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Who the Hell Is Greg Hartmann?

By John Fox · January 9th, 2008 · Editorial

He's your brand new Hamilton County Commissioner, that's who, to be formally "elected" nine months from now and to be sworn in this time next year. No muss, no fuss.

You can thank the people who run the local Democratic and Republican parties for saving you the trouble of actually voting in November. It's like they installed a big Staples "Easy" button on the Hamilton County courthouse and then pressed it, producing "candidates" for public office who don't have to go through the expensive, time-consuming ordeal of being "elected" by the "voters," providing you with more free time in the fall. How thoughtful of them!

The arrangement also helps "public servants" such as Hartmann, fellow Commissioner Todd Portune, other Hamilton County officials and most local judges plan for the future by knowing exactly which offices they'll be occupying years from now. You know, so they can spend that extra time better serving the public.

Hartmann, currently serving the public as Hamilton County Clerk of Courts, has run for election twice in his life, winning once and losing once. As Hamilton County Republican Party executive director, he was appointed Clerk of Courts in 2003 when Jim Cissell resigned to become a county judge and then ran for election to the same post in 2004.

He beat Democratic challenger Martha Good 56-44 percent.

In 2006, Hartmann became the GOP candidate for Ohio Secretary of State when State Sen. Jim Trakas agreed to drop out of the party primary. Hartmann got pounded in the general election by Democrat Jennifer Brunner 55-40 percent (two independent candidates split the other votes) and amazingly lost to her in Hamilton County. Even Ken Blackwell carried Hamilton County in that election.

By now you've probably heard that the local heads of the two political parties have collaborated on a deal to let the incumbent Democratic commissioner, Portune, run unopposed this fall while Hartmann runs unopposed for Commissioner Pat DeWine's seat. DeWine, sensing defeat in a re-election bid, has decided to run instead for an open judgeship.

Kevin Osborne has all the gory details in this week's Porkopolis column and in several recent blog posts.

I'm not necessarily picking on Hartmann -- OK, just a little -- but why the hell does he get a free pass to the highest elected office in Ohio's third largest county? Could it be his connections?

As stated above, he ran the local Republican Party. He was Hamilton County co-chair of the Bush/Cheney re-election campaign in 2004. His father works for a prestigious Dallas law firm and represented Vice President Dick Cheney in one of the many election-related lawsuits in 2000.

Hartmann grew up in Texas and, after working for one year at a law firm there, moved to Greater Cincinnati in 1999, when he joined the Hamilton County Prosecutor's office. He turns 41 next week.

When he was running for secretary of state in 2006, Hartmann was asked about the value of that office.

"It is the office which defends Ohioans' right to vote," he told Ohio Politics Weekly, "and there is no more important right."

Well, in theory anyway.

CONTACT JOHN FOX: jfox@citybeat.com



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