Thursday, November 09, 2000

Bedinghaus lost support in suburbs




By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Republican voters deserted Bob Bedinghaus in his bid for re-election to the Hamilton County Commission on Tuesday.

        The county's suburbs, where Republicans outnumber Democrats 3-1, did not vote in large enough numbers for Mr. Bedinghaus to defeat Democratic Cincinnati Councilman Todd Portune.

[photo] Todd Portune smiles Wednesday, the day after his election triumph. Fellow city Councilman Paul Booth had just given him a “political” Beanie Baby.
(Enquirer photo)
| ZOOM |
        Mr. Portune won the election with 48 percent of the vote, compared with Mr. Bedinghaus' 43 percent. Libertarian Paul Naberhaus captured 9 percent.

        Although Mr. Bedinghaus carried hard-core Republican townships — such as Delhi, Green, Anderson and Sycamore — his support in those areas dipped significantly from his 1996 campaign.

        That made all the difference.

        “The hard-line conservative Republicans totally abandoned Bob,” said Pete Witte, a member of the Family First PAC who is active in Republican Party politics. “They felt betrayed because of the (lease) deal the county signed with the Bengals.”

        “That hit 'em in their wallets, and those wounds run really deep. That's what did Bob in.”

        Suburban support in the four townships for Mr. Bedinghaus slipped by an average of 18 percentage points compared with his votes the last time he ran in 1996.

        In 1996, against Democrat Joseph Wolterman, Mr. Bedinghaus won Delhi, Green, Anderson and Sycamore townships with no less than 72 percent of the vote. On Tuesday, the most he got was 58 percent in Green Township.

WHY HE LOST
An analysis of the vote Tuesday shows that Republican County Commissioner Bob Bedinghaus lost large numbers of votes in places where he did well four years ago. Joseph Wolterman was the 1996 opponent. Selected areas:
Countywide 2000 Countywide 1996
Bedinghaus 43% Bedinghaus 60%
Portune 48% Wolterman 40%
Naberhaus 9%  
Cincinnati 2000 Cincinnati 1996
Bedinghaus 28% Wolterman 54%
Naberhaus 8%  
Delhi Twp. 2000 Delhi Twp. 1996
Bedinghaus 59% Bedinghaus 75%
Portune 32% Wolterman 25%
Naberhaus 9%  
Anderson Twp. 2000 Anderson Twp. 1996
Bedinghaus 56% Bedinghaus 77%
Portune 33% Wolterman 23%
Naberhaus 11%  
   
        Coupled with that, Mr. Bedinghaus lost 18 percentage points in the city of Cincinnati compared to 1996.

        That opened the door just enough for Mr. Portune to become the first Democrat elected to the county commission since 1964.

        “That's exactly why I lost,” Mr. Bedinghaus said Wednesday.

        Joe Deters, chairman of the county's Republican Party, said his party's polling showed all along that the commissioner was in serious trouble with his base.

        That's why the party launched a six-figure advertising campaign — financed to a large extent by a $100,000 contribution by Reds' owner Carl Lindner — aimed at tearing down Mr. Portune.

        “We were scared to death of losing the absentee ballots by such a wide margin that we couldn't close the gap,” Mr. Deters said. “We threw everything at Todd and he survived it.”

        “People are clearly still upset about the stadium stuff.”

        That “stuff” includes $46 million in cost overruns at Paul Brown Stadium, million-dollar decisions made in closed-door executive sessions and a generous lease given to Bengals' owner Mike Brown.

        Now that a Democrat will be on the commission for the first time in three decades, what can the voters who put him there expect?

        Gene Beaupre, a political science professor at Xavier University, said Mr. Portune's experience at City Hall will help him at the county. City politics is much more contentious than the county, Mr. Beaupre said, and as a minority member of the commission, Mr. Portune is in for some battles.

        Mr. Portune said he has a few battles already picked for when he takes office Jan. 2.

        He wants to put together a plan for the county to roll back property taxes and wants the county to stop taking interest off special levies for its general fund.

        He also wants to ask County Auditor Dusty Rhodes for suggestions on how the county can save money in other areas and to have County Administrator Dave Krings put together a report on how the half-penny sales tax increase for stadiums can be retired in 20 years.

        “I think it will be healthy,” Mr. Portune said of his election. “You'll have a different view and a different perspective.”

       



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