Council Alumni Might Run Again

Although most of their focus is on this fall’s campaigns for Hamilton County Commissioner and Ohio’s gubernatorial and congressional races, some political observers already are salivating about a potential knockdown, drag-out fight brewing in next year’s race for Cincinnati City Council.

The local Republican and Democratic parties are quietly gauging who is interested in mounting a city council campaign, and some familiar names have surfaced.

Party insiders say former City Councilwoman Minette Cooper is mulling another run as a Democrat, while former councilmen Charlie Winburn and Sam Malone are considering jumping into the race on the GOP side. To further cement the “school reunion” feel, former Councilman Christopher Smitherman, who previously ran as a Charterite, might run again as an independent.

Cooper left city council in late 2003, after serving four terms and eight years, due to term limits. Ten months before term limits also would’ve forced him from office, Winburn left city council in February 2001 after seven years. The Republican Party helped him get an appointment to the Ohio Civil Rights Commission.

Winburn was the GOP’s mayoral candidate in 2005 but finished a distant third in the primary, capturing 21 percent of the vote. Party insiders say Winburn would return to council in preparation to make another run for mayor in 2009. He was spotted at city council’s meeting last week and made sure to stand exactly behind Cincinnati School Board member Melanie Bates as she held a press conference on the steps of City Hall.

Malone won his first council term in November 2003. Two years later he barely missed re-election, finishing 10th in the balloting for nine council seats, when he was facing a misdemeanor domestic violence charge for allegedly beating his 14-year-old son with a belt. Malone was later acquitted of the charge.

Smitherman served one term on council before losing a re-election bid in November 2005. He was an outspoken critic of the city’s financial practices and police violence, which raised the ire of the police union and then-County Prosecutor Mike Allen.

Part of the reason sparking interest among the ex-members is a belief in some circles that city council doesn’t adequately reflect Cincinnati’s diversity. In a city where nearly 45 percent of the population is African-American, only two of the nine city council members are black.

Whether Cincinnati voters would be willing to return so many ex-members to council remains uncertain. Last year, when four incumbents left council, two of them — David Pepper and Alicia Reece — did so of their own accord to run for mayor. Malone and Smitherman each were replaced by candidates of their own parties — Republican Leslie Ghiz and Charterite Chris Bortz — who held more moderate views.

Next year only one member, Vice Mayor Jim Tarbell, will leave due to term limits. Another member, John Cranley, could also leave if he wins his congressional race against U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Westwood). That means it’s likely up to eight incumbents will be vying for nine seats, making any large-scale shakeup an uphill battle for challengers.

Also, rightly or wrongly, the previous council had a reputation for bickering and accomplishing little of substance. Overcoming that reputation might be the largest hurdle for council alumni.

Returning to city council after a defeat can be done. Just ask Councilman Chris Monzel. He was first appointed by the Republican Party to replace Winburn on council in February 2001 and elected in his own right the following fall, only to be defeated in a 2003 re-election bid. But Monzel returned to the group to fill Pat DeWine’s unexpired term when DeWine left for the Hamilton County Commission in January 2005, before finally winning re-election last fall.

— Kevin Osborne

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6 Comments on “Council Alumni Might Run Again”

  1. Yossarian Says:

    Everyone should take a note from the ghiz campaign book: make promises that you never plan on keeping, then grandstand and hope that the public can’t remember seven months ago.

    Ghiz, where are the night meetings? Ghiz, where is the cut in council pay? Have you brought it up once in a meeting? NOOOO, you are to busy being outraged every week.

    Is this what you teach the people who work in your office who are running for office? And BTW, How much money that you promised NOT to take have you given to campaigns?

  2. Brendan Says:

    Charlie Windbag, Cincinnati’s greatest politicaloportunist since Ken Blackwell, will run for any office under any political affiliation that will have him. He’s pretty much a washed up has-been at this point.

  3. Josh Krekeler Says:

    If Cranley gets elected to Congress, who gets to name his replacement, and who’s the most likely choice? I don’t know if Damon Lynch III, the Democrat with the highest vote total who didn’t get elected, is still interested in serving, but if so, wouldn’t all
    those votes give him a strong reason to expect an appointment?

  4. The truth Says:

    Actually, Wendell Young — former Cincinnati police officer — got the most votes. He should get it.

  5. Donny Shacks Says:

    i would anticipate alicia reece to re-emerge as an ’07 council candidate. her options have dwindled to working for her father’s crummy little business that makes little money.

    alicia is steve’s meal ticket to generate a little “shake-down” biz and place some campaign media, as long as she’s running for or on council.

    god forbid…

  6. Sid Says:

    This is so sad. Reece? Cooper? Windburn? Malone? Does the city rutterly lack in thoughtful people who aspire to public service?! We just recycle granstanding Party hacks who run for Council because they literally need a job (Reece, Cooper, Malone), or those motivated out of self-adulation (Windburn).

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