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. 

Jim Nolan / WVXU

Food and good places to eat are the one constant of running for public office in Ohio. Every city and town, it seems, has a restaurant, a diner, a hamburger stand that is a candidate-magnet. I've been in dozens of them in every corner of the state. This is part one of a two-part Tales from the Trail on my memories of dining on the campaign trail. Part two will follow next Saturday.

The Maid-Rite Sandwich Shoppe, Greenville

On Tuesday morning, at Music Hall, Cincinnati's re-elected mayor and the nine council members elected in November will take their oaths of office for four year terms.

Six of those council members will be incumbents returning for a final term on council before the term limits law kicks in. Three will be brand-new council members, two of which won as first-time candidates.

On the surface, it may not look as if much has changed.

"On the surface" is the operable phrase there.

Let’s look at the newcomers and the people whose seats they will be taking.

Jim Nolan / WVXU

I write this in the form of a confession.

The bad news is that I was once guilty of creating fake news.

The good news is I was only 13 years old.

Back when we were kids, growing up on the east side of Dayton, my buddy Mike and I put together a whopper of a scam that was meant to prank none other than the U.S. Air Force – specifically, Project Blue Book, the Air Force's long-standing program to investigate reports of unidentified flying objects, or UFOs.

Reporting sightings of strange things in the skies was all the rage in the 1950s and 1960s.

Jim Nolan / WVXU

There are some invitations to Christmas parties and holiday gatherings where you can thank the person inviting you and send your regrets for not being able to attend.

You might feel bad about it, but there's only so much time and so many places you can be.

In November 2009, I received one where "regrets" was not an option.

An invitation to the White House holiday party for print reporters.

Pete Rightmire/WVXU

This week President Trump presented his National Security Strategy, calling Russia and China U.S. rivals and Iran and North Korea rogue states. A massive GOP tax overhaul unpopular with approximately 50 percent of Americans is headed into law. Congress addresses further accusations of sexual harassment as some senators backtrack on their earlier call for Al Franken to resign. And the Russian investigation moves forward. 

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WVXU politics reporter Howard Wilkinson talked with News Director Maryanne Zeleznik Monday morning about Mayor John Cranley's naming of Christopher Smitherman as vice mayor and David Mann as chair of the Budget and Finance Committee. Does the Smitherman choice have implications for the 2021 mayor's race, when Cranley will be term-limited out? 

We're not here to say that the pairing of U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci and Cincinnati council member Amy Murray is not going to work.  

Jim Nolan / WVXU

Jim Rhodes, the late four-term governor of Ohio, could be a real pain in the neck.

He could also be a very funny man, in a Rhodesian, Southern Ohio kind of way.

I remember two days, both at the Ohio State Fair, where I experienced both Jims.

The first time was in 1994 and the second in 1998, long after Rhodes left office. Rhodes was getting up in years and couldn't walk the fairgrounds the way he did in the old days, when he was the grand poobah and chief architect of the annual summer event in Columbus.

Howard Wilkinson / WVXU

Updated 1 p.m.

Republican Cincinnati council member Amy Murray is teaming up with gubernatorial candidate Jim Renacci as his running mate.

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WVXU politics reporter Howard Wilkinson talked with News Director Maryanne Zeleznik Monday about Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O'Neill and his declared candidacy for Ohio governor. Can O'Neill continue to sit on the bench and be a partisan political candidate? Many are saying no, but O'Neill, the only Democrat on the court, says he won't resign until Jan. 26. 

Until recently former Ohio attorney general Richard Cordray had been stuck in political limbo for what seemed like an eternity, unable, by federal law, to even hint at his ambition to be Ohio's next governor.

The Grove City Democrat was serving as the first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), with a six-year term that was to have expired in June 2018.

The Hatch Act, which prohibits most federal employees from engaging in partisan politics, kept Cordray quiet about his ambitions, even though everyone in Ohio knew he had them burning inside him.

Jim Nolan / WVXU

I'm writing this for those of you who may be just out of college and looking for a job; or those who a bit older but who are looking for a change of scenery in the workplace.

It is the story of how you can do something incredibly stupid in the middle of a job interview and still get the job.

Not that I recommend this method, mind you. But I am proof positive that it can be done.

Allow me to explain:

Howard Wilkinson

The late Bobbie Sterne's legacy as a Cincinnati council member and mayor was remembered by hundreds of her friends Wednesday at Memorial Hall.

It's not quite time to break out the noisemakers and drop the balloons in celebration, but Hamilton County Democrats could do something in 2018 that hasn't been done in the lifetime of anyone reading this column.

They could end up holding all three seats on the Hamilton County Board of County commissioners.

Todd Portune's not going away anytime soon; Denise Driehaus just arrived earlier this year; and neither of them are up for re-election until 2020.

Jim Nolan / WVXU

If you are what we euphemistically like to call a "veteran" Reds fan, you no doubt remember watching the sixth game of the 1975 World Series between the Big Red Machine and the Boston Red Sox.

Provided

North Korea claims it successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile, able to strike anywhere in the United States. Congress works to extend government funding before a December 8 deadline to avoid a shutdown as Republicans push their tax plan to passage. A fight over the new director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau goes to the courts. 

WCPO

Friends and family of former Cincinnati mayor and council member Bobbie Sterne will gather next Wednesday at Memorial Hall to remember her and her contributions to the life of the city.

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WVXU politics reporter Howard Wilkinson talked with News Director Maryanne Zeleznik Monday morning about the life of a Cincinnati political icon, former council member and mayor Bobbie Sterne, who died last week at the age of 97. She was a kind and gracious person who was passionate about the issues she cared about. She had been an Army nurse on the beaches of Normandy during World War II, so there was nothing that could happen at Cincinnati City Hall that could rattle her. 

Republican Jeff Pastor is hanging on to a slim 223 vote lead over Democrat Michelle Dillingham in the official count of the November 7 Cincinnati City Council election. The contest for that ninth seat on is heading for a recount.

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WVXU politics reporter Howard Wilkinson spoke with News Director Maryanne Zeleznik Monday morning about all the news generated by Ohio Democrats last week: Former Ohio Attorney General Rich Cordray announcing he will quit his federal job, presumably to run for Ohio governor; and a bizarre Facebook post from Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O'Neill in which he detailed his sex life, creating a firestorm of criticism from fellow Democrats. 

It was becoming something like a Samuel Beckett play: Waiting for Cordray.

Nearly a year of waiting for Richard Cordray, the former state treasurer and Ohio attorney general, to make up his mind to leave as the first and only director the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), ended Wednesday when Cordray sent a letter to his staff saying he would leave office by the end of the month.

Jim Nolan / WVXU

I am a great fan of Thanksgiving. I love the feast; I love the fellowship of being with family and friends; I love the idea of a holiday all about giving thanks for our blessings in life.

I love the fact that I don’t have to cook; my sister Barbara in Dayton is the principal chef.

Not that I don't contribute to the family feast. I put together a relish tray. That's right – a relish tray. It's not exactly slaving over a hot stove, but, hey, those Spanish olives don't jump out of the jar by themselves, you know.

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WVXU politics reporter Howard Wilkinson talked with News Director Maryanne Zeleznik Monday about what happened in last Tuesday's election; and what the next four years might look like at Cincinnati City Hall. 

Here are some random observations on Tuesday's election – but by no means the last word on the subject.

You may think it is done, but it's not quite time to stick a fork in this election. There's a Cincinnati city council seat where 321 votes separate Republican Jeff Pastor and Democrat Michelle Dillingham for the ninth and final seat; and the fourth available seat on the Cincinnati Board of Education (100 votes separate incumbent Melanie Bates and challenger Rene Hevia).

Jim Nolan / WVXU

Pool reporter.

Most people outside of journalism don't know what that term means; and could not possibly care less.

I know, because I have been the local pool reporter on a countless number of visits to Cincinnati or environs by presidents, first ladies, vice presidents and others who have Secret Service protection.

And I consider it the worst job in journalism.

Jay Hanselman / WVXU

John Cranley has won another four years as Cincinnati's mayor in a romp over Council Member Yvette Simpson.

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WVXU politics reporter Howard Wilkinson talked with News Director Maryanne Zeleznik Monday morning about Tuesday's election. Will it be a long night when the votes are counted? Depends on where you live. If you are in the city of Cincinnati, it may well be. 

Hamilton County election officials expect that state Issue 2  - not the mayoral or council races - will account for a possible spike in Cincinnati's election turnout Tuesday.

Some final, very random, thoughts on Tuesday's election:

Mega-bucks mayoral race: Does it really take something in the neighborhood of $3 million to get re-elected mayor, in little old Cincinnati, the 65th largest city in the United States?

Jim Nolan / WVXU

When you are on the road with a presidential candidate, campaign press aides will promise you the moon and stars to make you happy.

They promise to make sure you are fed, that you have plenty of time to file your stories, that you will have dependable transportation to get from one event to another.

They may even promise you some quality time with the candidate.

After a while, though, you learn to take these promises with a grain of salt.

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