Sunday, June 17, 2001


City Council candidates rarin' to go

        Do the math:

        All nine Cincinnati City Council seats are up for election this year.

        By the time the Aug. 23 candidate filing deadline rolls around, there are likely to be about 25 candidates — Democrats, Republicans, Charterites and independents.

        A lot more people will lose than win.

        With the election fewer than five months away, this is the season when the political parties roll out their slates of council candidates.

        They are, as always, full of fresh-faced, first-time candidates, all jazzed up about the political process and rarin' to make their debuts on the Chautauqua circuit of church festivals and community council meetings that make up a Cincinnati City Council campaign.

        Occasionally, lightning strikes and a first-time candidate wins, but usually only if they have a familiar name and loads of campaign money. (See Pat DeWine, Republican, 1999.)

        Others get whipped but are determined to come back in two years for more. Others get beat like rented mules and, like running mates on losing presidential tickets, are never heard from again.

        This year, though, they all have stars in their eyes.

        There are at least two pieces of good news the non-incumbents can cling to:

        • Republican Phil Heimlich is term-limited out.

        • The direct mayoral election system that debuts this year means they won't have Democrat Charlie Luken to contend with.

        Want more good news, challengers? Consider this: Republican Chris Monzel, appointed earlier this year, is by no means a safe bet to be elected on his own.

        Mr. Monzel, who inherited Charlie Winburn's seat but not his unfailing ability to get his name in print, ran in 1999 and received only 9,486 votes. It took 23,241 that year to win. It was like entering a 26-mile marathon and collapsing on the asphalt at the 11-mile mark.

        Charterite Jim Tarbell, Democrat Minette Cooper and Democrat Paul Booth finished seventh, eighth and ninth, respectively, in 1999.

        Mr. Booth and Ms. Cooper, conventional wisdom says, have probably improved their positions, but Mr. Tarbell, never particularly popular among Cincinnati's growing number of black voters, has not.

        That means the Charter Committee, Cincinnati's independent political party, is at risk of losing its one council member. The only way it can improve its position is for one of its non-incumbents — first-time candidates Dawn Denno, John Schlagetter and Kino Harrison — to somehow break through the clutter.

        The Republicans aren't much better off. Most assume that Mr. DeWine will be re-elected, but the GOP's three African-American non-incumbents — Tom Jones, Sam Malone and Todd Ward — are considered long shots.

        One independent — former council aide Laketa Cole — is given a chance because of her growing support among African-American voters.

        A real possibility is that, on Dec. 1, Cincinnati — which many believe is a Republican city — will have a Democratic mayor and a nine-member council with eight Democrats.

        Boss Cox must be spinning in his grave.

        Howard Wilkinson covers politics. Call 768-8388 or e-mail at


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