Berding’s Last Minute Appeal

As Democratic precinct captains prepare to decide on the party’s endorsements Tuesday for Cincinnati City Council, some party members are questioning whether enough notice was given for the meeting.

Meanwhile, one controversial candidate, Councilman Jeff Berding, has mailed a letter to precinct captains quoting prominent Democrats vouching that he’s a loyal party member, even as rumors swirl behind the scenes that he once tried to coordinate some campaigning with at least one Republican and a Charterite.

Also, about 30 new precinct captains recently were added to the roster, prompting some members to say that the deck is being stacked to ensure the party’s full nine-member council slate gets endorsed despite growing criticism.

Letters from the Cincinnati Democratic Committee (CDC) informing precinct captains about the meeting began arriving in mailboxes citywide on Thursday and Friday. The session will be held from 6:30-9 p.m. at Laborers’ Local 265 Meeting Hall, 3457 Montgomery Road in Evanston.

The CDC’s by-laws state that a seven-day notice is required before any group meeting. With most letters arriving either five or six days before Tuesday’s meeting, some Democrats are grumbling about the process. Party officials, however, replied that the requirement refers to when the notices are mailed, and this week’s letters comply with that provision.

Berding’s inclusion on the slate has irritated some Democrats. They are upset at Berding because of his extensive ties to Republican candidates and campaign contributors, his tendency to cut deals outside public meetings, and his frequent clashes with some Democrats on council.

To blunt the criticism and in an attempt to boost his credibility, Berding sent a mass mailing late this week that features quotations touting his candidacy from several popular Democrats. The mailing includes remarks by Hamilton County commissioners Todd Portune and David Pepper, City Councilwoman Laketa Cole, former Mayor Dwight Tillery, Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher and Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann.

But City Hall sources noted that Berding once contemplated coordinating some campaign efforts and pooling some campaign funds with other council members who are part of the so-called “Fiscal Five,” a faction that floated its own budget proposal last winter. Included in the proposal was a $3 million cut for the health department and handing the city’s social services funding over to the United Way and letting that agency decide how to allocate the money.

Others in the Fiscal Five were Democrat Laketa Cole; Republicans Chris Monzel and Leslie Ghiz; and Charterite Chris Bortz, who also is a registered Republican.

Ghiz confirmed that such a campaign strategy once was discussed, but nothing came of it.

“We talked about doing it at one time, but that was a long time ago,” she said. “It’s too late to do that now.”

Still, Ghiz acknowledged that she and Berding have asked Jeff Crammerding, Bortz’ campaign manager, for advice in the past.

The faction now is trying to distance themselves from one another. During the past week, Bortz complained to Cincinnati Post reporter Joe Wessels about his use of the Fiscal Five moniker. Although the faction once encouraged use of the term, that’s no longer so.

“That was the context of a particular debate,” Bortz told The Post. “As the conversation changes, all that does is serve to divide.”

Additionally, Berding was featured in a photograph with Republican city council candidate John Eby on Eby’s Web site — until Eby removed it a few weeks ago. Berding, a Bengals executive, helped the campaign of then-Hamilton County Commissioner Bob Bedinghaus against challenger Portune in 2000. Despite the help, Bedinghaus lost.

Berding has some reason to worry. In a poll last fall by former Councilman Charlie Winburn, a Republican who is seeking a return to office this year, Berding placed on the “bubble” — finishing in 10th place and just missing a seat on the nine-member council.

Hamilton County Democratic Party Chair Tim Burke and other party leaders back Berding, and some Democrats contend they are trying to ensure Berding has enough support when the CDC meets. The county party recently approved the appointment of about 30 new precinct captains.

Caleb Faux, the Hamilton County Democratic Party’s executive director, downplayed the action.

“Those were applications from people and had been building up for awhile,” he said. “Probably the majority of them were within in the city, but some were out in the county.”

— Kevin Osborne

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10 Comments on “Berding’s Last Minute Appeal”

  1. The Dean Says:

    “That was the context of a particular debate,” Bortz told The Post. “As the conversation changes, all that does is serve to divide.”

    What bullshit. The monicker was designed to divide from the beginning.

  2. fedupwithfiscalfive Says:

    one new precinct executive appointed in March is Berding’s council aide, at least 2 other March appointments helped on his ’05 campaign, and several March appointments are people affilliated with Pepper so they will support Berding

  3. Independent Says:

    If the Democrats endorse Jeff Berding when he is plotting and scheming with Republicans Ghiz, Bortz, Eby and Monzel to defeat good Democrats like Harris, Garry, Cooper and Young, then they will get what they deserve. Don’t be so stupid.

  4. cynic Says:

    I heard the party chair Burke sent a letter asking for people to support Berding at that meeting

  5. Sam Robinson Says:

    There’s an obvious solution. Make the Precinct Captains vote on the same Diebold “counting” machines citizens have to use. That’s the best way to ensure these Precinct Captains, with their pesky opinions, vote just exactly how they’re told to vote.

  6. Hamilton Cty BOE: we are not sheep Says:

    Sam–Did you vote in 2006 … Hamilton County BOE does NOT use Diebold machines. Hamilton County went out of their way to NOT follow the majority of the other OHIO precincts and uses equipment from Hart Intercivic Corp. Hamilton County had one of the most successful election records due to the fact that these machines allow both an electronic & paper copy of each vote. Unlike the Diebold equipment which only allows for an electronic version. The folks in Cleveland and other boards, not only in OH, but also nationwide, have looked to Hamilton County BOE for direction & recommendation on implementation of the new process.

  7. The Dean Says:

    See copies of Jeff Berding’s mailing here.

  8. The Dean Says:

    While we’re at it, see Burke’s letter here.

  9. Sam Robinson Says:

    Answering Hamilton County BOE –

    I went to my local polling place in 2006 and followed the procedures for casting an electronic ballot, but I have no confidence at all that I voted. No no one who has looked into how these machines work (Diebold’s, ES&S’s or Hart’s) should have any more confidence in the machines than I do. 

    Were “the folks in Cleveland” who came to see how you handle elections by any chance the same one’s who are under indictment for election fraud? Or the director who resigned under threat?

  10. Anonymous Says:

    If you cast a ballot in Hamilton County it was on paper – that was the official ballot. It was counted electronically through the scanner but the paper was your ballot. IF a recount is necessary it is the paper that will be looked at.

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