Monday, March 24, 2003

Dems back Cole for council

Ex-aide called 'people's choice' to succeed Booth

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

All that stands between Y. Laketa Cole and a seat on Cincinnati City Council is the paperwork.

After a weekend of intense politicking, at least five of six Democratic council members - plus Mayor Charlie Luken - now support Cole as the successor for Councilman Paul Booth, who is resigning to take a job in Columbus.

On Saturday, Councilman David Crowley joined Minette Cooper and Alicia Reece in supporting the 29-year-old Democrat from Bond Hill.

He made the decision after hearing from Booth himself, who said he supported Cole, a former assistant in his council office.

Sunday, former state Rep. Sam Britton - who only five days before was considered the hands-on favorite for the post - dropped out of contention, throwing his support behind Cole.

Age: 29
Home: Bond Hill
Education: Graduated from Aiken High School; received bachelor's degree in political science from Wittenberg University in Springfield; some graduate course work in public administration from the University of Cincinnati.
Career experience:
• Assistant to council members Dwight Tillery and Paul Booth, 1997-2001, public relations manager, Cincinnati Empowerment Corp., 2002-present.
On her style: "I don't try to politick people. I try to be honest with people, and be up front. That sometimes gets me in trouble. Sometimes people mistake my compassion for aggressiveness."
On working for Paul Booth: "It was a learning experience. He taught me to be patient. He was not high profile, but when he believed in something, he stuck to his ground."
On the boycott: "My stance has always been that it's important that we work to bring the community together. It's mostly about economic issues, and we all want to improve on those issues and move the city forward."
And John Cranley, after meeting with Cole Sunday afternoon, introduced her to a reporter as "the next councilwoman of the city of Cincinnati."

"From my view, no further interviews are necessary. She's the people's choice. And at this particular time in the city, we need to listen to that voice," Cranley said.

Cranley took Cole on a walking tour of East Price Hill Sunday, seeking her support for initiatives on crime, blight and litter.

That leaves only David Pepper, who was out of the country and unavailable for comment, as the only Democrat not to publicly support Cole. Other Democrats said they expected Pepper to rally behind the consensus candidate when he returns today.

The appointment won't be official until Booth formally resigns. Booth has named the five remaining Democrats on City Council as his "successor designates," who under the city charter must file their choice for his replacement with the Clerk of Council.

Council members said a blitz of support from African-American pastors, neighborhood activists and union leaders helped put her over the top.

Mostly, Democrats were impressed with her 2001 council campaign. After getting snubbed by Democrats, who left her off their endorsement list, she ran a strong independent effort. With just $47,455 in her campaign fund, she came in 10th place, just 1,589 votes out of the money. The next Democrat, University of Cincinnati political science professor Jane Anderson, came in 13th.

Cole got those votes with a vigorous grassroots campaign.

"She has an ability to mobilize people, and I am concerned about turnout in this coming election," Luken said Sunday. He doesn't get a vote for Booth's replacement, but nonetheless lobbied council Democrats on behalf of Cole.

"Part of it is a political consideration. She can get votes and get people out and win. And if she can do that, she can help the rest of the ticket in this campaign," Luken said.

Democrats have already endorsed all the incumbents, and will certainly add Cole to that list. That leaves four challengers to compete for just one seat considered truly up for grabs. Cooper cannot run again under the city's term limits.

Britton, 69, said Sunday he wasn't entirely sure how his support disappeared so quickly. But he said he wasn't discouraged and is plotting a campaign this fall.

"I guess I could say that some of the support, for whatever reason, wasn't where it was a week ago," he said. "I think Laketa will make a fine member of council. Let's give her a chance. It doesn't change my interest in council any way."

Cole herself was reluctant Sunday to weigh in on the issues facing City Council, saying she didn't want to take anything for granted.

"I can tell you who Laketa Cole is," she said. "I'm definitely a team player. The issues and problems that face one community really confront all our communities. We have more in common than not.

"To say anything else would be premature until it happens."


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