Tuesday, June 12, 2001

Owens may oppose Luken

Mayor files candidacy petitions

By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        While Charlie Luken was filing his petitions Monday to become a candidate for Cincinnati mayor, a well-known African-American physician was mulling over Republican feelers to take on the incumbent Democrat.

        Dr. O'dell Owens, a North Avondale physician, said Republican Party officials — staring at a June 28 deadline to come up with a mayoral candidate — have approached him about running.

        “That's a major decision, but I am giving it some serious thought,” said Dr. Owens, medical director of United Healthcare of Ohio and a nationally known fertility specialist.

What issues do you think are important for mayoral candidates to discuss?
        Dr. Owens said he expected to give Republican Party officials an answer this week. He said he would pick up petitions at the Hamilton County Board of Elections and start trying to get the 500 signatures of registered city voters needed to qualify “just in case.”

        The GOP has had a hard time finding someone willing to take on Mr. Luken, who has been mayor since December 1999, when he returned to council after a nine-year absence.

        This year, the 49-year-old Democrat is the only party-endorsed candidate so far in what will be the city's first direct election for mayor since 1923.

        The mayor elected this

        fall, because of a charter amendment approved by Cincinnati voters two years ago, will have enhanced powers, including the power to initiate the hiring and firing of the city manager, to veto council legislation and appoint council committee chairmen.

        Mr. Luken started his campaign in February with a large fund-raising event that drew much of the city's business establishment, including many Republicans.

        But he did not formally become a candidate until Monday, when he filed petitions and held a press conference at which he pledged “straight talk” about the city's racial problems.

        “We are under a microscope in Cincinnati,” Mr. Luken said.

        “We have a lot of problems in this city that can not be swept under the rug,” he said. “But we also have an opportunity. An opportunity to become the model for America on how a city can deal with its problems.”

        The top two vote-getters in the Sept. 11 mayoral primary will face off in the November general election.

        But it is not clear if the primary will be necessary — neither the Republican Party nor the Charter Committee have endorsed candidates for mayor.

        Only one independent candidate has filed the signatures needed to make the primary ballot. Bill Brodberger, a Madisonville resident who owns a private security firm in Roselawn, has never run for office.

        The Republicans have talked to a number of well-known GOP political figures about the possibility of running, including Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, a former mayor; former Councilman Charles Winburn and present Councilman Phil Heimlich, who is term-limited off council this year.


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