Thursday, September 13, 2001
Luken unused to second place
Primary results boost to Fuller
By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Charlie Luken woke up Wednesday to find himself a political underdog for perhaps the first time in his career.
I want to be clear: I got whopped, the 50-year-old Cincinnati mayor said after finishing 16 points behind Courtis Fuller in Tuesday's primary.
It may have been the unusually high turnout in predominately black wards. It may be that Mr. Luken's supporters thought he was a shoo-in and didn't vote. It may be that turnout was affected by Tuesday's terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Whatever it was, Mr. Luken did not make excuses.
Turnout in neighborhoods that supported me wasn't as high, but that doesn't explain it all, he said, looking worn out from Tuesday's events locally and nationally and from being a pint low after giving blood.
I like to think that people vote their self-interest, and yesterday more voters thought that Courtis Fuller represented their self-interest.
Until now, he said, many voters saw the election as a referendum on the riots. With Mr. Luken and Mr. Fuller considered to be the top two candidates from the beginning, voters could use their primary vote to voice displeasure with Mr. Luken's leadership.
In the general election, he said, voters will have to make a different decision: which man is best qualified to be mayor for the next four years.
Mr. Luken saw the writing on the wall early Tuesday. Hearing reports of high turnout in black wards and low turnout in his native west side he drafted a statement congratulating Mr. Fuller on his strong showing at 4 p.m. more than three hours before the polls closed.
Technically, Mr. Luken didn't lose the nonpartisan primary. Under the new system for directly electing a mayor, the top two vote-getters proceed to the Nov. 6 general election.
And while Mr. Luken said the results could help energize his campaign, he didn't find much in the results that he could be satisfied with.
True, a higher-than-average turnout in large, predominately black neighborhoods such as Bond Hill, Roselawn and Avondale did help Mr. Fuller. But that's not the whole story.
Even some majority white neighborhoods such as Clifton and Pleasant Ridge went overwhelmingly for Mr. Fuller.
Mr. Luken won just seven of the 26 wards, including the more affluent neighborhoods of Mount Washington, Hyde Park, Mount Lookout, Sayler Park, Price Hill, Covedale and Westwood.
And including the votes for two other independent candidates, Bill Brodberger and Michael Riley, almost 62 percent of the city voted against the incumbent.
In many cities with a nonpartisan, runoff system of electing mayors, there's no runoff if a candidate gets a majority in the first round.
Under such a system, Mr. Fuller said, he'd most likely be the mayor-elect right now.
Mr. Fuller, a 44-year-old former news anchor running for office for the first time, now finds himself the front-runner.
He said he knows Tuesday's results don't mean anything in November. But he hopes the results will prove he's a contender and help him even up Mr. Luken's 11-to-1 fund-raising advantage.
Dwight Tillery, the former mayor who now heads the African-American Political Caucus, said the Charter Committee's candidate needed a decisive win on Tuesday.
You can minimize the numbers. You can spin them. You can take them any way you want, but the fact is that Fuller won, he said.
Winning the primary was probably more important for Fuller than it was for Luken. Luken has been mayor before. We know he can get votes. But now Fuller has won something, and it's got to be a lift for his campaign, Mr. Tillery said.
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Tightened air security will be norm
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Wright-Patterson medical personnel join effort
PULFER: Cell phones
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Luken suggests raises for cadets
Luken unused to second place
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Superintendent's contract extended
Tristate A.M. Report
Woman shot outside school as it lets out