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, March 14, 2008

Schmidt introduces "Juno" bill

Young or unmarried women who give their babies up for adoption – like Juno in the hit movie by that name – could get special assistance after their birth under a new bill from Rep. Jean Schmidt.

The Miami Township Republican and Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., introduced a bill today that would authorize the authorize the Department of Health and Human Services to provide $30 million in grants to enhance counseling and other support services for birthparents after they have placed a child with an adoptive family.

The grants also could be used to train hospital staff about how to interact with birthparents and adoptive families or to operate a national hotline.

“Placing a child for adoption is a positive and loving choice for the birthparent, child and adoptive family,” Schmidt said in a news release. “This legislation will help ensure more birthparents have the support they need – if they require it – to positively move forward with their lives.”

The bill would requires HHS to report back to Congress on all of the services available to birthparents and how services for birthparents might be improved.

Portune's kickoff even brings Vic and Steve together

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune kicked of his re-election campaign Friday with an endorsement by Lt. Governor Lee Fisher in front of a crowd full of notables.

Portune’s supporters packed the Vernon Manor Hotel space reserved for the breakfast event. (On the menu: bagels, muffins, coffee and juice.)

Among the interesting attendees: Both Victoria Wulsin and Steve Black. Fresh off an especially nasty fight in the Democratic congressional primary, Vic and Steve both managed to be in the same room together for more than an hour to support Portune. They were not seen mingling with each other though (at least not by the reporter in the room). And they sat at separate tables during Todd’s speech.

In addition to Lee Fischer and his staffers, tons of elected officials and candidates were present including:

Sen. Eric Kearney, Rep. Steve Driehaus (who gave the opening remarks),Cincinnati Vice Mayor David Crowley and councilmembers Jeff Berding, John Cranley and Laketa Cole, Silverton Mayor John Smith, Sharonville Mayor Virgil Lovitt, Wyoming Vice Mayor Jim O-Reilly, Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Tim Burke, Former Cincinnati Mayor Dwight Tillery, members of the Chamber of Commerce and the Cincinnati Business Committee, and others.

Fellow Democratic commissioner David Pepper was not there, but his parents were. Portune recognized them in the speech saying their greatest gift to Hamilton County was their son.
Several candidates also came including congressional candidate Victoria Wulsin, former candidate Steve Black, candidate for state representative Denise Driehaus and Steve Brinker, running for county treasurer.

Commissioner Portune thanked everyone in attendance, mentioning most of them by name. He praised the work of the governor and lieutenant governor. He recounted the historic moment when he was first elected in 2000 as the first Democratic commissioner in 36 years, and lamented the difficulty he had getting things done.
“The other two were putting ideology ahead of what was best for the county,” he said.

He said in 2000 “the county was broken” because of misplaced priorities. Though it was a slow start, he said in the past 15 months since he’s been president, the commission has managed to slowly turn the county around, attacking fiscal issues, The Banks and other projects, including a renewed focus on comprehensive criminal justice solutions.
Then Portune encouraged everyone in the room to continue their support of him and other Democratic candidates to ensure the Democrats will succeed in November. Portune will be facing Hyde Park realtor Ed Rothenberg. Rothenberg is running as a Republican though he is not endorsed by the GOP. It’s a race Portune takes seriously.
“He will have an R next to his name and in Hamilton County, that’s a tough hill to climb,” said Portune.

Red-light cameras cause wrecks?

A new study by the University of South Florida finds that red-light cameras - the kind Cincinnati's in the process of going out to bid for - actually cause more accidents than they prevent.

Other studies have come to different conclusions, true. But this one says that because drivers knew they were being watched by the cameras, they slammed on their brakes when the light turned yellow. Those quick stops, the study says, caused other people to wreck into them.

Check out the Tampa story here.

Cincinnati City Council agreed on a budget that counts on $1 milion in fine revenue from red-light cameras this year. But a memo from City Manager Milton Dohoney's office says there's no way cameras can be in operation here until the fall, making it impossible to raise so much money this year.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Mallory gets his chocolate fix

Who knew the mayor was such a chocoholic?

Mayor Mark Mallory was in Washington, D.C., today to lobby Ohio lawmakers for the city's top funding priorities. We met up with him to get the inside scoop.

But the conversation kept turning to ... chocolate?
Mayor: "For us, it's all about partnerships. I'm really big on partnerships."


Mayor: "And chocolate. I'm really big on chocolate too."

Reporter: "You getting any good chocolate at these meetings?"

Mayor: "No, I haven't had any good chocolate lately. And it's, you know, two-thirty, three o'clock. That's chocolate time, you know?"

(Oh yes, we know.)

Luckily for Mallory, his next stop was at Rep. Jean Schmidt's office.

Not that the marathon-running congresswoman is known for a secret chocolate addition... But luckily, one of her staff members was on hand with a quick fix for the mayor -- a chocolate bunny from Esther Price.

The mayor didn't eat the whole bunny ... Just the ears.

Bob Ney gets a new job

At a liberal talk radio show.

Read about it HERE.

Hackett sounds off on 2nd District race

Yes, that Paul Hackett.

The Iraq war vet and lawyer from Indian Hill who narrowly lost to Rep. Jean Schmidt in the special election for her seat nearly three years ago.

Hackett was interviewed in THIS story in Roll Call today about why Democrat Victoria Wulsin was left off of the DCCC List.

Here's an excerpt from the Roll Call story with Hackett's comments:

... Hackett said the consensus after last cycle — when Democrats won huge across the Buckeye State — was that if Wulsin “wasn’t able to do it in 2006, she can’t win it.”

Wulsin “has her own set of issues and problems and challenges just simply as a candidate,” he said. “In my humble opinion, she has not made the improvements that someone typically would have made if they are running their third campaign.”

Hackett defeated Wulsin in a July 2005 special election primary only to narrowly lose to Schmidt in the general election. Hackett’s near-miss in a previously reliable Republican district in the Cincinnati suburbs, coupled with Schmidt’s shaky start in Congress, convinced national Democrats that they could run competitively there.

“My concerns, on the one hand, is that Jean Schmidt has gotten much better,” Hackett said. “She’s not a dumb person. She’s a very hard-working person ... She’ll work anybody into the ground. She’s gotten, by my own personal observation, much better at the public aspects, if you will, of running for office.”

Hackett said current Members of Congress, whom he declined to name, asked him to consider running for the seat again in December 2006 after Wulsin lost to Schmidt by 1 point. Nonetheless, he sees the district as winnable for Wulsin, especially with a X factor like the presidential contest in 2008.

Schmidt touts The List

Rep. Jean Schmidt's re-election campaign shot out a press release today touting the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's list of candidates named to the party's Red to Blue program.

That's not something you see that often. A Republican congresswoman touting a memo from the Democratic Party.

In this case, however, Schmidt had good reason to cheer.

The Democrat's left her opponent, Victoria Wulsin, off of the list of candidates facing GOP incumbents who they are really pushing for big time.

Read our blog about that yesterday HERE.

In any case... Schmidt's campaign said the decision to leave Wulsin off the list shows that Democrats are abandoning Wulsin.

“This is a stunning change of course for the DCCC, and shows that they have lost faith in Dr.
Wulsin’s ability to win in the Second Congressional District,” said Schmidt campaign spokesman Bruce Pfaff.

Pfaff added: “Congresswoman Schmidt has proven to her constituents that she represents their issues, and the decision by the DCCC to remove the Second Congressional District from its targeted race list is a strong testament to that fact.”

To be fair, when the DCCC was asked about why Wulsin wasn't included on the list, spokesman Ryan Rudominder said Wulsin still could be included in the program later on.

He also had this to say about Schmidt:

“Ohioans from across the political spectrum will reject Mean Jean this November, because of her lousy record of rubberstamping President Bush and her wild antics in Congress. Vic Wulsin will put Ohio’s middle-class first in Congress and not the special interests.”

Strickland: 'Howdy Doody' for veep?

Columnist George Will may think Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland is the logical choice to be either Democratic presidential hopeful’s running mate, but Strickland thinks that kind of talk says more about the state’s importance than his.

“Howdy Doody could be in this office and the same speculation would occur,” Strickland told the Enquirer editorial board Thursday, referring to the title character of a popular 1950s children's TV show.

Read the full blog here

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Gambling and Judas

Some people were a little shocked Wednesday when Councilman Cecil Thomas, during his turn to say what he thought about the proposal to possibly build casinos in Hamilton County if Northern Kentucky builds some, compared the situation to Judas' betrayal of Jesus.

He said he wasn't ready to sell out for "30 pieces of silver." That, the Bible says, is the amount of money for which Judas sold out Jesus.

Obviously, Thomas voted against the proposal to ask the state legislature to put on the November ballot a constitutional amendment to let counties bordering states that enact gaming to have casinos also. Councilman Jeff Berding introduced the idea as a way to let Cincinnati and Hamilton County compete if the Kentucky proposal to put casinos in Northern Kentucky goes through.

After the Bible reference, the measure passed 7-2, with Thomas and Chris Monzel against. Monzel didn't quote the Bible in his reasoning, he just said he thinks the social consequences of gambling are too great.

Among senators: Most conservative?

Sen. Jim Bunning is the Senate equivilent of Rep. John Boehner in the House.

At least as far as being conservative goes.

The Southgate, Ky., Republican ranked No. 6 in the Senate's list of most conservative members. His score means he's more conservative than 89.8 percent of fellow senators.

House Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, meanwhile, ranked as No. 9 on the list. His score means that he's more conservative than 86.5 percent of fellow senators.

Meanwhile, Ohio Sen. George Voinovich, also a Republican, was halfway down the list. The Cleveland lawmaker was scored as being more conservative than 58.2 percent of fellow senators.
On the liberal scorecard, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, is also halfway down the list. He is considered more liberal than only 76.3 percent of other senators.

However, he's less liberal than Sens. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Barbara Boxer, Harry Reid and Charles Schumer.

CLICK HERE to search The National Journal's vote database yourself.

Who's the most conservative?

According to The National Journal's ratings out today, it's....

House Minority Leader John Boehner of West Chester.

The local Republican tied with seven other U.S. House members for the HIGHEST score among conservative members. That means that Boehner and the seven other lawmakers are MORE CONSERVATIVE than 93.3 percent of their House colleagues.

So what about the other Greater Cincinnati lawmakers?

Rep. Steve Chabot was the 3rd most conservative Ohio lawmaker with a score making him more conservative than 82.5 percent of his colleagues.

Rep. Jean Schmidt ranked as the 4th most conservative Ohio lawmaker, essentially placing her as more conservative than 81.7 percent of her fellow lawmakers.

Rep. Mike Turner ranked as the 6th most conservative Ohio lawmaker and was more conservative than 64.2 percent of House lawmakers.

Rep. Geoff Davis was the 3rd most conservative Kentucky lawmaker, although he was more conservative than 82.2 percent of House lawmakers.

That score places Davis squarely between Chabot and Schmidt in terms of who's more conservative.

Driehaus on the list - Wulsin not

The list we're talking about is the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's list of candidates who have qualified for the party's competitive "Red to Blue" program.

The what program? Basically, this designation is a way for the party to publically show which candidates they are REALLY getting behind. That means these candidates should expect to get a little extra money and attention from the DCCC, although how much "extra money" they'll get is not specified.

Still, the title gives the candidates more credibility with donors and and can help link them up with big Democratic donors looking for competitive candidates to support.

Today, the DCCC unveiled the names of 13 lucky Democrats who are now part of the Red to Blue program, including Steve Driehaus, who is challenging Rep. Steve Chabot in Ohio's 1st Congressional District.

CLICK HERE to see the full list.

Someone you won't find on it? Democrat Victoria Wulsin, who is running against Rep. Jean Schmidt in Ohio's 2nd Congressional District.

Keep in mind though that today's list represents only the second slate of Democratic congressional candidates that have qualified for the DCCC Red to Blue program. The first slate was for candidates in open seats.

Last time around - in 2006 - there were four slates of candidates inducted into the Red to Blue program. And, last time around, Wulsin was a member of the Red to Blue program - as was John Cranley, who lost his bid to unseat Chabot. Wulsin lost her 2006 race against Schmdit.

Ryan Rudominer of the DCCC says Wulsin certainly could be considered in the future for induction to the program.

According to a DCCC news release, the 13 candidates named today "earned a spot in the program by surpassing demanding fundraising goals and skillfully demonstrating to voters that they stand for change and will represent new priorities when elected to Congress."

DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen had this to say about the slate:

“These candidates have come out of the gate strong and the Red to Blue Program will give them the financial and structural edge to be even more competitive in November. The candidates for change in our first round of challenger Red to Blue are strong examples of Democrats who represent a commitment to new priorities for the families in their districts.”

According to the DCCC, the Red to Blue program raised nearly $22.6 million for 56 campaigns in 2006.

Yup, you saw a LOT of ads

From the Wisconsin Advertising Project


Despite Coming Up Short, Obama Outspent Clinton almost Two-to-One


Repub’s Remain Virtually Silent; McCain, Huckabee Aired No Ads

MADISON, WI – Barack Obama spent nearly twice as much money on TV advertising in Ohio than did Hillary Clinton. Despite both candidates hitting the airwaves on February 12th, the Obama campaign enjoyed a solid advantage in the number of spots aired throughout the duration of the Ohio campaign.

In the high-profile Ohio presidential primary campaign, the campaigns of the two Democratic candidates for president aired over 16,000 spots, spending approximately $6.8 million. Obama outspent Clinton by a margin of nearly two-to-one, with the Illinois Senator spending over $4.4 million to air just over 10,000 spots. Clinton spent $2.3 million and aired just over six thousand spots. Republicans were largely absent in Ohio; neither John McCain nor Mike Huckabee aired a single ad leading up to the Ohio primary.

Interest group spending became a factor in the short Ohio campaign as well with three groups spending money advertising on behalf of the Democratic presidential candidates.

American Leadership Project (ALP), a 527 group supporting Clinton, spent over $80,000 and aired over 175 ads. Obama saw more advertising on his behalf, with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) spending over $1 million combined to air nearly 2,500 spots. Groups supporting Obama ran more ads than groups supporting Senator Clinton in every media market. These advertisements accounted for just over 15 percent of the total advertising in the state.
Overall, advertising in the Democratic primary produced over 19,000 spots, costing approximately $8 million.

Over one-fifth of Clinton’s advertisements contained negative content, while less than five percent of Obama’s ads were negative. All these ads drew contrasts between the two Democratic candidates. In general, the tone of the campaign was positive, with the vast majority of ads from both campaigns promoting their candidate. The "3am phone call" ads did not air in Ohio media markets, but did receive extensive coverage on the news.

These are among the findings of a new report from the University of Wisconsin Advertising Project that analyzed data obtained from the TNS Media Intelligence Campaign Media Analysis Group (TNSMI/CMAG). The report, supported by the Joyce Foundation and the Midwest Democracy Network, analyses political television advertising in seven Ohio media markets (Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, Toledo, Dayton, Youngstown, Charleston) from February 1 to March 4.

"We saw some significant differences between Ohio and Wisconsin", says Ken Goldstein, a political science professor and the director of the University of Wisconsin Advertising Project.

"Although Clinton was outspent on the air in Ohio as well, it was by a two to one margin and not the five to one margin we saw in Wisconsin. Also, in Ohio, the Clinton campaign was up at the same time as Obama and was not dark for the first week of the contest like in Wisconsin."

Goldstein also noted, "We saw the first significant outside group buys in Ohio. Union supporters of Barack Obama aired over a million dollars in advertising and comprised about 15% of the total ad spending." As the campaign continues and as we head into the general election, we should expect to see more groups airing ads and comprising an increasing proportion of the political messages seen on TV.

The study also found:

• Except for the BCRA disclaimer taking responsibility for her ad, Clinton narrated less than one-fifth of her ads, while over 60 percent of all Obama ads featured the Illinois Senator speaking on his own behalf.

• Both Democrats focused most of their advertising on the issues of jobs, health care, and trade.

• Obama advertised heaviest in Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus while Clinton directed most of her ads to the Youngstown, Columbus and Cleveland markets. The Obama campaign out aired Clinton in every media market except Youngstown.

• The Clinton campaign mentioned NAFTA 1,190 times in their advertisements, while the Obama campaign mentioned NAFTA 1,108 times.

• Senator Obama aired twice as many unique ads as Senator Clinton.
Total By Market Airings Money Spent

Cleveland 3,776 2,700,000
Columbus 3,445 1,600,000
Cincinnati 3,383 1,500,000
Dayton 2,377 750,000
Toledo 2,605 650,000
Youngstown 2,691 600,000
Charleston, WV 731 150,000

TNS Media Intelligence/CMAG with analysis by the Wisconsin Advertising Project

Council spends $800,000 to study streetcars

UPDATED, 3 p.m.

Jane Prendergast reports from City Hall:

Cincinnati will spend $800,000 to study the feasibility of extending a proposed streetcar line from downtown to Uptown.

City Council agreed to the appropriation this afternoon, but not until members debated the issue again for about 30 minutes. The money comes from City Manager Milton Dohoney and city officials sorting through accounts from other capital improvement projects, some dating back years, and finding leftover money.

Three council members opposed the expenditure: Roxanne Qualls, Chris Monzel and John Cranley.

Qualls voted against it because she said it spent money without council first having given the admninistration clear direction to make sure the streetcar line goes to Uptown. The city's initial proposal put a line from downtown through Over-the-Rhine, but kept the more northern piece to the area around the University of Cincinnati as a second phase. Several council members have said they do not believe a streetcar line would support itself if it doesn't connect the city's two main job centers, downtown and Uptown.

Chris Bortz, a main proponent of the streetcar plan, encouraged his colleagues to think of the study as just the next step in the process, not as a huge deal.

"We're not breaking ground," he said. "We're not buying (street) cars, we're not buying track."

Council voted after Vice Mayor David Crowley requested permission to speak and said: "I t hink everything's been said. Let's vote."

Earlier posting:

Cincinnati could take the next step on streetcars today if City Council approves spending $800,000 on a study of taking the proposed streetcar lines from downtown to Uptown, around the Clifton area hospitals and the University of Cincinnati.

City Manager Milton Dohoney gathered up the money from various pots of cash left unspent from other projects, some of which dated back years.

Council members also are scheduled to vote on whether to ask the Ohio General Assembly to put a gambling referendum on the November ballot. It would allow counties – like Hamilton County - that border states that allow new casinos to allow those neighboring Ohio counties to open casinos as well.

That’s aimed at letting local counties compete for dollars with Northern Kentucky, where several casinos have been proposed,

Council meets at 2 p.m. in City Hall, 801 Plum St.

See the full agenda here.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Mike Allen on Gov. Spitzer

When New York Gov. Elliot Spitzer went before cameras Monday to apologize for his alleged involvement in a prostitution scandal that could end his political career, Mike Allen knew how he felt.

“To be honest, when I saw (Spitzer’s apology) yesterday, I was the first one I thought of," Allen said.

Kimball Perry has the rest of the story here

UPDATED: Armed guards at city hall


Jane Prendergast reports:

Visitors to Cincinnati City Hall now have to pass armed security officers.

More than two years after Mayor Mark Mallory ordered metal detectors removed, security has been beefed up again. Councilwoman Laketa Cole asked for a security review, expressing concern for herself and her all-female staff in light of shootings last month at a council meeting in Kirkwood, Mo.

The city will pay $174,000 a year for the armed guards from Elite Protective Services, said Tiffaney Hardy, a city spokeswoman. The Roselawn company was hired as a subcontractor by a company that handles other city work, including cleaning. An additional $25,000 was allotted for possible overtime for night meetings, she said, and weekend events.

The guards, who started Monday, are the biggest change in security around the building since the 2006 shooting outside of activist Kabaka Oba helped prompt Mallory to hire a bodyguard. Council chambers were fitted with bullet-resistant paneling at about the same time. The paneling protects council members’ lower halves as they sit on the dais during meetings.

Cole specifically asked that officials consider re-installing the metal detectors taken out after Mallory took office in late 2005. Several council members, including John Cranley, Jeff Berding and Chris Bortz, expressed concern about that, saying they believe City Hall should remain as accessible and open as possible.

Bortz said Tuesday that he finds the guards more acceptable than metal detectors because “metal detectors send a different signal, a blockade.” He said he isn’t sure if members of the general public would notice that the new guards carry guns, compared with the check-in personnel, who didn’t.

“I think if someone wants to hurt someone in City Hall, they’re going to do it,” he said. “You always run the risk. But I trust the manager to make the best decision.”

Councilman John Cranley said he “didn’t see the need for a change” and would’ve voted against it if the idea had been put before council for a vote, but that he wasn’t “going to make a federal case out of it.” He said City Manager Milton Dohoney said he had the money in his budget to pay for the plan.

City spokeswoman Meg Olberding had said as recently as last week that no security decisions had been made, but that security was always under review.

Dohoney echoed part of that in his Monday memo to the mayor and council notifying them of the added guards: “The city of Cincinnati administration is continuously evaluating its security at city hall. Changes will be made whenever it is deemed appropriate.”

Employees still have to show their identification badges, and visitors still have to sign in for temporary badges.

Elite, based in Roselawn, has been in the news before. In 2003, the mayor’s brother, Dale Mallory, then president of the West End Community Council, wanted the city to give Elite a $10,000 contract to patrol the West End and cut down on crime there. That never happened.
Elite also has been among the agencies committed to becoming tenants in the proposed controversial CityLink, a mall of social services including medical services and job training. The project recently got a go-ahead from the 1st District Court of Appeals, which upheld a lower court’s order to force the city to issue the necessary zoning permit.

Elite founder and president Duane Weems did not return a phone call to talk about his company’s new work.

Elite’s Web site, www.eliteproservice.com, shows officers posing with Jerry Springer, Congresswoman Maxine Waters and Jamie Foxx. It also says a majority of Elite’s staff are police officers in various communities, meaning they have been trained and certified according to Ohio Police Officer Training Academy standards. It also says a majority of Elite’s staff are police officers in various communities, meaning they have been trained and certified according to Ohio Police Officer Training Academy standards.

UPDATED: New leader at GOP


Jessica Brown reports

The Hamilton County Republican Party has a new leader.
Former Chairman George Vincent turned over the job to Common Pleas Judge Alex Triantafilou during a GOP Central Committee meeting Tuesday.

Vincent in January was named managing partner of the prestigious Dinsmore & Shohl law firm. He said he simply will not be able to devote the necessary time to the party.

“To serve as party chairman in a presidential election year will take more time then I have to give,” he said.

So he said goodbye, received a standing ovation and handed off the leadership role – after a unanimous vote from the party – to Triantafilou, 36, of Green Township.

Triantafilou was thrilled to be “drafted” for the job. He said his heart is in politics and he feels he can do more good as party chairman than as judge.

“I have passion for politics,” he said. “It’s something I was frankly drafted to do and I’m excited about the challenge. It’s a challenging time to be a Republican.”

Triantafilou was referring to the Republicans losing Congress, state and local political offices in 2006 and the upcoming battle to retain the White House this year. Several local Republican-held offices are also up for election this year.

His goal: “Unite as a party and fight.” He wants “victory from the court house to the White House,” he said.

Triantafilou praised Vincent’s leadership and said his vision for the party is to “return us to our core vision of lower taxes, smaller government and public servants who are serving the public good,” he said.

Triantafilou would not address recent dissention within the local party, saying he is looking toward the future, not the past.

The party was criticized last fall by some of its own members for endorsing the jail tax. In several local Republican clubs, members were so split on the issue that the clubs offered alternate sample ballots to hand out at the polls omitting the sales tax endorsement. Some claimed the party leadership was straying from its core values.

Earlier this year, the party was criticized for a deal with the Democrats that left fewer choices on the November ballot. In the deal, Democrats agreed not to endorse a candidate to run against Republican Greg Hartmann, who is running for county commissioner. In return, Republicans agreed not to endorse a candidate against Democratic Commissioner Todd Portune who is running for re-election.

Vincent, who held the chairman job for 32 months, said there was never any real schism. He said party members “agree 95 percent of the time” and share the same core values.

Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Tim Burke said he will miss Vincent. “I enjoyed working with him. He had a good sense of humor though he was wrong on his political views,” Burke said. Burke said he’s heard good things about Triantafilou and looks forward to getting to know him.

Triantafilou will immediately give up his role as $121,350-a-year judge. Ohio law prevents judges from being political party chairs. He will work as an attorney at Dinsmore & Shohl and will be paid a small undisclosed salary for his role as party chairman.

Triantafilou’s move means the Republicans may lose that judgeship seat, at least temporarily. However, Triatafilou’s seat is on the November ballot. So if they lose it, they can try to get it back through the election. In the immediate future, Triantafilou’s job will be filled by retired judge Thomas Nurre in a visiting judge capacity, said Hamilton County Court Administrator Mike Walton.

Then Governor Ted Strickland will select a replacement. Triantafilou was appointed to the common pleas seat by former Gov. Bob Taft after recommendation by the local GOP.

Since Strickland is a Democrat, most expect he will select a Democrat for the seat. However he recently created an Ohio Judicial Appointments Recommendation Panel to take some of the politics out of the process. Instead of Strickland picking from a pool of people recommended by the party, an open application process will occur and the panel will recommend three applicants to Strickland. The governor can pick one of the recommendations or ask for additional names.

Tim Burke, head of the Hamilton County Democratic Party, said he expects Norma Davis and Jerry Metz, both Democrats, to be considered for appointment to Triantafilou’s seat. Both Davis and Metz are already running for other judge seats in November. Davis is currently running against Republican Pat DeWine for the seat being vacated by retiring Common Pleas Judge David Davis. Metz, an attorney, is currently challenging Common Pleas Judge Fred Nelson for Nelson’s seat.

Because the Democrats did not have anyone on the ballot for Triantafilou’s seat during the Primary election, it is unclear whether the party will be allowed to put anyone on the ballot in November. Burke is researching the issue.

Reporter Sharon Coolidge contributed

Jessica Brown reports:

Hamilton County Republican Party chairman George Vincent is expected to pass the torch today to Common Pleas Judge Alex Triantafilou.

Vincent was named managing partner of the prestigious Dinsmore & Shohl law firm. A GOP Central Committee meeting is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. today to name his successor. If Triantafilou, 36, of Green Township, accepts the position, he – and the party – will give up the Republican judgeship seat.

Governor Ted Strickland, a Democrat would name his immediate replacement on the bench. Strickland is likely to choose a Democrat. The judgeship will be on the ballot in November so the Republicans could try to win it back then. Today’s meeting takes place at the Hilton Netherland Plaza downtown.

Now that's a lecture title

From the Museum Center:

Political Junkies will enjoy an upcoming lecture on Thursday March 13th, presented by Cincinnati Museum Center & the University of Cincinnati Department of History: “Cutting Each Other’s Throats: 30 Years in American Politics” featuring Mike Ford – a Xavier University native and former operative in the campaigns of Jerry Springer and Howard Dean.

The lecture takes place at Union Terminal on Thursday, March 13th at 7:30 PM, and it’s free and open to the public. More details at www.cincymuseum.org

Bill would ban discrimination against gays

UPDATED, 1:10 p.m.: Here's a little AP story on it:

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A bipartisan group of state lawmakers says a bill prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation has its best chance of passage this year.

A small but growing coalition of legislators say they intend to lobby strongly for a law that would add gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender individuals to those protected from discrimination in hiring, credit and housing.

Rep. Dan Stewart, a Columbus Democrat, and Sen. Dale Miller, a Cleveland Democrat, said Tuesday that the issue affects Ohio’s economy. Stewart says people across the country know they can be fired in Ohio for being gay and so don’t move to the state.

Twenty-one states have similar discrimination protections in place.

Here's the original press release:

New Anti-Discrimination Legislation to be Unveiled

COLUMBUS – State Representatives Jon Peterson (R-Delaware) and Dan Stewart (D-Columbus) will be joined by State Senator Dale Miller (D-Columbus) on Tuesday, March 11 to unveil new legislation to fight discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Current Ohio law does not ban discrimination in housing, employment or public accommodations (such as restaurants) based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This bill would change that legal flaw to protect the rights of people of all backgrounds.

What: News Conference

When: Tuesday, March 11, 10:30 a.m.

Where: Ladies Gallery
Ohio Statehouse

Who: State Representative Jon Peterson
State Representative Dan Stewart
State Senator Dale Miller
Lynne Bowman, Equality Ohio Executive Director
Jimmie Beall, who lost school job when discovered she was a lesbian

Why: To introduce legislation banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity

Monday, March 10, 2008

Leis wins jail tax suit

Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis won a county lawsuit filed against him in connection with the jail tax campaign last year. Leis was sued last year by anti-sales tax advocate Brian Shrive. Shrive alleged Leis supported construction of the new jail and “improperly and/or illegally used county property, resources and funds to such end.”

Specifically, Leis publicly supported the jail, provided a letter to his workers asking them to support the tax and displayed “Support the New Jail” signs on sheriff’s equipment during the Harvest Home Parade.

Common Pleas Judge Norbert Nadel ruled in Leis’ favor. In his opinion he said Ohio law “clearly permitted Leis to advocate in favor of the jail tax levy.” Law allows elected officials to sponsor "public service advertising" and the jail is “clearly germane to Sheriff Leis’ official function as sheriff of Hamilton County.” Nadel also noted that the complaint does not include specifics relating to the public funds spent by the sheriff, so he did not address the request that the sheriff pay those costs back. Nadel dismissed the case.

Charlie Norman back at county

Charlie Norman is back in action at Hamilton County.

Norman previously worked as an aide in the county office for Commissioner Pat DeWine. He took some time off in January to work for DeWine’s political campaign for Common Pleas judge. DeWine handily won the Republican primary.

On Monday, in what Commissioner David Pepper joked would be a controversial subject, the commissioners re-instated Norman as a county employee.

County still in budget trouble.

Hamilton County is still smarting from the pain of trimming $35 million from its 2008 budget in the form of layoffs, salary freezes and cutting of programs.

Yet it’s already preparing itself for another punch in the gut. The county's budget office Monday projected a $12.1 million gap in the 2009 budget based on revenue estimates to date.

The good news: the county is planning to give 2.5 percent raises for non-union staff. But if new money isn’t found other things will have to go come December. A more detailed analysis is expected in May.

Among the problems:
-Inflation: is expected to be 2.5 percent.
-Property tax: any increases from the auditor’s office assessment of property values this year will be offset by other property value decreases. No property tax growth is expected until 2012.
-Sales tax: is projected at a 1.5 percent growth rate.
-Interest Earnings: are projected to drop to $16.9 million in 2009 due to short-term investment performance.
- State reimbursements for the Public Defender and Local Government Fund: are expected to remain flat.

Chabot staffer gets in trouble

Malia Rulon reports:

WASHINGTON – A staff member in Rep. Steve Chabot’s office has attracted the wrong kind of attention by sending a political message during working hours using his House e-mail address, a violation of ethics rules.

According to a copy of the e-mail posted on the Daily Kos blog Friday, the staff member forwarded an e-mail message asking staff at congressional offices that might have “interns sitting around” to send them to the Republican National Committee to make phone calls for Jim Oberweis.

Oberweis, a Republican, lost a special election in Illinois Saturday to replace former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.

Congressional staff members are allowed to take part in political activities, such as making campaign phone calls, but only during nonworking hours. They are barred from using congressional computers, e-mail, phones or other office equipment in any campaign-related work.

“It might be a good idea if Steve Chabot’s office spent a little less time meddling in Illinois congressional races and a little more time focusing on the issues that Ohioans care about,” Ohio Democratic Party spokesman Alex Goepfert said in a news release Monday blasting Chabot for the incident.

Chabot spokesman Todd Lindgren said the staff member, Matthew Lillibridge, forwarded the e-mail to all Ohio press secretaries, both Republican and Democrat, before realizing that the e-mail from the National Republican Congressional Committee was political in nature.

“Why they sent it to an official House e-mail account, I have no idea,” Lindgren said. “They never should have sent this to an official account.”

A spokeswoman for the NRCC did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
Lindgren said shortly after Lillibridge sent the e-mail, he read it and realized it was political and immediately recalled it. He then notified his superiors in Chabot’s office.

“He feels awful. There was no intent to violate House rules,” Lindgren said, explaining that Lillibridge is a 23-year-old staff assistant who just got out of school and mostly answers phones, opens mail and gives tours.

Chabot chief of staff Mike Smullen has sent a letter to the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct explaining what happened and requesting additional ethics training for Lillibridge.

It was unclear whether Lillibridge would keep his job or whether the ethics panel would investigate.

Meanwhile, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Ryan Rudominer said the incident could be indicative of a larger problem in Chabot’s office.

“Congressman Steve Chabot faces a really tough re-election and this violation raises questions as to what other activities are taking place in his congressional office on the taxpayer’s dime,” Rudominer said.

Chabot’s opponent, Democrat Steven Driehaus, agreed.

“I don’t doubt that the congressman knows the rules, but it does beg the question of what else is going on in his office that he’s not aware of?” Driehaus said.

Driehaus, a state representative, said he has made it “crystal clear” in his office that there is a separation between political activity and government work.

“I am a little disturbed when I see what appears to be ... comments like, ‘Well, he’s young and he didn’t know any better,’” Driehaus said. “That doesn’t cut it for me. They are taking cues from their superiors.”

Time to swap places on Election Board

The Hamilton County Board of Elections has a new director.

Pam Swafford, the former deputy director of the board, has swapped places with former director John Williams. The board’s leadership swaps roles every two years.

Swafford is now director and Williams is deputy director.

Also, George Vincent swapped places with Tim Burke. Vincent, who also runs the county’s Republican Party, is now chairman of the elections board and Burke, who heads the county’s Democratic Party, is vice chairman of the elections board.

County wants to sell Memorial Hall

Jessica Brown reports:

Hamilton County wants to sell Memorial Hall, the 100-year-old intimate concert hall next to Music Hall in Over-the-Rhine.

The property is managed by the Memorial Hall Society and is in need of a new boiler, roof and other repairs.

The county has been inventorying all its properties to decide which, if any, it should sell or use for other purposes.

"Maybe another organization in Over-the-Rhine might be a better steward of that property in the long run," said Jeff Aluotto, assistant county administrator today. The building has been used sporadically for veterans’ events and presidential candidate John McCain spoke there in a visit to the city a few weeks ago.

The county wants to make sure Memorial Hall is sold to someone who won’t tear it down.

The building is appraised at nearly $1 million according to the auditor’s office. It is not officially on the market yet. The county hopes to have discussions with stakeholders wrapped up by mid-year.

Clinton used Bush's plan to win Ohio

The Associated Press' Andrew Welsh-Huggins has this analysis of Clinton's win:

Hillary Rodham Clinton took a page from President Bush in her approach to winning the state's key presidential primary.

Bush famously won Ohio and the White House in 2004 thanks to support from rural voters. Following his lead, Clinton and surrogates like husband Bill, the former president left no corner of the state unturned.

That allowed her to defeat Barack Obama despite her rival's big victories in large urban counties traditionally seen as must-wins for candidates.

"We're very pleased with the outcome we got in Ohio," said Clinton senior adviser Ann Lewis. "It demonstrates Hillary's strength in reaching urban, suburban, exurban and yes, rural voters."

Clinton won 54 percent to 44 percent in Tuesday's Democratic primary according to unofficial results. Her victory came even though Obama won four of the state's biggest counties, the urban centers of greater Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati.

Some of Clinton's biggest margins came in rural southern Ohio, including a nearly 10,000-vote margin in Scioto County, where she had 81 percent of the vote, and a 3,000-vote margin in Jackson County, where she took 80 percent of the vote.

An Obama spokesman said Obama's Ohio showing indicated strong crossover support from Republicans and independents that will make him the strongest nominee against Republican candidate John McCain.

"Within the course of a month, we cut a 20-point deficit in half even though Sen. Clinton had the support of a popular governor and the bulk of the political establishment in the state," said Ben LaBolt, spokesman for Obama's Ohio campaign.

Despite Clinton's win at the polls, the two Democrats remain in a tight race for delegates that Obama pledged he would win.

Clinton has argued that her victories in the electoral-vote rich states of California, Ohio, New York and Texas make her more likely to carry the general election.

Polls show a close race in November regardless of who the nominee is. An Ohio Poll released the week before the primary by the University of Cincinnati said Ohio voters are evenly split if it's a matchup between Obama and McCain.

The same poll said Ohio voters give McCain a slight edge over Clinton if she becomes the nominee.

Many of the counties Clinton cleaned up in were the former southern Ohio stomping grounds of Gov. Ted Strickland, including his home county of Scioto.

Strickland, who in 2006 became the first Democrat elected Ohio governor in 20 years, made sure Clinton knew the importance of taking her campaign outside of the cities.

Democratic strategist Dale Butland said Republicans for years piled up huge margins in the rural and exurban counties to offset Democratic majorities in the cities.

"Ted Strickland employed that strategy himself as a Democrat it served him well in his election," said Butland, who is not working for either Democratic presidential candidate.

"He gave the same advice to Sen. Clinton which she took, unlike Sen. Kerry, who didn't," Butland said.

Kerry, the 2004 Democratic nominee, was also working against heavy turnout that year by conservatives voting to approve the state's gay marriage ban, one of the country's toughest.

Decades have passed since Ohio last saw a competitive Democratic primary, and the interest showed in a record turnout of 48 percent of registered voters.

Clinton still garnered more interest than Kerry in his primary four years ago. Where she won 81 percent of the vote in Scioto County, Kerry got 55 percent in his 2004 primary.

Where she got 80 percent of the vote in Jackson County, Kerry got 64 percent. Where Clinton got 78 percent of the vote in Lawrence County, Kerry got 59 percent.

Clinton's primary strategy is modeled on her New York campaign, where she went to rural areas of the state considered Republican strongholds, said Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson.

"It's the way that we've run this set of primary contests, and it is the way we would certainly run in a general election," he said.

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