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Winds of Political Change in 2009

By Joe Wessels · January 7th, 2009 · Wessels

As I learned working on a political campaign this fall, guessing is a genuine art form for politicos of all stripes. Each person guesses over another’s guess about what might happen next, and the cycle continues ad nauseam.

Accuracy is fine and all that, but speculation and rumor-mongering is much more fun. In that spirit, here are my predictions for 2009.

I was convinced — even after his public denials — that Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory would leave office to become Ohio’s new treasurer. When Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland appointed Columbus City Councilman Kevin Boyce to the post before Christmas, those rumors were finally put to rest.

Considering the huge number of press releases generated by Mallory’s office in the past few weeks proclaiming everything but the mayor’s ability to leap from the PNC Bank Tower to the observation deck of the Carew Tower in a single bound — three to four times his normal activity level — I’d say Mallory is running for re-election this fall.

You might think it’s all but certain he’ll win, but don’t tell that to the likes of The Good Rev. Charles Winburn. Though he lost the mayoral primary in 2004, I wouldn’t count him out just yet.

Will another Democrat challenge Mallory? It’s likely, but who is unclear. Vice Mayor David Crowley and Councilman John Cranley are termed-limited from running again for council. Many observers say they’d be surprised if either eyed the mayor’s job, with Cranley more likely to take over a State Representative’s seat, such as the one now held by Rep. Tyrone Yates, who’s mentioned he’d like to join the Ohio Supreme Court.

[UPDATE: Cranley announced on Jan. 7 his departure from City Council.]

If Cranley begins to work on his image within the black community, consider it a sign that he’s interested in becoming mayor. More likely to run? Jeff Berding.

Former Mayor and current dynamo City Councilwoman Roxanne Qualls — who ran as a Democrat during her previous council stint but came on as a Charterite this time — still owns the Web domain quallsformayor.com, but she’s insisted repeatedly she isn’t running for mayor. If Mallory had left for Columbus, the story might have been different.

My instinct is Qualls won’t put up a challenge if Mallory continues his trajectory toward a full-fledged campaign, but if anything changes, expect her to step up.

Steve Chabot, who ended a 14-year stint as Ohio’s 1st Congressional District representative on Jan. 5, has been rumored to be a mayoral candidate and might be the only Republican with enough name recognition and respect in city neighborhoods to give Democrats a run for their money. But a large swath of the city’s electorate is liberal and tends to vote Democrat.

The biggest door Chabot has left open is the one Steve Driehaus just walked through. Expect a campaign kick-off later this year from both camps for the same seat, and expect it to be a bigger battle than last time.

Over in Ohio’s 2nd Congressional District, Republican Rep. Jean Schmidt made Democrat Victoria Wulsin a two-time loser for that seat. Thank independent David Krikorian, who snagged more than 17 percent of the vote, for Wulsin’s loss; he cut more into her votes this time than Schmidt. With Schmidt’s narrow win last time and the “Obama effect” this year, I think the results would have been different without Krikorian.

Expect Democratic primary loser Steve Black to announce his candidacy for the seat this year. Krikorian probably will, too, as he’s found his way to a few Democratic Party functions as of late. Other lesserknowns have been rumored to be interested as well.

Besides the horse race aspects of these races, the speculation does matter. The next City Council and mayor will have a huge impact on the expected retirements of Cincinnati Fire Department Chief Robert Wright and Cincinnati Police Chief Thomas Streicher Jr. as well as a number of other top brass who will be eligible soon for retirement. A change in city law allows replacements for these two chiefs to be hired from outside the current ranks, creating an opportunity for radical change in Cincinnati.

How city officials oversee transition in the main public safety offices — especially in the face of the current financial challenges — will greatly influence the public’s opinion of them.

Change in politics is always a good thing, and we’re about to get a big dose of it in 2009.

CONTACT JOE WESSELS: joe@joewessels.net



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