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.


At a glance
Attacks are topic No. 1 in classrooms
Body recovery part of work of NYC crews
Constituents' emotions unmitigated
Different faiths, all drawn to pray
Family clings to details of missing woman's fate
Jews seek normalcy
Local firefighters on task force joining rescue efforts
Muslims urged to give aid
No date, time for nation's air travel to resume
Outpouring of donations keeps blood supply steady
Relatives wait for word, pray
Stranded travelers find help in Florence
Tightened air security will be norm
Travelers wait, pray in deserted airport
Work resumes, but life is different
Wright-Patterson medical personnel join effort
PULFER: Cell phones
RADEL: Tristate sprouts flying flags
Reports bring sweep of river
Court upholds stay for Byrd
Luken suggests raises for cadets
- Luken unused to second place
Primary results
Council halts bid for road-extension vote
Superintendent's contract extended
Tristate A.M. Report
Woman shot outside school as it lets out