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All Herald Kearney

By Kathy Y. Wilson · November 23rd, 2005 · Editorial

Mark and Eric sittin' in a tree, t-r-a-d-i-n-g. Second comes senate, first comes mayor, then comes us maybe havin' a prayer.

Right now Alicia Reece is somewhere tying off David Pepper. And I can't blame 'em.

If something, someone different hadn't happened to Cincinnati I would've been the first one slappin' a vein. And if this were a twist on that reality show it, too, would be called The Biggest Loser.

Pepper, stunned and disappointed on Election Night, summed up the totality of his entitlement when he said his team was "ready to go" and that they just knew they "had it."

There's a fine line between confidence and arrogance, as Pepper now knows. And if he was basing his early victory on reporting precincts, one of his black supporters should've told him that black folks are always late -- therefore late-reporting black precincts that surged Mallory forward should not have been prematurely discounted.

When Pepper reneged so quickly on his vow not to seek another office but scampered up to Columbus to interview for Mallory's Senate seat, didn't it make you wonder what the hell other pre-election promises he would have broken once in the mayor's office? Good luck, Pepper.

What about Reece? She gave up her council seat by running in the mayoral primary.

Further, Kearney's selection for Mallory's Senate seat blocks all the state reps (money was on Tyrone Yates) who might have been appointed senator and thereby left a rep's seat vacant for Reece. And it might have been a perfect fit for her.

If we learned anything from this election, we should know by now that our elected officials constantly overshoot. They oversell, overestimate and overbid.

Enough with the post-election wrap-up.


Attorney and newspaper publisher-cum-State Sen. Eric Kearney doesn't overdo it. In fact, he undersells himself all the time and is always the dark horse (in a khaki kinda way). And here Pepper thought he was the underdog.

I don't know how Kearney kept a lid on it earlier when he knew he'd been interviewed. He might have acted like everything was peachy in his world -- daughter Emerson just got a part in A Christmas Carol at the Playhouse -- and wasn't letting on that he was even interested in the Senate seat.

But I know Kearney, knew him long before we ever did time together on Channel 9's Hot Seat. He wouldn't have even gone through the business of putting his name in the hopper if he weren't serious about being selected.

About his business -- literally and personally -- he's like a poker player, and with his deep-running connections he's unlike most (black) Cincinnatians in that he keeps his yap shut. You'll never catch him dropping names about whom he raised what monies for or tangentially rattling off the names in his Rolodex.

But it was those very things the Columbus Democrats found so attractive about Kearney -- all that money he can raise and the Rock Star Democrats like U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) he raised it for. And somehow folks are shocked.

Eric? Kearney?

What did they think he was doing on all those boards and at all those fund-raisers? He was brokering and leveraging his access to money and power, just like a politician who doesn't know he is one.

I've learned a lot from Kearney. I'd sit on the Hot Seat set and secretly marvel at how simultaneously quick thinking and restrained he is. Though he knows things about business leaders, politicians and wannabe powerbrokers, he rarely uses trifling information against them, preferring instead to lower some collective whammy.

But he's good at connecting who's zooming whom and contextualizing those relationships. By the time Kearney finished our semi-regular post-show Cliffs Notes rundown on why so-and-so said what he said and why what's-her-name was so defensive about fill-in-the-blank, I had a headache.

But the scales fell away from my eyes, and I consider my tenure on TV with Kearney akin to a master's seminar in The Bullshit That Goes on Behind the Scenes and The Decisions That Are Made Because of It.

Now, as my editor pointed out to me, he joins the ranks of the non-journalist Hot Seat alumn currently entrenched in politics: Common Pleas Judge Fred Nelson, Councilwoman-elect Leslie Ghiz and Aaron Herzig, now an attorney who advised Councilman-elect Jeff Berding's successful campaign.

I hope Kearney drops any remaining "Aw shucks"-ness leftover from feeling so humbled by the appointment. This is major. Haters at the state level are more treacherous than most local haters. State Rep. Catherine Barrett already let it be known she's pissed off.

I imagine one year won't be sufficient to ferret out allegiances. Then there's the May primary.

I'm suddenly feeling very maternal. It's because it's rare that one of the good ones makes it in, wherever in is.

I bet Kearney's dad is proud. Now tie that bowtie the way he taught you.

contact Kathy y. wilson: kwilson(at)citybeat.com. Hear Kathy's commentaries on National Public Radio's All Things Considered.


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