Sunday, September 02, 2001

Political Notebook

Voters to get choice on judges

        Some Hamilton County voters will have a chance Nov. 6 to do something they haven't done for three years:

        Vote in a local judicial election in which there is more than one candidate.

        Seven of Hamilton County's 14 municipal court judgeships are up for election this year, and there are contested races in four of them.

        Two years ago, all seven municipal court judges were elected without opposition and last year's election featured several common pleas and appeals court races in which there was only one name on the ballot.

        Republican and Democratic party officials say the lack of judicial candidates is mainly because municipal court judges are elected from districts.

        Democrats find it impossible to win in some heavily Republican districts; Republican candidates have the same problem in city districts where Democrats abide by the thousands.

        Leading question: Mayor Charlie Luken has faced a lot of questions on the campaign trail this year, but most of them start the same way.

        “Everywhere I go, it's, "In light of the current unrest,' — fill in the blank,” Mr. Luken told about 50 members of the Cincinnati Paralegal Association at a luncheon last week.

        “It's like, "In light of the current unrest, I have to go to the bathroom.' What does that mean?”

        Lights, camera, lunch: Mr. Luken's campaign manager, Brendon Cull, said campaign aides were “just eating lunch” in the mayor's City Hall office last Wednesday. Then what, Brendon, were you doing with those cameras and lights for three hours?

        Expect a new Luken campaign ad to hit the airwaves this week.

        Transit campaign: Supporters of the proposed quarter-cent sales tax increase for the Butler County Regional Transit Authority are gearing up a campaign to convince voters to approve a tax increase in November.

        Friends of Transit will meet at 2 p.m., Thursday on the fourth floor of the Government Services Center.

        The group is seeking volunteers to man phone banks and canvass neighborhoods drumming up support for the tax. Voters rejected the same tax initiative in May.

        The tax increase would generate $8 million a year and pay for a comprehensive transit program in rapidly growing Butler County. It would include routes, park-and-ride sites and Dial-A-Ride service.

       Media buzz: Cincinnati's first direct election of a mayor in 75 years is grabbing national headlines.

        Time magazine wrote a story last week. CNN's Inside Politics and NBC's Today show will send correspondents this week. Expect the focus to be on two things: the April riots and that Mr. Luken and Courtis Fuller are both former news anchors.

       Fuller won't debate: All four candidates for mayor of Cincinnati have been invited to a live debate on WLW (700 AM) 12:30-2 p.m. Tuesday. Host Bill Cunning ham will moderate what should be the first broadcast debate of the season.

        But Mr. Fuller's campaign will not participate, leaving Mr. Luken to debate independents Bill Brodberger and Michael Riley. Said a Fuller spokeswoman: “We've been doing debates left and right. We're trying to conduct a grass-roots campaign.”

       On the campaign trail: If you want to meet a candidate up close, your best best is Monday's Labor Day picnic at Coney Island.

        Thursday, it's off to the Harvest Home Parade, which steps off at 6 p.m. in Cheviot.
       Green candidate: Wes Flinn, a 28-year-old Clifton resident, is the Green Party's first candidate for Cincinnati City Council.

        Mr. Flinn, who teaches at Northern Kentucky University and is working on a doctorate in music theory at the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati, held a musical campaign kick-off at the Comet bar in Northside.

        Mr. Flinn played trombone.

        Compiled by reporters Howard Wilkinson, Gregory Korte and Steve Kemme.


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