BY HOWARD WILKINSON
The Cincinnati Enquirer
A last look back at the year that was in politics:
January: An apocalyptic vision takes on corporeal form, as the five-headed beast known as The Coalition first makes its presence known at City Hall.
February: Ohioans are denied what might have been one of the all-time great slugfests of 1998 when U.S. Sen. John Glenn announces he will not run for re-election.
Had the 76-year-old former Mercury astronaut decided to go for one more term, it would have set up a contest between two of Ohio's all-time heavyweight champs - Mr. Glenn, American hero, vs. George Voinovich, Teflon governor.
March: Ohio Treasurer J. Kenneth Blackwell kicks off his yearlong campaign to drive the GOP leadership insane by distributing a 10-minute biographical video to the state party's biggest donors, thus fueling speculation that he will take on the party leadership's favorite, Secretary of State Bob Taft, for the 1998 gubernatorial nomination.
April: As if Ken Blackwell: The Movie were not enough to make the Taft crowd uneasy, Mr. Blackwell sends out another fund-raising letter to Ohio GOP donors - making it clear he is not thinking about running for re-election as treasurer.
May: The Ohio Republican Party holds a gala reception in downtown Columbus to unveil its state-of-the-art headquarters building. Attendees entered the Colonial-style building through its front door on Rich Street. But the powers-that-be within the party decided it probably wasn't a good idea for the party of capital gains tax cuts to have a Rich Street address, so they printed up new stationery saying the Ohio GOP now lives on South Fifth Street.
But the only way you are going to enter the GOP HQ from the SouthFifth Street side is with burglary tools.
June: Hamilton County Commissioner Bob Bedinghaus, architect of the stadium sales tax and Bengals stadium lease, says he might want to run for Ohio secretary of state in 1998. Ohio GOP says take a number.
July: The Republican National Committee meets in Cleveland and comes out four-square in favor of good old-fashioned ''soft money'' in political campaigns.
August: The five-headed coalition at City Hall - Phil Heimlich, Charles Winburn, Jeanette Cissell, Dwight Tillery and Minette Cooper - passes out $462,500 in pork barrel money that the city administration says it doesn't have.
September: A set of early campaign finance reports filed by the 18-candidate field for Cincinnati City Council shows that, as of mid-August, one of every 10 dollars raised came from someone named Lindner or somebody who works for one of the Lindners.
October: In 1997, soft money filters down to the city council level. A conservative political action committee called Family First, funded in large part by the Lindner family, dumps $100,000 into ads for Ms. Cissell and GOP candidate Rosemary Meyer, along with ads attacking Mayor Roxanne Qualls and Councilman Tyrone Yates.
November: Mr. Heimlich is supposed to be the GOP's hope for knocking off Ms. Qualls as top vote-getter in the council campaign. But, in an election where all nine incumbents are re-elected, Mr. Heimlich spends $456,352 and finishes sixth.
December: Ms. Qualls, after finishing first in the council race for the third election in a row, finds herself cut out of the council reorganization by the council members in The Coalition. Cincinnati Democrats howl at Mr. Tillery and Ms. Cooper for once again throwing in with the Republicans instead of working with the other three council Democrats.
Mr. Tillery says it was all the county party chairman's fault. Go figure.
Howard Wilkinson covers politics for the Enquirer.