February 16, 1997
A new guy and a veteran
join the action


BY Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

It was a banner week in local politics; in one 168-hour period, both the Republican and Democratic parties gave the voting public something to scratch their heads over.

The environmentally-sensitive Democrats proved their commitment to recycling something other than aluminum cans by unveiling 65-year-old William Mallory Sr., the retired state representative, as a Cincinnati City Council candidate.

Hamilton County Republican Party chairman Mike Allen left many in his own party slightly bewildered by his choice of a virtual unknown - a 30-year-old real estate developer from Hyde Park named Tom Neyer Jr. - to fill the vacant county commissioner's seat created by Guy Guckenberger's ascendency to the municipal court bench.

If there is such a thing as reincarnation, Mr. Allen will come back as a left-handed relief pitcher. He has his own way of doing things; as a kid, he probably had a hard time keeping his Crayolas inside the lines.

There was considerable pressure on Mr. Allen to pick a woman for the job; six of the eight names that were being bandied around were women and some of them were political figures of substance - people like Diane Goldsmith, the long-time aide to Mr. Guckenberger; and Mary Anne Christie, the former Madeira mayor who ran Rebecca Groppe's successful campaign for county recorder last fall.

Magic age is 30

Another potential appointee - Shannon Walker Jones, an aide to U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot - was told that, at age 26, she was too young for such a lofty position. Those of us of more advanced years might have a hard time remembering much difference between 26 and 30, but that was the message Ms. Jones got. Never trust anybody under 30.

It didn't particularly matter that people all over were asking exactly who this amiable-looking young fellow is.

The money boys - the corporate types from the Republican Finance Committee who write checks with many zeroes - know perfectly well who he is. They will see to it that in 1998, when the young commissioner has to run on his own, he will have great wads of money to do it with.

Also, the Republican Party in Hamilton County has an uncanny knack for political alchemy; members know how to suck various vapors and gases from the atmosphere and transform them into solid matter, even gold.

Look at what they did with Bob Bedinghaus, Mr. Neyer's colleague on the county commission. Until he was anointed by the party, he was a clerk of the Delhi Township trustees, worrying about weed-whacking on public rights-of-way. Now, it seems, the stadium-meister is the dominant political figure in the county.

Mallory's back

The Democrats don't have the power in this county to mold political powerhouses the way the GOP does, but they do dominate Cincinnati City Hall politics.

No one in the Democratic Party sought out Mr. Mallory as a council candidate this year, but they weren't about to kick him out of bed for eating crackers either.

His is probably the strongest political name among black voters here; and that is a pretty good base to start with.

Many Cincinnati Democrats were having a hard time understanding why Mr. Mallory would want to get back into politics at the City Hall level, but the truth is, he misses the action.

And he understands that he can probably win. If he does, though, it means someone has to lose; and since five of the nine council members are Democrats, the odds are pretty high that it will be somebody of his own party.

That's why they're not exactly doing the Macarena over at City Hall to celebrate the Mallory candidacy.

Howard Wilkinson covers politics for The Enquirer. His column appears Sundays.

WILKINSON ARCHIVE