Dem dilemna: 10 candidates, only nine council seats

May 7, 2013

Now that the Cincinnati Democratic Committee has endorsed 10 Cincinnati City Council candidates, the trick for the party will be to let loyal Democrats know that they can only vote for nine of them.

“Yes, we need to develop a message on that,’’ said Hamilton County Democratic Party chairman Tim Burke said. “And, yes, it is a highly unusual situation.”

What happened was this:

Several weeks ago, the Cincinnati Democratic Committee’s nominating committee voted to endorse all six Democratic council incumbents for re-election – P.G. Sittenfeld, Chris Seelbach, Laure Quinlivan, Yvette Simpson, Wendell Young, and newly-appointed council member Pam Thomas.

Eight non-incumbent candidates were interviewed and three were recommended by the nominating committee for endorsement – Greg Landsman, the head of The Strive Partnership; Michelle Dillingham, president of Kennedy Heights Community Council; and Shawn Butler, an aide to Mayor Mark Mallory.

Left off the list by only one vote was David Mann, the former councilman, mayor and congressman who is trying to return to council after a 20-year absence.

Many Cincinnati Democrats – Mann included – believed he should not have been snubbed, as a Democrat who was a major figure in the party from the 1970s into the early 1990s. Mann wrote a letter to the members of the Cincinnati Democratic Committee, made up of elected precinct executives from around the city, asking them to reconsider.

On Saturday morning, there was a meeting of the Cincinnati Democratic Committee to act on the nominating committee’s recommendations.  About 80 of them showed up.

A motion was made to accept the nominating committee recommendations, and Burke amended the motion to include Mann – bringing the total number of endorsed candidates to 10. It passed by a large margin.

Before the meeting, Burke had sent a letter to members of the committee urging them to endorse 10 candidates – including Mann – for the nine council seats up for election this fall. The nominating committee, Burke said, erred in leaving him off the list.

“Given David’s long history of service as a city council member, mayor, and member of the United States Congress, his consistent support of Democratic principles and ideals, and his proven fundraising and vote-getting ability, I believe that was a mistake,’’ Burke wrote.

But, in the end, voters can only vote for nine.

The Democratic Party will print thousands of sample ballots to be distributed outside polling places in November; and now, Burke said, the party will have to craft a message to make sure their voters vote for only nine.

But will that cause many over-votes, which are disqualified?

Burke doesn’t think so.

“The fact is that if a person over-votes, the scanner spits out the ballot and the voter can fill out another ballot to correct the mistake,’’ Burke said.

In most council elections, Burke said, the average voter casts ballots for only about 6.3 candidates.

“Relatively few voters vote for nine,’’ Burke said. “Yes, this is unusual. It is unprecedented, as far as I know. But we will make it work.”