So Who Will Democratic Party Endorse For Cincinnati Council?

Jan 22, 2017

Sometime before long, the Cincinnati Democratic Committee (CDC), made up of the city's elected precinct executives, will gather to endorse a slate of city council candidates.

They may endorse a candidate for mayor before that.

That, after all, is the principal job of the body which represents the city's 272 precincts.

Everyone who is the least bit engaged in local politics knows by now that there are three Democrats who have announced they are running for mayor – the incumbent, John Cranley; a council member, Yvette Simpson; and labor lawyer Rob Richardson, whose term on the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees ran out last month.

The filing deadline for mayoral candidates is Feb. 16. If all three or more file petitions, there will be a mayoral primary on May 2. The top two vote-getters will face off in the Nov. 7 general election.

We're not entirely convinced that the CDC is going to want to touch the live wire of a mayoral endorsement. Each mayoral candidate has supporters on the board; and the fight over an endorsement could be ugly and divisive.

We wouldn't be surprised to learn that Cranley might just tell the CDC they shouldn't endorse in the May 2 mayoral primary.

After all, he is the incumbent and the front-runner, running with the endorsement of the Ohio Democratic Party. Just how embarrassing would it be if the CDC held a vote on a mayoral endorsement and Cranley didn't win?

Very embarrassing indeed.

So let's set the mayoral race aside for the moment. We'll return to that subject in columns yet to be written.

Let's focus on the small army of Democrats who have taken out petitions at the Hamilton County Board of Elections.

There are 16 of them; and a 17th – incumbent David Mann – who hadn't picked up his petitions as of Thursday, but told WVXU he is certainly running for re-election. Altogether, 27 potential candidates have petitions, including Republicans and those with no party affiliation.

Heaven only knows how many more will show up at the board of elections wanting petitions and file by the Aug. 24 deadline. 

And no one knows how many of them will actually turn those petitions in. 

Council, of course, is a non-partisan field race; there is no primary election. The top nine finishers in November are elected. We say it is non-partisan, meaning there are no party designations on the ballot, but all three parties – Democratic, Republican and the Charter Committee – endorse slates of candidates.

As of now, according to Hamilton County GOP chairman Alex Triantafilou, the Republicans only have two council candidates – incumbent Amy Murray and Jeffery Pastor, a charter school teacher. The GOP, Triantafilou says, hopes to run at least five candidates – which would be a council majority if they are all elected. Even Triantafilou concedes that is a highly doubtful scenario in an overwhelmingly Democratic city.

As for Charter, they are losing their only "pure" Charterite council member in Kevin Flynn, who is not running for a second term. They will no doubt try to field their own candidates and will certainly cross-endorse the candidates of other parties. Four years ago, Charter endorsed Democrats Mann and Simpson, along with Murray.

So what will the Democrats do?

Well, you can rest assured they won't pull the boneheaded move they made four years ago when they endorsed 10 candidates for nine council seats. Cincinnati voters can choose up to nine candidates; and if they had gone by the 10-candidate Democratic sample ballot, their votes would not have counted.

But they, no doubt, will endorse a full slate of nine in an election where there will be three open council seats.

Four of them are locked in for endorsements – incumbents Mann, Wendell Young, P.G. Sittenfeld and Chris Seelbach.

The CDC is likely to interview a ton of other candidates, some of whom have no chance whatsoever of winning an endorsement and others who will be marginal.

Three of the non-incumbent Democrats trying again this year finished just out of the running in 2013 – former council member Laure Quinlivan, who finished 10th and lost her council seat; 11th place finisher Greg Landsman, who, recently was instrumental in getting the Preschool Promise ballot issue passed; and 12th place finisher Michelle Dillingham, a community organizer from Kennedy Heights.

We'd bet a dollar to a donut that Quinlivan, Landsman and Dillingham will be back with party endorsements.

That leaves two more spots on the Democratic ticket.

The rest are a mix of names you have probably never heard of and others who are fairly well-known, especially in Democratic circles. The other Democrats with petitions so far are Beverly (B.J.) Odoms, Brian Garry, Theo Barnes, Cristina Burcica, Orlando Welborn, Lesley Jones, Derek Bauman, Ozie Davis III, Tamaya Dennard, Kelli Prather, and Henry D. Frondorf.

Dennard is a former aide to Sittenfeld who works for a non-profit called Design Impact and is already running an aggressive campaign. Davis is well known as community activist in Avondale. Bauman, who worked as a suburban police officer for 26 years before retiring with a leg injury, lives in Over-the-Rhine and is a fierce advocate of the streetcar and public transportation in general.

Assuming Quinlivan, Landsman and Dillingham are endorsed again, we think the choice for the remaining two endorsements comes down to Dennard, Davis and Bauman.

But the CDC won't endorse 10 this time.

The line to argue with this speculation forms at the right.