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, February 08, 2008

Hamilton County GOP: McCain? Sure. Why not?

Not all of the 700 or so Hamilton County Republicans who gathered in the East Plaza of Paul Brown Stadium Friday night for the party’s annual Lincoln-Reagan Day Dinner are thrilled with the prospect of John McCain as their presidential nominee.

But the overwhelming consensus seemd to be that they will do their duty and vote for him this fall, and encourage fellow Republicans to do likewise.

The alternative, they say, is wandering in the wilderness for the next four or eight years with a Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama in the White House and a fortified Democratic majority in Congress.

“What else can we do?,’’ said Bob Saul of Montgomery, who backed Mitt Romney for the nomination. “It’s not easy for a lot of Republicans, but what’s the alternative?”

Saul, at least, has a natural affinity for McCain because they both served in the U.S. Navy, as did Saul’s friend, Bob Economou of Kenwood, who has contributed to only one GOP presidential candidate this year – McCain.

“My question for my Republican friends who cn’t stomach McCain is, fine you can live with Obama or Hillary for the next four years,’’ Economou said.

Mary Anne Christie of Madeira, another Romney supporter, is alright with McCain, as long as he doesn’t choose Mike Huckabee as his running mate, whom she sees as to far to the right.
“McCain’s 71 years old,’’ Christie said. “What if he dies in office and sticks us with Huckabee? I can’t imagine it.”

Some area Republicans, like U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot, have stayed neutral all along. Chabot said he’ll continue to be neutral as long as there are other candidates in the race, but said as soon as the field is clear and McCain is the only one left standing, he will back him.

“I would have no problem supporting John McCain,’’ Chabot said. “When the fight is over, we have to get around our candidate.”

The crowd at Friday night's Lincoln-Reagan dinner consisted, for the most part, of party regulars - elected officials, ward chairs, precinct executives, and other who keep the wheels of the Hamilton County Republican Party organization running.

It was dominated by Republicans who, if they had been backing any candidate all, were for Romney.

Most of them were of the school of politics described by State Sen. Bob Schuler, R-Sycamore Township, a Romney supporter who says he will have no problem getting behind McCain.

"This is the way politics works,'' Schuler said. "You go out and work like hell for your guy. And, if you lose, you pick up and come together for the guy who won. And McCain's won."

The idea of the Republican base staying home and not supporting McCain is frightening, Schuler said, because it would ensure the election of a Democrat.

"Look at Obama,'' Schuler said. "Only three years ago, he had the same job I have - state senator. How could he possibly be ready to be president?"

Blue Ash Councilman Rick Bryan supported Fred Thompson.

"I tell my friends who aren't happy with McCain the same thing,' Bryan said. "The quickest way to put a Democrat in the White House is to sit around and pout because your guy didn't get the nomination. Time to grow up."

Cole: Bring back the metal detectors?

From Council member Laketa Cole, in the wake of the fatal shootings at the Kirkwood, Mo., city council meeting:

Councilmember Cole offers her condolences and prayers to Kirkwood.

"It is with great sadness and sympathy that I offer my condolences to the community of Kirkwood, for the senseless tragedy that occurred yesterday, my heart goes out to the families, friends and to the community of Kirkwood. And I offer a prayer for full recovery for those who were wounded." Stated Councilmember Cole.

Attached is a memo Councilmember Laketa Cole sent today to the City Manager, Mayor, and Council to look at the security measures at City Hall, as well as the possibility of revisiting the re-instillation of metal detectors.

Here is the memo

You say Obama, I say Clinton

Democrats have a two-thirds majority on the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners, but those two commissioners are split 50-50 on which Democratic presidential candidate they support.

Barack Obama’s campaign announced Friday afternoon that the Illinois senator had picked up two more Cincinnati endorsements – County Commissioner Todd Portune and Cincinnati Vice Mayor David Crowley.

Portune’s fellow Democrat on the county commission, David Pepper, endorsed Hillary Clinton early on and has become heavily involved in her campaign to win Ohio’s March 4 primary.

“Both of them are friends; and I understand they’re doing what they believe they need to do,” said Pepper. “But we have a lot of Democratic elected officials here too.”

Two Cincinnati council members – Roxanne Qualls and John Cranley – are backing Clinton, along with a number of Democratic mayors and council members in Hamilton County suburbs.

Crowley had been the highest-profile local supporter of John Edwards. When Edwards dropped out of the race, he said he was leaning toward Obama, but made it official Friday.
There was a sign Tuesday night that would happen.

Clinton supporters gathered at Crowley’s pub in Mount Adams to watch the Super Tuesday results. As the early results were coming in, though, Crowley was downtown at Sully’s Sports Bar where the Obama people had gathered. Crowley later stopped at the Clinton gathering in Mount Adams.

Cates: hold CNN debates at Miami U.

State Sen. Gary Cates suggested CNN hold one of its presidential debates this month at Miami University.

Cates, a Republican from West Chester, pointed out that the Republican candidates on the 1892 presidential ticket of Benjamin Harrison and Whitelaw Reid were both Miami graduates.

Here are his letters to the state Republican and Democratic party chairmen. He planned to send one to CNN as well.

Mallory on Streetcars

In his State of the City address, Mayor Mark Mallory called building a streetcar line a priority - from downtown to Uptown.

He clarified later that he didn't mean he doesn't support the rest of the proposed project, a loop through Over-the-Rhine. He considers them part of the same project and considers them separate phases only in the sense that funding is being pursued only for the OTR loop. But that's temporary, he said - funding eventually will be pursued for the rest of it too.

The streetcar proposal is scheduled for a hearing at council's finance committee Feb. 25 (1 p.m.) Committee chairman John Cranley sent out a nine-page list of questions about the proposal. He specifically said he would be able to support the streetcar idea much more readily if it connected downtown and Uptown, the city's two main job centers. Otherwise, he said, supporters may have a difficult time convincing him.

Cranley also asked for comparisons to rubber-tire trolley cars. But Mallory says no to the rubber tire kind.

"Those can go anywhere," he said. "You don't get the economic spinoff benefit. That's why it's got to be a dedicated line. Transportation done right is economic development."

A Date With Berding? You'll Have To Wait

Adventures Wish Kids' bachelor/bachelorette auction scheduled for Feb. 21 has been postponed. There's no new date yet.

But you can still check out Councilman Jeff Berding's bio. You'll learn that his favorite vacation spot is/are the mountains of Colorado. His date package was a behind-the-scenes tour of Paul Brown Stadium and lunch at Head First.

Check it out here.

Blackwell letter to Congress

Former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell released this letter to Congress today, shortly after the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties postponed its oversight hearing on voter suppression.

House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers Jr. and Subcommittee Chairman Jerrold Nadler had asked Blackwell to testify.

In the letter sent Tuesday, Blackwell suggests the subcommittee seek input from two officials in the Ohio Secretary of State's office who also had worked for the Cincinnati Republican.

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Calling Cincinnati Clinton fans

From the Hillary Clinton campaign:


With Hillary Clinton's impressive Super Tuesday results, all eyes are now on Ohio.

Top Clinton staff from around the country are now on the ground here, and are putting together the plan that will deliver a resounding victory on March 4.

With our new marching orders, we need ALL INTERESTED CLINTON VOLUNTEERS to attend a critical organizational meeting this Saturday. Here we will lay out our victory strategy and your role in it. We will need your energetic participation every step of the way.

We will be meeting:

Saturday, February 9
10:00 am
Vernon Manor Hotel - The Oak Room
400 Oak Street
Cincinnati, OH 45219

Directions:71 South to the William Howard Taft exit, right on Reading Road, left on Oak Street.
71 North to Reading Road exit, stay on Reading Road for 6 lights, at 6th light turn left on Oak Street.

Please call friends, neighbors and other potential supporters and bring them to the meeting as well. See you Saturday!

Sincerely, Roxanne Qualls, David Pepper, John Cranley, Thomas Luken, Catherine Barrett

p.s. if you absolutely can not attend, but want to take part in the campaign or learn more, please email us at: swohio4hillary@gmail.com

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Obama relents on Ohio debate

See Howard Wilkinson's latest update on this story here.

More Talk About More Ambulances

For years, Cincinnati officials have known the city needs more paramedics and/or more ambulances. A study released more than two years ago showed nearly 300 people called 911 for help in the city during a six-month period in 2004 and found no ambulances immediately available.

After the 2003 on-duty death of Firefighter Oscar Armstrong, the city hired TriData to study the fire department overall and suggest improvements. TriData recommended, among other things, increasing the number of ambulances from 10 to 14. To do that, it would have cost the city an additional $2 million a year in staffing costs alone for those ambulances.

Now, the city still has 10 ambulances, but is working to train more paramedics and was recently accredited for doing so. Doing it in-house will make that process faster and less expensive, said city spokeswoman Meg Olberding.

Channel 9 recently did a sweeps month story on this topic, prompting responses from both Councilman Jeff Berding and Councilman Cecil Thomas. Berding asked Thomas, chairman of the Law & Public Safety Committee, to hold a hearing on the issue. Thomas said he'd already put that in motion, asking Fire Chief Robert Wright to come to Law's Feb. 26 committee meeting to talk about it. The committee meets at 2 p.m.

WeDemand to speak at CPAC

The "We Demand" coalition, which campaigned successfully against the Hamilton County jail tax last year, will speak Friday at the annual Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) convention in Washington, D.C. The annual convention is a big deal for conservatives. It attracts thousands of people and this year featuring as speakers, George W. Bush, John McCain, Mike Huckabee and others.

Coalition leader Dan Regenold and others will speak about the Power and Principle: Conservative Victories that have Taken Place Across the Nation and is geared toward those seeking to promote change in their local government.

We Demand a Vote was the coalition that led the petition drive to get the sales tax increase on the ballot last year. It was ultimately trounced by voters.

Said Regenold: “It is fundamental that citizens have the right to petition their Government when Government does not listen. Our goal at CPAC is to provide a resource for people across the Country who need help protecting their personal liberties from an ever over-reaching Government.”

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Yup, it's all about us again

Howard Wilkinson has the story here

Wulsin gets endorsements

Victoria Wulsin picked up the endorsements of some influential elected officials in Hamilton County Wednesday. She is running against Indian Hill lawyer Steve Black in a Democratic primary for the second congressional district. Hamilton County Commission President Todd Portune, former Ohio Governor Jack Gilligan, Cincinnati Vice Mayor David Crowley, councilman John Cranley, and councilwoman Laketa Cole endorsed Wulsin at press event Wednesday at Portune’s law office. They said she brings experience to the job and espouses issues that are important to the county.

And, added Gilligan, "she's intelligent. That would be a change!" Wulsin's staffers chuckled, then made sure the comment would be attributed to Gilligan, rather than the campaign.
Portune said Wulsin, is "a true Democrat," and, as a doctor, makes public healthcare a priority. That's important to Hamilton County, which has stepped in to try to fill that gap for its citizens.
Cole said health care coverage issue touches home for her because her aunt recently died of an anuerism. Cole thinks she was misdiagnosed months ago. The aunt had poor health care insurance so her doctors didn't do the appropriate tests, Cole said.
"We don't just want her, we need her, Cole said.

Former Cincinnati mayor Dwight Tillery, former State Rep. Catherine Barrett, Silverton Mayor John Smith and Cincinnati council members Jeff Berding and Cecil Thomas also endorsed Wulsin, but were not at the event, according to her campaign.

Wulsin said she is grateful for the support and hopes, when people see how many local public servants support her, it will translate into voter support at the polls.

Happy Birthday From George Bush

Jeff Berding's staff at City Hall threw him a little party today for his birthday, which is Friday.

The card, with a caricature of President Bush on the front, said having a birthday made the councilman "distinguishabler."

Berding will be 41.

Portune criticizes airport

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune, who has often voiced concern about Delta's airfare rates and the way the airport is run, didn't mince words Wednesday as he made some strong suggestions for what he thinks should be done about it.

"The airport has been managed to serve Delta. That's why everyone is operating in crisis mode right now. If Delta goes, what do we do? We're in a panic."

Therefore, he said, some changes need to be made.

All this was brought on by recent talks of Delta merging with another carrier. "This issue involving Delta and how everyone is reacting has helped crystalize what the problems are in respect to that airport and have put in focus what changes need to occur," Portune said at the meeting.

Those changes (according to Portune) are:

1) Restructuring: The airport board should be restructured to represent the interests of the entire airport and the region, not just Delta. He said although Hamilton County has a representative on the board, that person has no voting power.

"The Ohio side should have a bigger say so in the future so this area is not as at risk by the success or failure of a single airline," Portune said. "I’d encourage a model that is more representative of Ohio and Hamilton County and more representative of the interests of the local economy." He plans to urge Governor Ted Strickland to speak to Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear about the issue. The makeup of the airport board is dictated by the state.

2) Shuttle: The county should work to provide a shuttle service to take travelers to cheaper-fare airports like Dayton or Lexington. Portune said he worked with Auditor Dusty Rhodes on such a measure a year or so ago. He wants to renew those discusions and put together a request for qualifications for a shuttle company.

"This proposal benefits leisure and small business travelers and injects competition," he said.

3) Gate fee: The airlines should consider tacking on a $3 to $4 gate fee and use the proceeds to build a rail line from the airport to Downtown Cincinnati. Portune said this idea has also been discused for years, but has gone nowhere.

A rail line would "immeasurably add to the attraction of this airport," he said.

Portune plans to invite the local chamber of commerce and the county's airport board representative to the commission staff meeting Monday to discuss these ideas further.

Who to pick? National endorsements may help

If you're wondering who to pick in Ohio's March 4 presidential primary, here's a handy-dandy list of national endorsements for the candidates compiled by Malia Rulon:

Sen. Edward Kennedy, Massachusetts
Former presidential nominee, Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, Vermont, chairman of the Judiciary Committee
Gov. Janet Napolitano, Arizona
Gov. Deval Patrick, Massachusetts
Two-time presidential candidate and former Sen. Gary Hart, Colorado
Former player for the New York Knicks and Sen. Bill Bradley, New Jersey
Caroline Kennedy, daughter of former President Kennedy
Rep. Patrick Kennedy, Rhode Island
TV host Oprah Winfrey

Gov. Ted Strickland, Ohio
Gov. Ed Rendell, Pennsylvania
Gov. Jon Corzine, New Jersay
Sen. Charles Schumer, N.Y.
Sen. Evan Bayh, Ind.
Sen. Bill Nelson, Florida
Former Vice President Walter F. Mondale.
Former vice presidential candidate Geraldine A. Ferraro
Retired Gen. Wesley K. Clark, a 2004 presidential candidate
Filmmaker Steven Spielberg
Director Rob Reiner
Actress Barbra Streisand
American Federation of Teachers
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
The New York Times

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, also a former presidential contender
Gov. Charlie Crist, Florida
Gov. Mitch Daniels, Indiana
Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut, a former vice presidential nominee
Sen. Mel Martinez, Florida
Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina
Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas
Former Sen. Mike DeWine, Ohio
Former Secretary of Homeland Security and Gov. Tom Ridge, Pennsylvania
Former Army General Norman Schwarzkopf
Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and Rep. Jack Kemp, also a former vice presidential nominee

Sen. Orrin Hatch, Utah
Sen. Bob Bennett, Utah
Sen. Thad Cochran, Miss.
Sen. Jim DeMint, S.C.
Sen. Judd Gregg, N.H.
Rep. Ron Lewis, Kentucky
Rep. Hal Rogers, Kentucky
Rep. Ed Whitfield, Kentucky
Rep. Ralph Regula, Ohio
Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado

Jerry Falwell, Jr., president of Liberty University and son of Jerry Falwell
Actor Chuck Norris
Former Gov. David Beasley, South Carolina
Gov. Mike Rounds, South Dakota
Ed Rollins, Republican strategist and former Reagan campaign director
Rep. John Boozman, Arkansas
Rep. Duncan Hunter, California
Rep. Bob Inglis, S.C.
Rep. John Linder, Ga.
Rep. Don Young, Alaska

Wulsin to pick up endorsements today

From the Wulsin campaign. She faces Indian Hill lawyer Steve Black in a Democratic primary:

Portune, Gilligan & Others Support Wulsin

Cincinnati- Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune, former Governor Jack Gilligan and other public officials will publicly announce their support and endorsement of Congressional candidate Dr. Victoria Wulsin on Wednesday, February 6th at 3:30pm in the law offices of Cook, Portune, & Logothetis.

Wulsin, who ran against Representative Jean Schmidt in 2006, won more votes than any other Democrat in the 2nd district.

WHO: Todd Portune, Jack Gilligan & Other Public Officials
WHAT: Public Endorsement
WHERE: 22 West Ninth Street
Cincinnati, OH 45202
WHEN: 3:30pm

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Mallory's Post-State of the City Briefing

Here's what's going on in the life of Mayor Mark Mallory, now that he's finished with the State of the City speech, which he said he found to be well-received:

He'll be going Wednesday night to the swearing in for Sean Rugless, new president/CEO of the Greater Cincinnati African-American Chamber of Commerce. Rugless emceed the State of the City Monday night.

Thursday, he'll go to the graduation of police recruit Antonio Hamilton, who was hurt and couldn't graduate in December with the rest of the class. The mayor said he thought he should go since he went to the ceremony for the other 49 graduating recruits.

His Young Professionals Kitchen Cabinet has another Arts Allies event Thursday, a 5:30 p.m. open house at Media Bridges.

Regarding John Eby, the Republican from Westwood he chose to introduce him Monday night before the speech: "John is somebody who impressed me a long time ago...I think he's an all-around good guy." Bloggers wondered why Eby was chosen, given that he and Mallory belong to different political parties. Some speculated that Mallory chose him to beef up support from the West Side.

He's still working on the details of his Student Recovery Teams, which he pitched during the speech as help for low-performing Cincinnati Public Schools. He hopes they're in place in the fall, for the start of the next school year. Team members aren't yet chosen. "The idea is to bring an intensive amount of attention to the students who need help."

Talk to the mayor tonight

Got something to tell Cincinnati’s mayor? Tonight’s your night.

Mark Mallory holds his first Mayor’s Night In of 2008. Show up at City Hall, 801 Plum St., between 5-7 p.m. to get a five-minute time slot.

CNN debates in Cincy? Don't bet the ranch

CNN is in the early planning stages of staging nationally-televised debates between the Democratic and Republican candidates for president somewhere in Ohio, once the traveling road show moves on to the Buckeye State.

Republican and Democratic party officials in Cincinnati are lobbying to have them here, as is Doug Moormann, Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber's vice president for government affairs.

February 27 and 28 are the most likely dates CNN is looking at for back-to-back debates, assuming that both parties' nominations are still up for grabs by then.

Moormann said that Cincinnati will take its best shot at landing the debates, but said he believes it is much more likely that Columbus or Cleveland will end up being the host city.

Two reasons for that, Moorman said:

First, CNN might be more likely to choose a venue smack in the middle of the state, and that means Columbus.

Secondly, Moormann said, he knows that the Ohio Republican Party chairman, Bob Bennett, who will be stepping down from that post after the primary, is pushing hard to hold the debates in his hometown of Cleveland.

CNN is working with the Ohio Democratic and Republican parties on a venue. The two local party chairmen, Tim Burke of the Democrats and George Vincent of the Republicans, are lobbying their respective state parties to steer the debates here.

Moormann said Cincinnati is offering various locations - one of the theaters at the University of Cincinnati, the Museum Center at Union Terminal, or the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

"The idea of Barack Obama, who could be the first black nominee, debating in the Freedom Center is pretty exciting,'' said Moormann. "It's off the charts."

Moormann and UC officials pushed last year to have one of the fall debates between the presidential nominees held in Cincinnati, but failed to convince the Presidential Debates Commission.

Cincinnati will keep pitching for the CNN primary debates, Moormann said, "but I don't have huge hopes."

Super Tuesday watching parties

Democrats have two options,

Barack Obama supporters are throwing a party that begins at 8 p.m. at Sully's Sports Bar at the corner of Seventh and Race streets in downtown Cincinnati.

Hillary Clinton supporters are gathering in Mount Adams for an event that begins at 7 p.m. at Crowley's, 958 Pavilion St.

What about Republicans? Anyone know of any McCain, Romney, or Huckabee watch parties tonight?

Monday, February 04, 2008

More From The State of the City

If you've already read Mayor Mark Mallory's State of the City speech online and still crave more....

The crowd was an interesting mix of people. Among the more than 600 who came to Playhouse in the Park to hear what the mayor thinks: Former Vice Mayor Jim Tarbell; civil rights lawyer Al Gerhardstein; rappin'-for-Obama Leslie Isaiah Gaines; Hamilton County Commissioner Pat DeWine; unsuccessful City Council candidate Brian Garry, who wore a Victoria Wulsin sticker on his lapel; Victoria Wulsin; Tom Luken; lobbyist Dick Weiland, recovering from an illness and in a wheelchair; state Sen. Eric Kearney; Shirley Colbert, longtime resident of and activist for the West End.

Sean Rugless took the stage first to welcome everyone. He's president and CEO of the Greater Cincinnati African-American Chamber of Commerce and used the opportunity to educate the crowd on what his group does, including training seminars, business development institutes and encouraging more meaningful inclusion for minority-owned businesses. People clapped when he said his is the largest African-American chamber in the state.

Four religious leaders - a priest, a rabbi, a United Methodist pastor and the leader of the Cincinnati chapter of the Muslim American Society - prayed for the city, its leaders and its citizens.

Sponsors: American Financial Group, Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati Bell, Cincinnati Business Committee, Cintas, Federated Department Stores, Fifth Third Bank, Procter & Gamble. Caterer: Elegant Fare.

Eby Introduces Mallory Tonight

John Eby, the Westwood Republican who twice ran unsuccessfully for City Council, will be introducing Mayor Mark Mallory tonight at Mallory's State of the City speech.

We caught up with Eby this afternoon as he was getting ready for the 6:30 p.m. event at Playhouse in the Park. He said he's flattered, honored and also a little nervous about getting up in front of 600 people. He also said he's a little nervous about standing next to Mallory - "He's su ch a sharp dresser, and I'm a slob."

Eby was driving in his car when the mayor called him two or three weeks ago to ask him to do the introduction. "It was one of the few times when I had to pull over and say, 'What did you just say?"

The mayor told him he asked him to give the introduction because he'd heard Eby talk during last fall's campaign and that they agree on a lot of things related to consensus-building. The mayor told him he was pleased to hear that Eby, the new president of the Westwood Community Urban Redevelopment Corp., would be staying involved after his loss in November.

"He probably says that to everybody," Eby said, laughing.

He said he wasn't told what to say. He sent his first draft to Mallory's communications director, Jason Barron, and Eby said he and Barron went over a few changes. He quotes Hamilton County Commissioner David Pepper on the subject of officials working together.

"I think Mark's doing a good job," he said. "It'll be complimentary. You know, what an honor."

Eby said he hasn't made up his mind about whether he'll run again next year.

Voinovich: Yes, I'm running! I'm not kidding.

There has been considerable buzz in Ohio Republican circles for the past few years now that Sen. George Voinovich would hang it up two years from now and retire.

After all, he's been in one elective office or another for over 40 years now - from the Ohio House to Cuyahoga County auditor to Cuyahoga County commissioner to lieutenant governor to Cleveland mayor to Ohio governor and, since 1998, in the U.S. Senate.
That's a whole lot of campaigns; and one could not blame a fellow who turns 72 in July if he wanted to just chuck it all, spend time with the grandkids and go fishing, which he likes to do a lot.
So, Monday, when Voinovich showed up at the Enquirer editorial board to talk politics and policy, we quite naturally asked him if he really intends to run for a third term in 2010.

Voinovich became very animated (he gets that way) and started talking non-stop about all the many reasons he feels he must run for re-election - all the unfinished business in Washington on reining in government spending, fixing entitlement programs, working towards energy independence. Plus, he said, if the Republicans can manage to regain control of the Senate this year, he'll be a senior member with much more clout on the majority side of the aisle.

And, he said, he's already had 2010 fundraising events in every major city in Ohio. (The one in Cincinnati, in December, was hosted by former congressman Rob Portman, the betting favorite to run in his place if Voinovich were to retire.)

The editorial board meeting was over, but Voinovich kept talking about his re-election plans - down the elevator, through the lobby and into the Enquirer building parking garage.

"I'm running,'' Voinovich said. "I don't care what anybody says. I'm running. For real."

Voinovich: McCain can't manage

George Voinovich, Ohio's senior senator, said Monday afternoon that John McCain, his Senate colleague and GOP presidential front-runner, is sorely lacking in management experience.

"McCain keeps saying, 'we need a leader; I can hire managers,' but we need a leader who understands management,'' Voinovich said in a meeting with the Enquirer editorial board Monday afternoon.''

"There are big differences between being a mayor or a governor and being a legislator,'' said Voinovich, a former Cleveland mayor and governor of Ohio. "We are facing some serious issues in this country. We need somebody who knows how to run things."

Voinovich has not formally endorsed anyone for the Republican presidential nomination, but he made it clear Monday he favors one his fellow former governors, Mitt Romney, over McCain.

"The person in this race who has the most management experience in the private and public sectors is Mitt Romney,'' said Voinovich.

A story in Monday's Washington Post said that some of McCain's Republican Senate colleagues may have difficulty in accepting McCain as their party's nominees because McCain has tangled with members of his own party over the years.

Asked if he has had any acrimonious disagreements with McCain in the Senate, Voinovich said he had, but wouldn't talk about them specifically.

"I'd rather concentrate on positive things,'' Voinovich said.

Voinovich is not impressed by the management skills of the Democratic contenders for president either.

"Hillary Clinton, she has vicariously managed, I guess,'' Voinovich said. "Barack Obama? Give me a break."

Commission candidate criticizes sheriff appraisals

Realtor Ed Rothenberg, who is running against Commission President Todd Portune in November, criticizes Sheriff Simon Leis' use of "cronies" as property appraisals.

Read the Enquirer story on the issue.

Rothenberg said the commissioners should correct the problem and the sheriff should be "called on the carpet." Read more of his thoughts below:

sheriff leis and his crony appraiser friends.
-Greg Korte's story in saturday's or sunday's paper revealed a blatant disregard for taxpayers money by sheriff leis. He uses about 6 or so old buddies to appraise the foreclosures sold at the sheriff sale.
They get 375 per house for doing a quick "superficial" appraisal. Licensed appraisers usually charge about $250 to $300 for a "normal" appraisal.
The "superficial" appraisal is nothing more than a quick drive by usually without getting out of the car and then later a quick computer check to learn what the price the property sold for and some "comps". Comps are sales of similar homes that have sold in the past year or so. It is a quick
5 to 10 minute job.
Most of these foreclosures were bought in the past 3 years. So usually Leis' appraisers usually just look at the sales price of the foreclosed home to determine price. This is thus a several minute job on the computer.
At the sheriff sale, the starting price is 2/3rds of the appraised price given by Leis' appraisers. In most cases, the lender buys the property because the loan and penalties are far more than a bargain price for normal bids by individuals.
A "normal" appraisal requires the appraiser go inside and all around the property, note the condition and mechanics, etc. Then later a detailed computer check for comps and a write up of the market method and the cost per square yard method (also known as the cost to build less depreciation).
I could easily hire licensed appraisers to do this kind of work and knock out about 10 to 15 houses a day for $50 to $75 per house.
The sheriff gives his friends a car and driver which is yet another unnecessary cost. Professional appraisers do their own driving and pay for their own gas.
As consideration for their cushy deals, the friends of Leis gave about $1000 a year to the sheriff's campaign fund. Once again an obvious blatant disregards for the tax payers.
I would imagine that the county could save hundreds of thousands a year if appraisals were handled professionally and honestly.
I also understand that for years the friends of Leis were getting paid a "percentage" of the price they appraised the homes for. This is unheard of in the appraisal field. This was changed just recently because it created an incentive for the appraisers to appraise high. And we don't want that sort of conflict of interest.
I would hope that the three commissioners take action to correct this as it is dishonest and wasteful. They are crying they need to save money...well here's an opportunity to save hundreds of thousands a year.
I can't believe the sheriff allowed this to go on. HE SHOULD BE CALLED ON THE CARPET AND REPRIMANDED
ed rothenberg

Top pundit: 2nd district is worst race ever

Stu Rothenberg, one of the most respected Congress-watchers in Washington, penned this column in today's issue of Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper:

A Nightmare of a Congressional Race in Ohio's 2nd District

By Stuart Rothenberg
Roll Call Contributing Writer
February 4, 2008

Every so often, I come across a great House race, such as the 2000 Michigan open-seat race where voters were lucky enough to be able to choose between Mike Rogers (R) and Diane Byrum (D). Those voters couldn't lose, since both candidates clearly deserved to be in Congress. (Rogers won that race by 111 votes out of almost 300,000 cast.)

This year, I stumbled across the opposite of that Michigan race.

The contest in Ohio's 2nd district may well be the worst Congressional contest I've ever witnessed.

The southern Ohio district gave George W. Bush 64 percent of the vote in 2004 and 63 percent four years earlier. It's a conservative bastion.

If you are a Republican and not under indictment, you shouldn't have a hard time holding the district. Yet the district's Congresswoman, Rep. Jean Schmidt, barely won re-election last time and again is in a fight for her political life.

Schmidt, who was then a former state legislator, was the surprise winner of an 11-candidate Republican primary to fill the seat left open when Republican Rob Portman became the Bush administration's trade envoy in 2005. She won that primary with just 31 percent, and went on to squeak out a win in the special election by just 4 points.

The Republican got off on the wrong foot in Washington, D.C., when, shortly after her election, she called Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) a coward. She subsequently apologized, but the damage was done.

In 2006, Schmidt narrowly beat former Rep. Bob McEwen (R) by 5 points in the primary. McEwen had finished second to Schmidt in the special primary following Portman's resignation. Then she won the general election by only 1 point. This year, she faces a primary challenge from state Rep. Tom Brinkman, who finished third in the special 2005 primary.

I don't know Schmidt, so I can't speak about her. But lots of Republicans don't seem to like her. She had two close calls last time, and her own January 2008 poll shows her barely cracking 50 percent among GOP voters.

Brinkman filed with the Federal Election Commission on Dec. 19 and announced his candidacy officially on Jan. 3, the day before the filing deadline.

Why did he wait so late to decide on running? A Brinkman supporter told my colleague, Nathan Gonzales, that the legislator made the decision to run at the end of the year because "no one was stepping up to take on the incumbent."

In fact, while Brinkman was sitting on his hands, former Hamilton County Commissioner Phil Heimlich (R) filed with the FEC in May and was actively raising money and running against Schmidt.

In the candidates' Sept. 30 FEC report, Heimlich showed that he had raised more money than the Congresswoman and had twice as much on hand as she did. As of Dec. 31, he had $266,000 in the bank to Schmidt's $125,000. Moreover, Schmidt's own poll showed her leading Heimlich by only 52 percent to 31 percent, with Brinkman trailing badly at 9 percent.

Veteran Ohio politicians say Brinkman doesn't raise much money and doesn't run good campaigns. The one thing he's done this cycle is drive a credible primary challenger to Schmidt out of the primary.

Given the weakness of Schmidt and Brinkman, you'd think that the seat might simply fall into the Democratic nominee's lap. And it might, even if Democrats once again nominate Victoria Wulsin. (Party switcher Steve Black is also in the Democratic race.)

Wulsin, a physician with a specialty in epidemiology, has an impressive résumé including an M.D. from Case Western and a doctorate in public health from Harvard.

But for a candidate running for the third time, Wulsin is, to put it mildly, scattered in her thinking. For example, she's an anti-war candidate who says that she isn't sure how she would have voted on the supplemental spending bill that has funded the war.

Wulsin ran a TV spot last month in which she pledged, "As your Representative, I will refuse Congressional health care until Congress does its job and passes affordable health care for all."
Sounds like quite a sacrifice, doesn't it? Of course, it isn't, since Wulsin is covered under her husband's "gold-plated" health care plan. When I asked her about this, she talked about the symbolism of her stand and the fact that Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland (D) made the same pledge previously.

Then, toward the end of the interview, with half a dozen other reporters present, Wulsin referred to her son as "a nice liberal, like his mother." Hmmm.

When asked about that comment, Wulsin went through a lengthy verbal contortion to try to explain that she really is both conservative and liberal. "What I mean by [liberal]," said the pro-abortion rights Democrat at one point, "is that I want change."

But what, asked a reporter, did she mean when she said that she was conservative on family issues? "I think marriage is great. I think motherhood and fatherhood is great," she explained.
What about gay marriage? "I don't think that the federal government should tell any church what to do or who to marry. I'm all for equal rights," said Wulsin, digging herself deeper.

Anyway, Wulsin might well get elected to Congress. But if she does, it's only because of Schmidt. And Schmidt might win. But if she does, it's only because the district is so Republican. And Brinkman might win. But if he does, it's only because of Schmidt.

Stuart Rothenberg is editor of The Rothenberg Political Report.

Can we ever trust polls again?

UC poli sci professor George Bishop had an op-ed column in Sunday's Washington Post:

C an we ever trust the polls again?

It was the question on all minds after the pollsters' stunning miscall of the New Hampshire Democratic primary last month. The oh-so-wrong predictions that Sen. Barack Obama would beat out Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Granite State suddenly made the whole polling enterprise seem a bit shaky. What's worse, the pollsters have had a bumpy ride all through this primary season, miscalculating margins and magnitudes of wins in Michigan, Nevada and South Carolina.

Does it matter? Well, yes, because we all rely on polls as one of our best sources of information about the actions, opinions and motives of the American electorate. But if the polls are getting things so wrong lately, then we have to wonder whether they're right about things other than the horse race -- about Americans' preferences and positions on policy issues that make a difference in how the country is run.

Read the full column here

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