington."

Tom Brinkman was twice given the honor of "Most Principled Legislator" by fellow legislators, members of the media, and government staff, and is making that honor the centerpiece of his campaign.

2nd District straw poll coming up

There's an event coming up on Saturday, Feb. 9 that might give a good indication of where things stand in the 2nd Congressional District contest on the Democratic side - at least where things stand in Clermont County.

The Clermont County Democratic Party is holding a forum for 2nd District candidates at 10 a.m. that day at the Union Township Civic Center. Victoria Wulsin and Steve Black, the principal candidates, have agreed to attend; an invitation was also extended to William R. Smith, a Pike County Democrat whose name will be on the ballot, but the party hasn't heard a peep out of him yet.

There will be plenty of coffee, juice and yummy pastries and a chance to hear Black and Wulsin go at it.

Then, for $2 (proceeds going to the Clermont County Democratic Party), those in attendence can buy ballots to cast in a 2nd District straw poll.

Now, don't show up with a $20 bill and expect to buy 10 ballots you can cast for your favorite candidate. One ballot per customer.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Portman is in Switzerland

No, he's not skiing. He's accepting an award from the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce.

Here is a release sent out by one of this staff members (yes, Portman is not in office, but he's got "staff"!)


Press Release For Immediate Release: Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Robert Portman Receives the 2008 Gallatin Award for Furthering Swiss-American Relations

Geneva, January 22, 2008 — Robert Portman, former Congressman, U.S. Trade Representative, and Director of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, has been selected as the 2008 recipient of the prestigious Gallatin Award. The Albert Gallatin Award was created by the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce to recognize exceptional contributions by individuals and firms toward furthering better understanding between the peoples of Switzerland and the United States of America.

Ambassador Robert J. Portman, an American lawyer of Swiss heritage, was Director of the Office of Management and Budget until June 19, 2007. Prior to that appointment, Ambassador Portman was the United States Trade Representative, a cabinet-level post. In that position, he played a key role in the discussions on a possible free trade agreement between Switzerland and the USA. Along with Federal Councillor Joseph Deiss, who headed the Swiss Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Ambassador Portman successfully concluded the U.S.-Swiss Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum Agreement in 2006. During his twelve years in Congress from 1993 to 2005, Ambassador Portman co-founded the "Friends of Switzerland Caucus" to strengthen the relationship of the U.S. Congress with the Swiss Parliament and to encourage a mutually beneficial dialogue between Switzerland and the USA, which are known as the "Sister Republics."

Jean-Daniel Gerber, who heads the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, presented Ambassador Portman with the award at a ceremony attended by more than 150 guests, including Swiss federal and cantonal parliamentarians, the Swiss Ambassador to the United States, representatives of the business community as well as representatives from the U.S. Embassy and American Citizens Abroad. In his remarks, Rudi P. Huber, Board Member of the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce and President of the European Region of Alcoa Europe, stated, "Robert Portman and Albert Gallatin – each in his own period – accentuate the importance of excellent bilateral relations between Switzerland and the United States, which the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce and its 2500 members have strived to support in the last four decades."

The Gallatin Award is named for Geneva-born Albert Gallatin, who, after immigrating to the United States, became a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and Secretary of the Treasury under President Thomas Jefferson. In this role, Gallatin brought about changes in the country's financial policies, thereby reducing the country's debt despite the Louisiana Purchase. He also was a co-founder of New York University (NYU).

Only five people speak at voting hearing

Jon Craig reports:

Less than a third of the 57 counties using touch-screen voting machines in Ohio want to switch to another system, even if financed with state and federal tax money, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner said today.

Brunner said more than 70 percent of the counties that responded to her survey -- roughly 42 counties -- do not want to replace voting systems, which were purchased with more than $100 million in federal dollars after the 2004 election. Additional survey details were not immediately available today.

“Funding should not be the paramount issue,’’ Brunner said today after a public hearing on her recommendation to scrap the electronic machines because of security concerns.

Fairness, accuracy and the ability to carry out a smooth election is more important than cost, the state’s chief election officer said.

Brunner got mostly favorable reaction during a lightly attended public hearing on her voting recommendations. Only five people, out of an audience of about 30 spoke during the 45-minute hearing.

Three citizen activists from Columbus praised Brunner for some of the changes that she initially suggested in a December study of voting systems, which found “serious vulnerabilities’’ in computerized voting systems and memory cards that store votes.

Two officers from the Ohio Association of Election Officials recommended doing a study of their own this spring, something Brunner said she hesitates to endorse – since it could cause more delays. They said county Boards of Elections do not favor spending any local tax dollars on overhauling systems, looking for state and federal help instead.

Shannon Leininger, deputy director of the of Ashland County Board of Elections, and president of the statewide election officials association, called Brunner’s study “a useful starting point.” The study, Leininger said, only pointed out the possibility and not the probability of an outside attack on voting systems. And many of the findings can be resolved, she said.

Three citizen activists also called the ban on touch-screen machines a good start, but suggested additional security changes.

“Thank you for protecting the security of our elections,’’ said Teresa Blakely of Columbus.
Pete Johnson of the Citizens Alliance for Secure Elections told Brunner the state must have the ability to audit election results and that it has ceded too much authority to voting machine vendors and consultants.

And Jason Parry, an electrical engineer from Columbus, offered several ideas including giving independent observers better access to polling places and recounts. Parry also questioned the security of Ohio’s statewide voter registration database, a new federal requirement. People who have access to the private information, including vendors, should undergo background checks, he said.Brunner said that while counties have the responsibility to select and buy equipment, her office is responsible for certifying voting machines. She hopes to reach a consensus without ordering their replacement, she said. “I still am in favor of eliminating (touch-screens) as they are currently configured

Mallory: Two Presentations at Mayor's Meeting

At the winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Mark Mallory will be speaking at sessions on two topics - how to challenge the U.S. Census and his youth jobs initiative.

The latter, he said today, is a contender for a "Best Practices" award from the group.

The meeting, in Washington, happens Wednesday through Friday.

Portman for Veep?

The Rob Portman buzz machine continues unabated.

Sunda, The Washington Post ran a feature on potential vice presidential candidates - seven Democrats and six Republicans were mentioned.

Portman made the cut.

Check it out here.

So who IS "Wulsin Girl"??

Her name is Ann Driscoll, and she's a musician and political blogger.

Here's what she says about her new song:

"I wrote, produced, and performed the whole thing in my basement on garageband software and then edited the video on imovie. It's a bit 'down-home' but I hope you like it nevertheless."

Read more about Driscoll on Daily Kos HERE.

Someone's got a crush on Wulsin?

Democrat Victoria Wulsin's communications director, Ann Herzner, just e-mailed a pretty interesting YouTube video that stars a young singer called "Wulsin Girl," playing a guitar and singing a song called "Vic Wulsin Is My Candidate."

She has catchy lyrics like: "She won't go on the House floor and say a vet's a hero no more."

And: "What you see with Vic is what you get."

And, of course: "She won't put toxic dumps in our yards. ... Cuz we don't need a stash of radioactive trash."

Watch the video HERE.

Herzner says in the e-mail touting the video: "Obama Girl....Meet Wulsin Chick."

If you don't know who "Obama Girl" is… Watch THIS and THIS.

Yup, that's right, "Obama Girl" has a CRUSH on Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, a frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for president.

So, we're not sure what kind of parallel Wulsin's campaign is trying to draw here.

Still, the video by "Wulsin Girl" sure is cute. Watch it again HERE.
Learn more about the singer/songwriter here

Hackett heads north

Paul Hackett, erstwhile 2nd District congressional candidate and Iraq veteran, isn't running for anything, but he's not exactly through with politics.

Today, he's up in Cleveland, stumping for Rosemary Palmer, a former reporter whose Marine son was killed in Iraq. Palmer, an anti-war activist, is one of several Democrats taking on Rep. Dennis Kucinich in the March primary. Palmer has been all over Kucinich for spending all of his time on a hopeless run for the Democratic presidential nomination instead of representing his district - and the anti-war movement - in Washington.

Hackett agrees; and decided last year to lend his Marine Corps background and anti-war Democrat credentials to Palmer's campaign.

Here's a video Hackett did for Palmer:

Who wants Brinkman's seat?

Steve Kemme previews the Republican primary here

Kathy King vs. Pat DeWine

Kathy King, a Republican is challenging Republican Commissioner Pat DeWine for the Common Pleas Judge seat being vacated by Judge David Davis. Here's what Kathy has to say about herself and her opponent:

Kathy King vs. Pat DeWine
1)Kathy King has been an attorney for 33 years.
2)She was a trial attorney for her first 8 years as an attorney in various capacities. She tried over 50 jury trials and hundreds of bench trials. DeWine had never tried a jury trial as of 1-17-08. We don’t know how many, if any, bench trials he has conducted himself. During a portion of that time, Kathy King was the Acting Director of the Clinical Program at Chase College of Law, Northern Kentucky University and taught law students how to try cases in court.
3)When Kathy King practiced law, she practiced mostly in Hamilton County, but has appeared in court in Kentucky and Michigan, as well.
4)Kathy King has practiced in Municipal Court and The Court of Common Pleas. She has written briefs for and argued cases in The First District Court of Appeals, The Supreme Court of Ohio and the Federal 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. Kathy King has also written several briefs for The Supreme Court of The United States, although she has never actually appeared in that court.
5)For the past 25 years Kathy King has been a judicial officer, serving as a magistrate in The Common Pleas Court, Domestic Division.
6)Kathy King is 61 years old. She and her husband, Jim King, have been married for 40 years. They have three grown children. Ryan, age 35, graduated from St. Louis University. Justin, age 33, graduated from Xavier University. Nolan, age 21, is in his senior year at Wheeling Jesuit University.
7)Kathy King is a life-long Republican who, as an adult, has never run for a political office or a judgeship. She decided to run only after reading in the Enquirer that Pat DeWine was entering the race.
8)Some may say that Kathy King is running against Pat DeWine. Kathy King believes that Pat DeWine is running against her. King filed on 1-4-08 at 12:14. DeWine filed at 1:07.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Butler County Democrats announce endorsements

The Butler County Democratic Party voted unanimously last week to endorse Kathryn Bridgman of West Chester in a state Senate primary race, and Kenneth Keith Jr. of Hamilton for an Ohio House seat.

Bridgman faces Victor Rivera of Fairfield in the March 4 primary election for the seat currently held by Sen. Gary Cates, a West Chester Republican.

Keith is running against Arnold Engel in the March 4 primary for the seat held by state Rep. Courtney Combs, a Republican from Hamilton. Keith lost to Combs in the 2006 election. Engel, a member of the Fairfield City School Board did not seek the county party's endorsement.

In a news statement, Butler County Democratic Party Chairman Ron Wardrup said the party’s screening committee recommended Bridgman because "she just impressed us more than her opponent."


Banks a "Rainbow Town?"

Dr. Vlasta Molak, who frequents Hamilton County Commission and Cincinnati City Council meetings, has an idea for the Banks project. She calls it "Rainbow Town."

Click here and here for her sketches.

At county commission meetings, Molak typically uses her three minutes at the podium to criticize the county government on various fronts, including its vision for the Banks. Among the criticisms, she wants it to be much more green. She e-mailed this statement to the Enquirer listing her criticisms and suggestions for the project.

Endorse me! No, endorse me!

Who wants Mark Mallory's endorsement? Howard Wilkinson has the story here

Mallory to Mayors Conference

Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory's among the 250 mayors from across the country pre-registered to attend the U.S. Conference of Mayors winter meeting Wednesday through Friday at the Capital Hilton in D.C.

On the agenda: the release of a poll about what issues are priorities for Americans this election season; a report on green jobs in cities; foreclosures; The Mayors’ Energy Block Grant; infrastructure; crime; travel and tourism.

Mallory won't miss a City Council meeting. It was moved back a day this week because of today's holiday, but then canceled last week.

DeWine gets GOP nod for judge race

Hamilton County Commissioner Pat DeWine is now the endorsed Republican candidate for the Common Pleas judge seat being vacated by Judge David Davis. The county Republican Party's executive committee voted overwhelmingly Friday to endorse DeWine, according to DeWine's campaign.

Those who spoke in support of DeWine pointed to his legal and legislative experience, his sharp legal mind, and electability as major reasons for their support, according to his campaign.

DeWine's camp also lists a familiar name as the contact for anyone wanting to put up DeWine yard signs-- Brian Shrive.

Shrive, of Hyde Park, was the man who filed a lawsuit against Sheriff Simon Leis last year claiming the sheriff illegally used county resources (vehicles, e-mail) to lobby for the jail tax. Shrive was against the jail tax as was DeWine. DeWine, around that time, actually got into several spats with the sheriff on the matter. That lawsuit, by the way, is still pending.

Here comes Kasich

If Rob Portman is to be the Republican Party's candidate to take on Ted Strickland in 2010, he's probably going to have to get through a primary first.

And his most likely opponent is the former congressman from the Columbus suburbs, John Kasich, now the host of his own Fox TV show.

Kasich has been going head-to-head with Portman for the past year over who can speak at the most Republican rubber-chicken events around the state. Now, Kasich has landed one in Portman's back yard - the Warren County Republican Party's Lincoln-Reagan Day dinner on Feb. 15.

Kasich is the keynote speaker at a $50-per-plate dinner at the Great Wolf Lodge. Those who cough up $100 get a private reception with the former House Budget Committee chairman. The fun starts at 6 p.m.

Expect, too, a passel of congressional candidates to be on hand, including the three Republicans running in the 2nd Congressional District primary.

To buy tickets, contact Linda Oda at lindaoda@go-concepts.com, or call (513) 934-2112.

What a difference a year makes....

One more note on the Northeast Hamilton County Republican Club and its presidential straw poll before we move on:

The club held its annual pancake breakfast at the Sharonville Convention Center last year, too. It was an off-year for state and local politics, so the club held a presidential straw poll, just as the 2008 presidential field was beginning to take shape.

This year's pancake breakfast drew about three times as many people as the one in February 2007, but the 2007 were interesting. Here's how it came out:

Rudy Giuliani: 38 percent

Newt Gingrich: 14 percent

Mitt Romney: 14 percent

John McCain: 10 percent

Sam Brownback: 6 percent

One year later, and it's clear that Giuliani has lost his shine. Here's the numbers from Saturday:

Mitt Romney: 27 percent

John McCain: 24 percent

Fred Thompson: 23 percent

Rudy Giuliani: 12 percent

Mike Huckabee: 10 percent

Ron Paul: 3 percent

The Rob Portman Fan Club's winter meeting

Saturday morning's Northeast Hamilton County Republican Club pancake breakfast was one of the more lively GOP events we've seen around here since the November 2006 election, an event that gave Ohio Republicans a bad case of acid reflux.

Since then, we've seen a lot of Republican events where folks with hang-dog looks stood around looking at their shoes, like boys at a junior high school dance.

But the 300 or so Republicans who showed up at the Sharonville Convention Center Saturday morning were pretty energized and looking forward to another battle for Ohio this fall. Energized, yes; but not particularly unified - the presidential straw poll they conducted showed they are all over the map when it comes to the GOP presidential nomination. Mitt Romney took 27 percent, followed closely by John McCain at 24 percent and Fred Thompson with 23 percent.

They united, though, on one subject - their former congressman and hope for the future, Rob Portman, who made a late entrance (he had to coach his daughter's soccer game first) and delivered a rally-the-troops speech.

Portman has been delivering variations of the same speech a lot lately, traveling the state as the featured speaker at GOP events in parts of the state where he is not as well known (not to mention idolized) by Republican voters as he is in his old House district.

He's running for something. The only question is what he's running for. The smart money says governor of Ohio in 2010. Democrat Ted Strickland is riding pretty high right now, but politics is a business of peaks and valleys and who knows whether he will be vulnerable as a candidate for re-election two years from now?

Saturday morning, the Republicans from Cincinnati's northeast suburbs made it clear they'd vote for Portman for anything. Some of them were absolutely giddy over the prospect of Portman's return.

Sharonville Mayor Virgil Lovitt said Sharonvillle would be the place to come "to get your Portman 2010 bumper stickers. I don't know what office will be on those bumper stickers, but we'll have plenty of them."

Blue Ash councilman Rick Bryan trumped Lovitt by pulling out the biggest card in the deck: "Twenty years from now,'' Bryan told the assembled Republicans, "you'll be able to say, 'I once had pancakes with President Portman.'''

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Politics in Sunday paper

The pancake breakfast/straw poll essentially echoed the national results from Nevada and South Carolina, with John McCain and Mitt Romney at the top.

Howard Wilkinson has the story here

Howard also notes the Hamilton County GOP endorsed Schmidt Friday night. Here's the story.

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