One thing is certain in this year’s Cincinnati City Council election – there will be at least one new member taking office on Dec. 1.
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls is running for mayor; and that opens her seat to one of the 13 challengers in a field of 21 candidates, which includes all eight incumbents.
And given the passions that appear to be running high in the community about continuing city budget woes, the parking meter lease, the debate over the streetcar and whether Cincinnati’s neighborhoods are being neglected because of the attention paid to the The Banks and downtown development, there may be more new faces on council.
For the past 88 years, council was elected to two-year terms. Because of a charter amendment passed by voters last year, this council will be elected for four year terms, with an eight-year term limit.
The eight incumbents always have an advantage – they are better known; their faces show up continually on nightly TV news; they are heard on the radio; their names are in print almost daily.
Non-incumbents have to struggle hard to get their messages out.
Some are complete unknowns, such as independents Angela Beamon and Timothy Joseph Dornbusch. Others are very nearly household names, like David Mann, who served on council from 1974 to 1992, did two stints as mayor and served one term as the congressman from the 1st Congressional District.
Others have name recognition of a somewhat lesser extent, but they are not strangers to most Cincinnati voters – people like Amy Murray and Sam Malone, both of whom have previously served on council.
Today, we’ll take a brief look at the 13 who are rolling the dice for one of the nine seats on city council, in alphabetical order:
Angela Beamon: A Bond Hill resident, she describes herself on her campaign website, www.beamon4council.com, as a “licensed financial advisor, entrepreneur, business woman and educator.” A Cincinnati native, she is also active in the local chapter of the NAACP. She has no political party endorsement, but she does have the backing of an incumbent council member, Christopher Smitherman, who has stepped aside as president of the NAACP chapter during his own re-election campaign.
Shawn Butler: The out-going mayor, Mark Mallory, has a particular interest in the candidacy of Butler, who won the Democratic Party endorsement. Butler works in Mallory’s office, as director of community affairs, which has meant that he has dealt with all of the community councils in the city. It is his first run for elective office. He has a campaign website, butlerforcouncil.com.
Michelle Dillingham: She has the Democratic Party’s endorsement, and has also been president of the Kennedy Heights Community Council. Dillingham has been active in Democratic politics; and was once a member of Mallory’s Young Professionals Kitchen Cabinet. Dillingham also has close ties to organized labor in Cincinnati; and can count on union support. Her campaign website is www.michelledillingham.com.
Timothy Joseph Dornbusch: A fiscal conservative from Price Hill, Dornbusch is a plumbing and electrical contractor who is running without a party endorsement. But he does have the support of Libertarian Jim Berns, who finished a far distant third in the Sept. 10 Cincinnati mayoral primary. He has no campaign website, but does have a Dornbusch for Council page on Facebook.
Kevin Flynn: For the third election in a row, Flynn, a lawyer, has the endorsement of the Charter Committee. He is the former chairman of the board and president of the Drake Center. And he was a patient at the Drake Center. In 2002, he was involved in a serious auto accident which left him a quadriplegic. He was extracted from the wreckage by Cincinnati firefighters and flown to University Hospital, where he credits the hospital staff with saving his life. For the past two-and-a-half years, he has been an outpatient at Drake Center. He still uses a wheelchair, but is now walking up to 150 feet at a time. His campaign website is www.flynnforcincinnati.com.
Kevin Johnson: Johnson, who lives in the West End, failed to get a Democratic Party endorsement, but is carrying on as an independent candidate for council. He is a partner in Amir Wallace Johnson Cleaning Concepts in Cincinnati, which also has branches in Atlanta and Charlotte. He worked on former council member Chris Bortz’ council campaign, and, two years ago, was the campaign manager for unsuccessful candidate Jason Riveiro. He has also worked as a council aide to former council member Laketa Cole. His campaign website is www.kevinjohnsonforcincinnati.com.
Greg Landsman: He is not a household name – not yet –but he is among the most well-connected of the council candidates, incumbents and challengers. He has the endorsement of the Democratic Party; and the Charter Committee followed up with an endorsement of his own. Today, he is the executive director of The Strive Partnership, a non-profit that works to improve academic performance among inner-city kids. He has worked in Washington, D.C. for both Nancy Pelosi, now the House minority leader, and former congressman Ted Strickland. When Strickland became governor, he made Landsman, who lives in Mt. Washington, the director of the Governor’s Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives, and, later the chair of the Ohio Anti-Poverty Task Force. His connections with Strickland and the Ohio Democratic Party have helped him raise plenty of money for this, his first campaign for public office. His campaign website is greglandsman.com.
Sam Malone: This Republican-endorsed candidate served on council from 2003 to 2005. His one-term on council ended badly. In 2005, he was charged with domestic violence for beating his teenaged son with a leather belt. He was acquitted of the charges, but was given a stern lecture by the judge. GOP chairman Alex Triantafilou said recently that “Sam has matured a lot since then.” Malone is a close ally of Republican council member Charlie Winburn. We were unable to find any campaign website for Malone.
David Mann: The former Democratic mayor and one-term congressman is in his fifth decade of involvement in Cincinnati politics – although his name has not been on the ballot since 1996, when he ran unsuccessfully for a judgeship, two years after losing his congressional seat to Republican Steve Chabot. The Cincinnati Democratic Committee’s candidate screening committee left Mann off its recommended slate of candidates, but when the full committee met, Mann was given a Democratic Party endorsement. And, recently, the Charter Committee has endorsed him as well. He held a fundraising event featuring a former Cincinnati politician he served on council with in the 1970s – Jerry Springer. His campaign website can be found here.
Mike Moroski: Moroski became a public figure in February when the Archdiocese of Cincinnati fired him from his job as Dean of Student Life at Purcell Marian High School. He had written a piece on his personal website about his support for marriage equality. He became an immediate cult hero to proponents of same-sex marriage in Cincinnati. He had planned to run for city council in 2017, but moved up his plan. He attempted to get the Democratic Party endorsement, but fell short. But he is running hard as an independent candidate. His campaign website is www.mikemoroski.com.
Amy Murray: We are reasonably certain about this: Murray is the only candidate for city council in our experience who speaks fluent Japanese. That comes from her 14 years at Procter & Gamble as a global business development executive, with much of her work focused in Asia. She has served on council before – in 2011, the Hyde Park Republican was appointed to a vacancy left by Chris Monzel’s election to a seat on the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners. But she lost the seat in the November 2011 election. This year, she is an endorsed Republican candidate and, in a somewhat surprising move, also picked up a Charter Committee endorsement. She is hammering hard at her opposition to the streetcar and the parking lease agreement. Her campaign website can be found here.
Melissa Wegman: A first time candidate and a resident of East Price Hill, Wegman has a Republican Party endorsement and is running as a person with business experience and a West Side perspective. She is vice president of the family business, The Wegman Company, a commercial furniture services company. Her campaign website can be found here.
Vanessa White: A Charter Committee candidate, White is foregoing a run for re-election to the Cincinnati Board of Education to try to win a seat on council. The North Avondale resident shocked many in 2009 when she ran for school board in her first run for public office and was the only non-incumbent elected among a field of 12 candidates. She is a past president of the Board of Parents for Public Schools of Greater Cincinnati. Her campaign website can be found here.
One of these 13 people will be on the next Cincinnati City Council. Maybe more.
And if you end up not liking the choice, this time it will be four years before you can undo it.