Howard Wilkinson: Politics and More

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Howard Wilkinson joined the WVXU news team as the politics reporter and columnist in April 2012 , after 30 years of covering local, state and national politics for The Cincinnati Enquirer. On this page, you will find his political blog, his weekly column, Politically Speaking; the Monday morning political chats with news director Maryanne Zeleznik and other news coverage by Wilkinson. A native of Dayton, Ohio, Wilkinson has covered every Ohio gubernatorial race since 1974, as well as 14 presidential nominating conventions. Along with politics, Wilkinson also covered the 2001 Cincinnati race riots, the Lucasville prison riot in 1993, the Air Canada plane crash at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in 1983, and the 1997 Ohio River flooding. And, given his passion for baseball, you might even find some stories about the Cincinnati Reds here from time to time. 

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Former congressman and Cleveland Mayor Dennis Kucinich picked up a major endorsement Sunday from the Plain Dealer newspaper and cleveland.com. Kucinich has some establishment Democrats worried he might win the Democratic gubernatorial primary. They think former Attorney General Richard Cordray would be a stronger candidate against Mike DeWine, the likely Republican candidate for governor. 

Here's a truism in politics:

More often than not, one politician's ugly mess is another politician's dream come true.

Same goes for political parties. One political party spirals down the drain in scandal and another political party rises to the top. (See: "Watergate;" "Resignation;" "Richard Nixon.")

Jim Nolan / WVXU

Last June, you might have read a short story about it in the local newspaper, heard a snippet on the radio, or vaguely recognized a face that flashed on a TV screen.

If you happen to be a fan of name-calling, low blows and street brawls, you couldn't help but love Ohio's Republican primary for governor.

Then again, if you do love such things, you might want to set aside some time for quiet reflection.

Jim Nolan / WVXU

Look, we can sit here all day and argue about whether Robert A. Taft II – Bob Taft, as he is known, was a good or bad governor for the state of Ohio.

That's a matter of personal judgment.

We can say, without fear of contradiction, that he was the 67th governor of the state of Ohio, serving from 1999 to 2007 as a Republican.

Another thing we can say about Bob Taft: His political party owed him an enormous debt of gratitude for agreeing to put up with the embarrassment of being former governor Jim Rhodes' running mate for lieutenant governor in 1986.

white house
Wikimedia Commons

President Trump's proposed tariffs on 1,300 Chinese products and his Twitter feud with Amazon roiled the stock market. Congress and the White House prepare for a series of confirmation hearings on Trump's Cabinet nominations. And the president announces plans to deploy the military to the U.S.-Mexico border to confront what he calls a growing threat of illegal immigrants.

The Democratic primary for governor in Ohio could well boil down to where the candidates stand and what kind of record they have on gun control.

It's reasonable to believe  the vast majority of Democratic primary voters, in the wake of cold-blooded murder of 17 students and faculty members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, are enraged over the easy access to semi-automatic weapons and are solidly behind the nationwide movement of high school students marching and lobbying for gun control.

Jim Nolan / WVXU

I worked for newspapers, principally the Cincinnati Enquirer, for 38 years.

And, during that time, I was sent by those newspapers to cities all over the North America dozens of times.

But only once did my editors send me to the wrong city. It's a tale worth telling.

This tale stems from a news story which was one of the most tragic I've ever had to cover – the Air Canada disaster of June 1983.

Michael E. Keating

Editor's note: This story was originally published March 25, 2014. We are re-posting it here in honor of the Reds' Opening Day on March 30, 2018, as the story is as much a fan favorite as the pastime of baseball itself. 

great american ball park
Mark Heyne / WVXU

Reds' Opening Day may now be Friday, March 30, but fans can still get their baseball fix Thursday on "Cincinnati Edition."

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WVXU politics reporter Howard Wilkinson spoke with News Director Maryanne Zeleznik Monday morning about the on-going crisis at Cincinnati City Hall over whether City Manager Harry Black stays or goes. 

Hate to say I told you so.

But I told you so.

So, what does it mean when the professional tea leaf readers move a congressional race from a Likely Republican status to a Leans Republican status?

Well, we are about to find out.

That's exactly what Sabato's Crystal Ball, one of the nation's leading trackers of races at the state, congressional and presidential levels, did this week with Ohio's 1st Congressional District, which has been held by Republican Steve Chabot in all but two of the past 25 years.

Jim Nolan / WVXU

Having been something of a class clown growing up in Dayton, Ohio, terrorizing many an innocent grade school teacher at Cleveland Elementary School with my pranks and wise-acre behavior, I suppose it's not surprising that, as an adult, I would get my chance to be a genuine circus clown.

Complete with greasepaint, baggy pants, and dozens of skinny balloons stuffed into my oversized pockets to turn into balloon animals for the kiddies.

Part 2 of a two-part Tales from the Trail:

Sometimes, I don't believe it either.

I've had a career covering politics where I have gone to 16 presidential nominating conventions, Democratic and Republican.

More than any one human being should have to bear.

I shouldn't complain, though, even in jest. I've visited some great American cities, seen a few baseball games in some ball parks I might never have gotten to, and, from time to time, actually witnessed American history being made.

And told the story.

The primary contests for Ohio governor and U.S. Senate on the May 8 primary ballot will get much of the attention, there are a number of contested primaries here in southwest Ohio as well.

This week, we will look at the top primary races in Hamilton County. And, in weeks to come, we will do the same with contested primaries in the region.

Here we go:  

Ohio Senate – 9th District

Four years ago, former Cincinnati council member Cecil Thomas defeated then-State Rep. Dale Mallory in a six-way Democratic primary by 556 votes.

Jim Nolan / WVXU

It's a fact; I have been to 16 presidential nominating conventions, Democratic and Republican, over the course of my career covering politics.

Some would say this cruel and unusual punishment is more than any one human being deserves.

After all, the political people only go to their own party's conventions. I go to both. Often in back-to-back weeks.

People often ask me which conventions have been the worst to cover and which have been the best.

Jim Nolan / WVXU

Usually, when you look back at a long period of time working in the same place, it is the first day on the job that you remember the most.

The nervousness. The overwhelming desire to impress. The first time you have to go to someone and ask where the restroom is.

In other words, your general dorkiness.

That first day is something to remember.

But, for me, it is the second day I worked at the Cincinnati Enquirer I remember the most.

Meet Howard Wilkinson

Feb 12, 2018
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It’s well known that WVXU's Political Reporter Howard Wilkinson is a HUGE Red’s fan. And that he loves talking politics is just a given. But, what does he do in the off season? And, does he have a favorite food?

Ann Thompson

President Donald Trump came to Blue Ash Monday to tout the Republican tax reform bill he signed into law; and boast that it is already paying dividends for American workers and companies.

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WVXU politics reporter Howard Wilkinson spoke with News Director Maryanne Zeleznik Monday about Saturday's Northern Kentucky Legislative Conference at Highland High School in Fort Thomas. About 500 residents showed up; and many of them gave legislators an earful about Gov. Matt Bevin's proposed budget cuts to K-12 and higher education. They want the legislators to go back to Frankfort and write a budget that restores the Bevin cuts. 

Jim Nolan / WVXU

One of the most memorable interviews I've done in my career was with a man who was not a politician, but was a spiritual adviser to many occupants of the White House over the years.

Billy Graham, the world's most famous TV evangelist, who has spread his Gospel message to billions on television and in person all over the world since starting his ministry by pitching tents in a Los Angeles parking lot in 1949, is now 99 years old and living in retirement in his mountaintop home near Asheville, North Carolina.

Howard Wilkinson

Democrat Aftab Pureval said it best Wednesday morning when he spoke to a crowded room of supporters in Avondale: his candidacy for the 1st Congressional District seat held by Steve Chabot was "the worst kept secret in Cincinnati."

After months of speculation, the 35-year-old Pureval, who pulled off a stunning upset victory over a Republican incumbent in the 2016 race for Hamilton County clerk of courts, made it official in an enthusiastic rally at Avondale's Gabriel's Place, a non-profit involved in urban agriculture.

So, Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor – who wants to be the next governor – is running away from Gov. John Kasich at the speed of light.

And the apparent front-runner for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine hasn't gone out of his way to court the support of the present governor.

Kasich, for his part, responds to all of this with his usual reaction to such things – he shrugs his shoulders, moves on, and books another trip to New Hampshire for April, making it abundantly clear that, one way or another, he plans on running for president again in 2020.

Jim Nolan / WVXU

It's not often in a political reporter's career that you find yourself in a room where you actually witness the moment an American president's chances of being re-elected go up in a puff of smoke.

I was in such a room on October 28,1980, at the old Convention Center Music Hall in Cleveland, for the only head-to-head debate between Republican Ronald Reagan and Democratic incumbent Jimmy Carter.

And, to this day, I believe that debate sealed Carter's fate.

As recently as six weeks ago, Jim Renacci, the Republican congressman from Wadsworth in northeast Ohio, was gung-ho about running for governor of the state of Ohio, making speeches about how an "outsider" like him could come in and fix what's broken in Columbus.

Then, state treasurer Josh Mandel sent shock waves throughout Republican circles in Ohio and dropped out of the U.S. Senate race, which, if he had won the primary, would have been a rematch of his losing campaign in 2012 against Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown.

Jim Nolan / WVXU

I traveled Ohio on enough campaign trips with the late governor James A. Rhodes, one of the true characters of Ohio politics, to know that his tastes in food were eclectic to say the least.

On the campaign bus, it was sandwiches made from his favorite lunch meat, Lebanon bologna. At the Ohio State Fair, it was funnel cakes and a stop at the lunch wagon run by Der Dutchman, an Amish restaurant in Plain City, for an overstuffed roast beef sandwich.

Jim Nolan / WVXU

Last week, Tales from the Trail introduced you to some famous eateries that have become must-stops for candidates running for office in Ohio – from candidates for county offices to the presidency. There are so many such places in Ohio, dishing out chili, piergoies, ice cream, hot dogs and hamburgers that we felt a "part two" was needed. And, in fact, there are so many, that Tales From the Trail may revisit the subject in the future. Here are some more dining spots that make up the political map of Ohio:

Price Hill Chili, Cincinnati

U.S. Congress

WVXU politics reporter Howard Wilkinson talked with New Director Maryanne Zeleznik about the life and career of former Cincinnati mayor and congressman Thomas A. Luken, who died Wednesday at the age of 92.

Tana Weingartner

Republican gubernatorial candidate Mary Taylor has reached beyond the stable of professional politicians to choose Nathan Estruth, a Cincinnati-area businessman and social activist as her running mate.

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