Democrats Make Package Deal, Including Berding

Voices were raised and tempers flared tonight as local Democrats debated whether incumbent Cincinnati City Councilman Jeff Berding should receive the party’s endorsement in this fall’s election.

By meeting’s end, a motion to hold individual votes on each candidate failed by a close 64-59 margin, possibly indicating that Berding is losing the support of his party’s base and could face trouble at the polls.

The Cincinnati Democratic Committee (CDC) met in Evanston to decide whether to support a nominating committee’s recommended nine-member slate.

A visibly nervous Berding scanned the room during the vote and had a campaign worker — Miles Lindahl — count along with party leaders to ensure the tally was accurate.

After the motion to hold individual votes failed, the CDC voted 75-43 to endorse the full slate. It includes Berding and fellow incumbents Laketa Cole, John Cranley, David Crowley and Cecil Thomas; former Councilwoman Minette Cooper; and challengers Brian Garry, Greg Harris and Wendell Young.

Asked by CityBeat to comment after the meeting, Berding said, “Why? You’re just going to write whatever you want to write.” Pressed to clarify if that was a “no comment,” Berding replied, “That’s a ‘no comment’ to you, yes.”

During a private meeting two weeks ago, Berding also barely received the nominating committee’s recommendation. When the committee voted on Berding’s endorsement, the tally was 9-8 in favor, with some members abstaining. Among those voting then to support Berding was Lindahl, who Berding plans on hiring as his campaign manager and who previously worked for Hamilton County Commissioner David Pepper. Lindahl said he hadn’t yet spoke with Berding about working for his campaign when the vote was cast.

“I was very moved by what Jeff said in the nominating committee and submitted my resume,” Lindahl said. “David Pepper recommended me after I did that.”

Lindahl emphasized that he hasn’t yet signed a contract with the Berding campaign or received any payment for his services. He did, however, issue a press release to the media on Berding’s behalf within minutes of tonight’s vote.

Some critics allege that Berding’s supporters — who include Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Tim Burke — stacked the deck in Berding’s favor. The county party recently approved the appointment of about 30 new precinct executives, many of whom are Berding supporters.

Also, some Berding opponents questioned the way the votes were tallied tonight, with party leaders making a quick count of people standing in the crowded room.

Earlier in the meeting, former Congressman Tom Luken — a Berding critic — proposed splitting the decision into votes on individual candidates, igniting a bitter debate about whether Berding has supported his fellow Democrats on city council and has remained true to core Democratic principles. Tom Schuermann, a nominating committee member, said the CDC should support voting on each candidate individually.

“What I’m trying to figure out is if everybody here is a Democrat, why are we afraid if these people cannot survive this room by being voted on individually? What is the point?” Schuermann said.

Many rank-and-file are upset at Berding because of his extensive ties to Republican candidates and campaign contributors, his proposal last winter to cut $3 million from the city’s health department, a tendency to cut deals outside public meetings and his frequent clashes with some Democrats on council.

Chandra Yungbluth, formerly the party’s executive director, opposed individual votes.

“Every person in this room was afforded the opportunity to sit on that committee … and most of us declined,” she said.

The group’s work should be respected and the full slate should be endorsed, Yungbluth said.

At least three members in the audience, however, said they applied to be on the nominating committee but were rejected and never given an explanation why, despite requests.

“I asked how people were chosen and was never given a straightforward answer,” said Chris Seelbach.

In fact, committee co-chair Areyh Alex said about 50 people applied. Only 20 were selected, including Burke and former Mayor Dwight Tillery.

“We tried to pick a balanced slate of committee members because we didn’t think a 50-member committee would be functional, so we narrowed it down,” Alex said.

Responding to complaints from Luken and others, Alex said all committee members were Cincinnati residents but added that Tillery and another member weren’t precinct executives. Under the CDC’s by-laws, not all members have to be precinct executives; and if members don’t like that provision, they can always work to change it, Alex said.

As the crowd spilled in the parking lot after the meeting, some precinct executives vowed to create a group called “Democrats Against Berding” and actively oppose his candidacy this fall.

Burke downplayed the discord, describing it as characteristic of the party’s transparent endorsement process.

“Welcome to the Democratic Party,” he said. “Greg Harris referred to us as a family (in his speech). We are sometimes a dysfunctional family. I’m satisfied we have a strong slate. In the Democratic Party, there will always be people who object to something. Some people will object to certain members on this slate. I believe this slate will succeed in retaining a majority of Democrats on city council.”

Berding’s supporters noted that many of his actions were taken to demand greater accountability about how city funds are spent. Opponents, however, have countered that Berding and the Fiscal Five included funding in the municipal budget for several questionable items, such as the Chamber of Commerce and the Center for Closing the Health Gap in Greater Cincinnati. The latter group is headed by Tillery — who, critics say, has no healthcare experience and got the lucrative job based solely on his political connections.

Berding, 40, is sales director for the Cincinnati Bengals. He managed the successful campaign in 1996 to increase Hamilton County’s sales tax by a half-cent to build new stadiums for the Bengals and Reds. He later was hired by the team. Berding is seeking re-election to a second city council term this November.

— Kevin Osborne

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26 Comments on “Democrats Make Package Deal, Including Berding”

  1. Berding really has no idea how the media is supposed to work, does he? I’ve heard of this guy being so out-and-out rude to members of the media that I have to wonder what his IQ is. Berding definitely did the Dems’ reputation no favors with this newcomer in town.

  2. young dem Says:

    Though I oppose Berding as a candidate, I am not against his endorsement.

    Berding’s endorsement proves that the Democratic Party is the open, umbrella party that we claim it to be. There is room for everyone on the left side of the political spectrum, from the solid moderate to the staunch socialist.

    “I’m not a member of any organized political party, I’m a Democrat!” – Will Rogers

  3. Anonymous Says:

    The reason why people don’t like Jeff is because he lies. He lies because he has never accomplished anything on council.

  4. moment of truth Says:

    I don’t recall Harris saying we’re a family. I recall him passionately saying that we need to serve those who are “voiceless” in today’s political process. He got the loudest applause of the night. If anything, it seemed a subtle dig at Berding and the interests he represents.

  5. Anonymous Says:


  6. Lynn W. Says:

    Actually Harris said that coming to a Democratic meeting is like coming to a family reunion.

  7. Firestarter Says:

    I do not know why I continue to delude myself into believing that small “d” democracy can exist in the HCDP-if 50 people wanted to be on the endorsement committee Burke should have never been given a seat at that table. The key to last nights vote was the new precinct execs-Kevin you need to find out who was recently appointed to ensure the success of Burke/Yungbluth’s dirty plans. To Jeff Berding-the gloves are off, how do I declare war on you!

  8. Burdened by Berding Says:

    They allowed people who were not precinct executives to be seated in the same area with precinct executives- this certainly didn’t help when it came time to count votes. In the past, the non-voting observers were in a distinctly separate area. A difference of 5 votes in my mind should have been reason to do a recount. Aryeh Alex ignored Kathy Helmbock’s hand in the air and recognized another, Tolliver I think, who does Burke’s bidding. One of the endorsement comm. members was seated near Helmbock and commented to those around her that Helmbock’s hand was up first.

  9. anon Says:

    the way people were picked to serve on the committee to endorse was probably also a question on the Bar exam and that is why Chris Seelbach never understood it.

  10. Anonymous Says:

    The Cincinnati Democratic Committee’s by-laws mandate that the county Party chair have a voting seat on all committees. So, Burke was appointed to the committee, he was automatically on it.

  11. NBS Says:

    Dems: Why don’t we trade you our disloyal Leslie Ghiz for your disloyal Jeff Berding and call it a day?

  12. Chris Seelbach Says:

    If that comment was meant to be low blow, I’ll happily take it.

    Not immune or afraid of criticism here.

    Comment was probably just meant to insult, but if the anonymous person is interested in having a conversation, please email at

  13. The Democrats have once again proved they are a “Big Stadium” party that welcomes corporate Republicans because there is no difference between the two parties at all, AT ALL. Tim Jurkes misleadership should be obvious as well as the fact that Democrats are the ones pushing the jail and the draconian drug laws that fill them up.

    It is clear that there is nothing democratic about the Democratic party. This tired old party can’t be reformed, though many great people have tried. If you want to pull the party back from the far right to the center then leave it. This will cause a trimmer in the power structure and suddenly the party bosses will react to all those they ignore when it really matters.

    The Green party opposes the jail tax, the draconian drug law and corporate welfare. We support health and human services, living wages, inclusive development, affordable housing, clean elections and environmental justice. Get on board the people first agenda and leave the part-time progressives and corporate shills behind.

    The Green Party is the peace and social justice party!

  14. Happy Says:

    Most important: the Green Party has no incumbent or non-incumbent candidates! Very impressive.

  15. Anonymous Says:

    No difference at all?

    The writer is an idiot who need look no further than today’s Supreme Court opinion or Iraq to know the difference.

    And being ID’d as a Green? That’s what gave us Bush in Fla. in 2000 – talk about jurks. They’re called Green for more than one reason – green is also naive beginners who have no clue.

  16. voiceofreason Says:

    I’m sure you’ve heard the news by now about how the killer had “Ismael Ax” scribbled on his arm and he sent a package to NBC News with the return address (i.e. his address) bearing the name “A. Ishmail” — Why associate himself (a Korean whose name is Cho Seung-Hui) with Ishmael? Obviously he was cryptically indicating that he is a Muslim terrorist. Obviously “Ismael Ax” is broken foreign mangled English for Axe of Ishmael, and he is claiming to be Ishmael’s Axe or in other words, a Muslim executioner. He also made references to “martyrs” in his notes to NBC. But although NBC released the facts of what was scribbled on his arm and what the return address of his package is, they are too PC to mention what it indicates and what this means–America has been attacked again, by Islam. This is 911 all over again, but this time Bush and the media together will sweep it under the rug and make it all about gun control rather than Islam.

  17. anon Says:

    Excellent report of last night’s meeting!!!!

    Though I do have to admit, I was surprised to find the pro-Berding fliers on the chairs upon entering the meeting. Weren’t the phone calls enough????

  18. A Concerned Reader Says:


    LOL … good point. It’s a deal!

  19. Happy, will you be happy when we announce our candidate?

    Anon, you are very confused. It was the Supreme Court that gave Bush the election even though Gore won. That’s why Scalia’s son Eugene got a job with the administration and so did Rhenquists daughter. O’Conner was pissed when Gore was first announced the winner, she was overheard at a party saying “this is terrible”. Not to mention the fact that 80,000 registered voters were scrubbed from the voter roles because they were guilty of being black thanks to Jeb Bush and Kathrine Harris. Why couldn’t Gore win his own state? He ran a shitty campaign that’s why.

    The Democrats are pushing the jail, funding the war, keeping war with Iran on the table, voting for the Patriot Act, NAFTA and so much more. You call me an idiot because you can’t tell me what the difference is? Come on and tell us the difference!

  20. Happy Says:

    I will be impressed and happy if and when you ever run a candidate, or any set of candidates, that actually have a chance of winning. But actually running any candidate would be a start, I guess.

    All you do now is attack Democrats from the sidelines, and occasionally run non-viable candidates who lead to Republicans winning–and those Republicans go on to do all the things you dislike the most. It’s a very impressive strategy, and has led to wonderful results for all.

  21. Jimmy Joe Says:

    Oh you nutty leftists! Nothing more fascinating than you folks whining about how other’s money is spent, or in the case of Cole, Berding, not spent. After 6 years of city council gorging itself on tax money, those two had the courage to step up and stop the bleeding. I wonder how many of you actually pay city tax, have jobs outside the service industry or gov’t jobs. Can’t wait for the response. Flame on.

  22. Anonymous Says:

    “Jimmy Joe” — which one of the fiscal phonies are you with: Berding, Bortz, Ghiz or Cole?

    They double promise money and their budget never balanced.

    They falsely promised millions of dollars in private resources that has never materialized.

    They said they were “preserving” one million dollars for clean and safe neighborhood funds, then they raided them.

    Berding gorged on giving the Chamber of Commerce extra money.

    Cole gorged on $250,000 for the Tillery health alliance.

    Bortz gorged on millions for the arts boards.

    Berding gorged on money for the partnering center.

    Read their bullshit budget on the city website.

  23. Burdened by Berding Says:

    Ghiz and Berding were spawned by the devil so we’ll need to exorcise City Hall when they’re out come November

  24. NKY's Finest Says:

    Although I am not a registered voter in the city of cincinnati yet, I will throw my opinion in because I will be a resident within a few weeks.
    Berding is no worse than the rest of them. All the members on the current council have their own weaknesses. They are all human and are influenced by greed, and power no more or less than the rest of us.
    That is why I am voting for Holbrook and no one else, compared to everyone else he is the only one I feel like I could have a conversation with in real life.
    So screw ghizzy, berding, bortz, cole and the rest of the liars. Mark Holbrook, and only Holbrook on your ballet and send a wake up call to the liars on council.

  25. fedupwithfiscalfive Says:

    go to and watch video of the meeting- story is called no democracy for cincinnati

  26. Happy, we’ll have a viable candidate bfore you know it while the Democrats keep running Republicans while that not losing to the worst of the Republicans. Don’t blame us for you weak candidates. That how the Dems role, always blame the Republicans and anybody else for your massive failures.

    Democrats voted for the War, the Patriot Act, NAFTA and all the crappy policies you want to pin on Bush alone. Hell, even when you win your still losers that don’t stand for anything but the status quo and the interests of your corporate paymasters. Keep running candidates that push jail, draconian drug laws and wars. You must be so proud of you victories that bear no fruit for the people your sorry party is supposed to represent. You might as well run Jimmy Joe the status quo ho!

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