All six incumbents were re-elected to Cincinnati City Council Tuesday night, but the battle for the ninth and final spot went right down to the wire. And it may not be over yet.
With 100 percent of the vote counted, Republican newcomer Jeff Pastor led by a scant 317 votes cast with 21,339 votes to 21,022 for Democrat Michelle Dillingham. Democrats Greg Landsman and Tamaya Dennard were also elected to open seats on council.
For many, Pastor's win came out of the blue – he was a teacher at a charter school when he began his campaign.
"It was a great victory for our campaign," says Pastor. "This was definitely a product of hard work, dedication and the belief that we can reduce poverty and crime at taxpayer cost by focusing on jobs, education and housing."
Dillingham tells WVXU she is not ready to concede. "This race for the ninth spot is not over."
A long-time neighborhood activist from Kennedy Heights, she came close to a council win four years ago.
She says she's going to wait until the provisional ballots are counted before she concedes the race. That could take a couple of weeks. Hamilton County Republican Party chairman Alex Triantafilou, a member of the board of elections, tells WVXU, there are 1,447 provisional ballots from the city of Cincinnati yet to be counted.
"If it turns out to be only a hundred votes or so, I might even ask for a recount,'' Dillingham says.
The other new member of council will be Democrat Tamaya Dennard, a former council aide to P.G. Sittenfeld. She finished sixth in the field of 23 council candidates.
“We were able to engage a wide range of folks," Dennard says. "We had people who were very left-leaning and liberal and progressive, but we were also able to identify with people were who more right-leaning with our policies. We attribute that to the fact that a lot of policy doesn’t have to be either/or. It can be both/and.”
Landsman, who led last year's campaign for the Preschool Promise, says he is looking forward to the chance "to lead on all the things we talked about during the campaign and make Cincinnati one of the best cities in the country for kids and to raise a family."
Pastor's election will assure that the Republicans will still have two council members. Incumbent Charlie Winburn is term-limited out; and he gave a lot of aid to Pastor's campaign. The other Republican incumbent, Amy Murray, was re-elected, finishing eighth.
For the second council election in a row, Democrat P.G. Sitttenfeld, who raised over half a million dollars for his campaign, was the top vote-getter.
He was followed by four more incumbents – Democrats David Mann, Chris Seelbach and Wendell Young, along with independent Christopher Smitherman.
Change was inevitable in this council election, since one-third of the nine-member council seats were wide open.
Democrat Yvette Simpson decided to run for mayor and passed on what would have been an almost certain re-election to council. Charterite Kevin Flynn, who ran twice and lost before being elected in 2013, decided not to run for another term, seemingly frustrated at the political posturing he saw taking place on council.
This was only the second Cincinnati City Council election where candidates were elected to four year terms.
Prior to 2013, all nine council seats were up for election every two years; and it had been that way since 1925, when the original Charter Committee threw out the old Republican political bosses and the city went to a council-manager form of government.
In 2012, city council voted to place an issue on the November ballot requiring council candidates to run for four years terms. Critics called it an "incumbent protection act," because incumbents appeared to have the advantage. But the main proponent of four-year terms on council, Democrat Laure Quinlivan, lost her council seat in the 2013 election, finishing 10th.
Quinlivan ran again this year and finished 13th in the 23 candidate field.