Wednesday, June 27, 2001

Luken may get GOP foe after all

Winburn thinking of run for mayor

By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Former Cincinnati Councilman Charles Winburn said Tuesday Republican party officials have asked him to run for mayor, but he wants them to resolve “some personal issues” before he commits to the race.

        Mr. Winburn would not say what those “personal issues” are, but GOP sources said they were trying to determine whether the 50-year-old Mount Airy minister could keep his paid position on the Ohio Civil Rights Commission while running for office.

        The filing deadline is 4 p.m. Thursday. Hamilton County Republican Party chairman Michael Barrett has scheduled a news conference for 10 a.m. today at GOP headquarters downtown. It is presumed he will announce a Republican mayoral candidate or say that the party is giving Democratic incumbent Charlie Luken a free ride.

        Mr. Winburn, who left council in February to accept the Civil Rights Commission post, said he wants to make the run against Mr. Luken in what will be the first direct election of a Cincinnati mayor since 1925.

        “I am convinced I can do it,” Mr. Winburn said. “But because of some personal issues, if they can't be resolved, I won't be running. I should know by 10 o'clock (this) morning.”

        As a commission member, Mr. Winburn can earn up to $70,000 a year investigating complaints of civil-rights violations filed by Ohio citizens.

        During his 1993-2001 tenure on city council, Mr. Winburn was one of its most visible and vocal members — advocating deep cuts in city spending, railing against use of taxpayers' money to sue gun manufacturers, creating his own privately funded gun-lock giveaway program and laying into the administration of City Manager John Shirey.

        The GOP, which pushed for the 1999 charter change that created the direct-mayor election system, has struggled this year to find a mayoral candidate.

        Party officials have talked to a wide assortment of potential candidates, including Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, a former mayor; two present council members, Phil Heimlich and Pat DeWine; and physician O'dell Owens.

        Mr. Winburn had been approached in the past, but turned party leaders down, citing his new job with the commission and family concerns. His wife has been battling cancer.

        Mr. Winburn said party leaders came to him recently with polling data that convinced him Mr. Luken's public-approval ratings had been damaged by the April rioting in Cincinnati and that, with a healthy campaign fund, he could be defeated.

        “They (party leaders) have put together a financial package that you could win with,” Mr. Winburn said.

        Mayoral candidates must file petitions containing the signatures of 500 registered Cincinnati voters with the Hamilton County Board of Elections by the Thursday deadline to qualify for the Sept. 11 primary. The winners in each primary will face each other in November.

        Only independent Bill Brodberger, a first-time candidate, has filed petitions. Michael D. Riley, an African-American community activist, also may qualify.

        Mr. Winburn said Tuesday that getting the petition signatures to get on the ballot “wouldn't be a problem.”


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