Sunday, April 08, 2001

Politics


GOP rolls with the numbers

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        For a bunch of fiscal conservatives, the Hamilton County Republican Party doesn't seem to mind betting on a long shot now and again.

        They did it this week when they endorsed a slate of only five candidates for Cincinnati City Council in a race in which nine seats are up for grabs.

        Do the math:

        In this year in which the mayor will be directly elected for the first time and the 800-pound gorilla in the mayoral contest is an incumbent Democrat in a city that seems to be becoming more and more Democratic in its voting habits every year, the Republicans would have to win five seats on a nine-member council in order to have measurable clout in Cincinnati City Hall for the next two years.

        Five seats with five candidates.

        Win a $2 bet with those kinds of odds at the track and you will walk away with quite a payout.

        Electing five out of five in a council race is no mean feat, especially when you have no
mayoral candidate yet to help pull the ticket along.

        It is especially daunting when you start with only two incumbents — Pat DeWine and the newly appointed Chris Monzel, who has yet to be elected to anything.

        So what are they thinking down at Republican Party headquarters?

        Historically in Cincinnati, a political party running a short slate of council candidates has meant either the party has given up hope of gaining a council majority or has extraordinary confidence in its field of candidates. Usually the former.

        Perhaps the Republicans are banking on a different set of numbers than five and nine.

        The U.S. Census figures that came out last month showed not only that Cincinnati has been losing population faster than any other major city in Ohio, but showed a substantial demographic change as well.

        The city's white population dropped by about 45,000, accounting for much of the 9.1 percent overall population drop.

        At the same time, the city's African-American population increased to 142,176, making the city 43 percent black.

        So it is probably not happenstance that three of five Republican council candidates would be African Americans.

        The GOP endorsed Tom Jones, an Avondale neighborhood activist; Todd Ward, who ran unsuccessfully four years ago; and Sam Malone, who was an unsuccessful independent candidate in 1999.

        This is not what one would expect from a political party that carries a public image of being a club of white men in suits. Through the 1980s, the Republicans always ran one or two African-American candidates, but never have blacks been a majority of the slate.

        The danger for the Republican party in the slate they have endorsed is that many women voters may look at the sample ballots handed out at the polls Nov. 6 and discover the GOP hasn't bothered to include a woman, African-American or otherwise.

        Still, it is apparent the GOP is starting to realize that if they are to have a future in city politics they are going to have to run candidates who look like the city they want to represent.

        Howard Wilkinson covers politics. He can be reached at 768-8388 or via e-mail at hwilkinson@enquirer.com.

       



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