Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Cincinnati Election Endorsements

Mayoral candidates John Cranley and Roxanne Qualls debate

Dear George,
This is an important election year in Cincinnati.  The city is picking a new mayor at the end of Mark Mallory’s eight years in office.  All of the nine City Council seats are up for grabs, and this year council terms are changing from two years to four years, so the election has more enduring consequences than usual.  Also there are important local issues.

For the first time that I can remember there isn’t any Republican candidate running for mayor.  Instead two Democrats are running against one another: Roxanne Qualls and John Cranley.  Both have long records of public service in Cincinnati, and both have served on City Council in the past.  Additionally, Roxanne Qualls was mayor of Cincinnati from 1993 to 1999.  Their past voting records are very similar.  This year, however, they have taken opposite positions on two issues: building a downtown streetcar and leasing city parking to a private firm.  Qualls supports both; Cranley opposes both.  By and large, Qualls tends to be seen as a more liberal Democrat; Cranley as a more conservative Democrat.  It appears to be a very close race.  Cranley has a lead in fund raising by about $300,000.  In past elections both have received very similar numbers of votes.  Cranley won this year’s mayoral primary handily, though only 6% of the electorate voted.

In picking among candidates I pay lots of attention to endorsements.  Below are the two mayoral candidates, with occupation and party affiliation given in parentheses, followed by endorsements, mainly as reported by the League of Women Voters (   Cincinnati Enquirer endorsements ( are from the city’s major, Republican-oriented newspaper, while City Beat ( is a more progressive, alternative weekly paper.  A candidate’s total number of endorsements is reported at the end of their list in parentheses.  In calculating totals here and below I’ve assigned a single point for one or more labor union endorsements, one point for one or more women’s group endorsements, and one for one or more gay rights group endorsements.        

Candidates for the Mayor of Cincinnati:
  • Roxanne Qualls (Vice Mayor and realtor; Democrat): City Beat, Sierra Club, Equality Ohio (gay rights organization), Cincinnati Women's Political Caucus, NOW Cincinnati, Emily's List (supports pro-choice Democratic women), 5 labor unions, and 4 former NAACP Presidents  (6)
  • John Cranley (attorney; Democrat): Cincinnati Enquirer, Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors; former Mayor Charlie Luken; State Representative Alicia Reese, COAST (anti-tax, anti-spending group)  (5)

Cincinnati City Council
When we moved to Cincinnati, it seemed like there was often a Republican majority on the nine-member City Council.  That’s changed dramatically over the decades, and for the last two years there’s only been a single Republican councilman. Cincinnati politics are also interesting because of the presence of the Charter Party, a minority third party which began as a reform movement in the 1920’s.  The Charterites are usually allied with liberal Democrats.  The Charter Party reached its peak in the 1950s, but has had only one or two members on Council over the last couple of decades.  This year there are ten Council candidates endorsed by the Democrats, four by Republicans, two by the Charter Party (as well as their endorsement of two Democrats), and four running as independents.  The council candidates are listed below by party and ordered within each party by number of endorsements.   

Candidates for City Council (9 to be elected)

  • Chris Seelbach (Council incumbent; president, financial services org.): Dem. Party, City Beat, Equality Cincinnati & Equality Ohio, David Crowley Legacy Fund, Sierra Club, Cinc. Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, 10 other unions  (7)
  • Michelle Dillingham (previous legislative aide): Dem. Party, City Beat, Nat. Assoc. of Social Workers, Cinc. Fed. of Teachers, AFL-CIO, 11 other unions, Cinc. Women's Political Caucus, Equality Cincinnati & Equality Ohio  (7)
  • P.G. Sittenfeld (incumbent; Asst. Dir., Community Learning Center Institute): Dem. Party, Cinc. Enquirer, City Beat, Sierra Club, Cinc. Fed. of Teachers, Equality Cincinnati (6)
  • Greg Landsman (executive director of educational consortium): Dem. Party, Charter Party, Cinc. Enquirer, City Beat, Cinc. Fed. of Teachers, Equality Cincinnati & Equality Ohio (6)
  • Wendell Young (incumbent; police officer): Dem. Party, Cinc. Enquirer, City Beat, Cinc. Fed. of Teachers,  AFL-CIO, Equality Cincinnati (6)
  • Laure Quinlivan (incumbent; former news reporter): Dem. Party, Cinc. Enquirer, City Beat, Sierra Club, Equality PAC  (5) 
  • Pam Thomas(incumbent; previous court bailiff, manager, school ombudsman): Dem. Party, Cinc. Women's Political Caucus, Sierra Club, Cinc. Fed. of Teachers, AFL-CIO, 8 other unions (5)
  • David Mann (lawyer; prior mayor, congressman): Dem. Party, Cinc. Enquirer, Cinc. Fed. of Teachers,  AFL-CIO, 9 other unions, Equality Cincinnati  (5)
  • Yvette Simpson (incumbent; lawyer): Dem. Party, Cinc. Enquirer, City Beat, Cinc. Fed. of Teachers  (4)
  • Shawn Butler (director of community affairs, Cincy): Dem. Party  (1)
Charter Party
  • Kevin Flynn (real estate attorney and law professor): Charter Party, Cinc. Enquirer, Cinc. Board of Realtors, Home Builders Assoc., Cinc. Firefighters, Cinc. Police (6)
  • Vanessa White (Cinc. Board of Education): Charter Party, Cinc. Enquirer, Cincinnati Women's Political Caucus, Sierra Club (4)
  • Charlie Winburn (incumbent: government and business management): Rep. Party, Fraternal Order of Police, Cinc. Fire Fighters, Cinc. Area Board of Realtors, COAST (5)
  • Amy Murray (former Council member, small business owner): Rep. Party, Cinc. Enquirer, COAST (3)
  • Sam Malone (former Council member, President of Urban Strategies and Solutions): Rep. Party
  • Melissa Wegman (businesswoman): Rep. Party
  • Chris Smitherman (independent) (incumbent; NAACP President): Fraternal Order of Police, IBEW Local 212, Hamilton County Green Party, COAST (4)
  • Mike Moroski (independent) (school administration): City Beat, 2 unions, Equality Cincinnati (3)
  • Angela Beamon (independent) (financial adviser): no endorsements located
  • Tim Dornbusch (independent) (head of plumbing and electrical co.): no endorsements located
  • Kevin Johnson (independent) (cleaning co. owner): no endorsements located

Member of the Cincinnati Board of Education (4 to be elected)
The Cincinnati school board election is important this year because there are four positions open on the nine-member board, and only one incumbent (Melanie Bates) is running for re-election.  Most of the candidates are Democrats or Charterites, and I didn't run across anybody identified as a Republican.  One observer notes that this is a particularly well-qualified slate, and, contrary to other recent elections, nobody running is an opponent of the public schools.   The candidates here are listed in order by number of endorsements. 
  • Melanie Bates (incumbent; hospital development liaison): Dem. Party, Charter Committee, Cincinnati Enquirer, Cinc. Federation of Teachers, Cinc. AFL-CIO, Equality Cincinnati (6)
  • Betsy Shank (retired teacher): Dem. Party, City Beat, Cinc. Federation of Teachers, Cinc. AFL-CIO, Cinc. Women’s Political Caucus, Equality Cincinnati (6)
  • Marcial A. Futel (financial services professional): Dem. Party, Cincinnati Enquirer, Cinc. Federation of Teachers, Cinc. AFL-CIO (4)
  • Daniel Minera (Pastor, Amigo Ministries): Dem. Party, Cinc. Federation of Teachers, Cinc. AFL-CIO, Cinc. Federation of Office Professionals (4)
  • Elisa Hoffman (Director, education nonprofit; recruiter, Teach for America): Charter Committee, Cincinnati Enquirer, Equality Cincinnati  (3)
  • Martha Good (attorney and adjunct law professor): City Beat, Cinc. Women’s Political Caucus, Progressive Majority (national PAC that supports progressive politicians)  (3)
  • Ericka Copeland-Dansby (Development Director for Boys and Girls Clubs of Cinc.): Charter Committee, Cincinnati Enquirer, Equality Cincinnati (3)
  • Sally O’Callaghan (former teacher): Charter Committee, City Beat  (2)
  • Victoria Straughn (clinical studies assistant, UC): no endorsements located

Local Issues
There are three local issues of import for the city of Cincinnati.  Seemingly almost all media sources, political groups, and public figures endorse Issues 1 and 2, renewal of levies for the public library and the Cincinnati Zoo respectively (neither of which would result in a tax increase).  Conversely, most parties call for a NO vote on Issue 4 (described below):

  • Issue 1: Renewal of a ten-year levy for the Cincinnati and Hamlton County Library
  • Issue 2: Renewal of a five-year levy for the Cincinati Zoo
  • Issue 4: "Pension reform"

Issue 4 proposes a city charter amendment that would semi-privatize Cincinnati's pension system.  It's backed by Tea Party groups, and their campaign is funded almost entirely by groups outside the Cincinnati metro area and occasionally outside the state.  Despite a troubled pension system, all of the credible source that I've run across, including Republican, Democratic, Charter, and independent City Council candidates, urge voting AGAINST issue 4, saying that it would result in massive service cuts in the city and/or significant tax increases.

When we first came to Cincinnati, almost nobody we voted for would ever get elected.  Now I anticipate that most candidates I vote for will get elected.  I guess that means either that I’ve changed or the city has changed.  I think it’s the latter.  That’s pleasing to me.

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