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Electile Dysfunction

By Bob Woodiwiss · July 5th, 2001 · Pseudoquasiesque
Almost exactly a week ago, local Republicans surprised the public, the pundits and their political competition by announcing that revered longtime -- and, since 1996, deceased -- television anchorman Al Schottelkotte would be their candidate for mayor. It is only now, however, that a clear picture of the events leading to this development, as well as what this new twist means to voters and the city, is emerging.

As has been widely reported, the announcement of Schottelkotte's candidacy came less than 24 hours after Hamilton County Republican Party Chairman Michael Barrett's June 28 press conference where he stated that his party would field no one in the September mayoral run-off. What is less commonly known is that the Republican's dramatic reversal was precipitated by former television anchorman Courtis Fuller's press conference -- held that very afternoon -- proclaiming he would make a run for the mayor's office as the Charter Committee candidate. According to a source within the Republican Party, "Having no viable candidate for mayor made us look weak, feeble. But not having someone with the celebrity cachet of Fuller or (frontrunner and another former television anchorman, Democrat Charlie) Luken, well, that made us look like no-account losers. It really pissed us off. And when we Republicans get pissed, look out America."

Thus, with less than 24 hours to beat the filing deadline, party officials called an emergency meeting. Their objective: Find a third empty suit with a famous name to run for mayor but, this time, a Republican empty suit. Many names were floated at the sometimes-heated gathering, among them: retired kiddie show host Uncle Al Lewis, flimsy furniture magnate Uncle Sims and beloved radio fascist Bill Cunningham.

Finally, just before midnight, Barrett announced Al Schottelkotte, legendary anchorman of Cincinnati's top-rated TV news broadcast for 22 consecutive years, as his party's choice for this city's highest office.

"Al Schottelkotte is a well-known, respected entity in this town," the Republican leader told reporters. "His is a name tens of thousands of Cincinnatians have trusted for over three decades. We feel quite certain that voters will respond positively to his entry into this important race and that, come November, Al will be elected mayor."

Quizzed about their candidate's lack of life, Barrett maintained, "There's absolutely no stipulation in the City Charter stating that you have to be a living, breathing person to get on the ballot. We checked. That may have been an oversight by the framers of the Charter, but unless that changes between now and November we're prepared to fight to the end ... of the election, that is; Al, as you've rightly pointed out, has already ended."

He added, "FYI, Al also meets residency requirements insofar as he's buried within the city limits."

And what happens if Schottelkotte is elected in November? "We'll cross that bridge if and when we come to it," Chief Republican strategist Hannibal Rommel said. "The important thing right now is to win."

So far, local voters have been receptive to Schottelkotte's bid for office.

"I've always liked (Schottelkotte). I don't see why a lack of brainwave activity should change that," said Rose Stifflee of Hyde Park.

"I'm not completely sure Al's up to the job. But I know for a fact the Luken and Fuller aren't," Clifton resident Ernest Serge stated.

"Charisma-wise, I think it's a wash," Mark Mywurd of Over-the-Rhine observed. "The only real difference in personality is Courtis and Charlie just kind of stand there, and Al just kind of lays there."

Pearl Hunter, who works downtown and lives in Westwood, was less enthusiastic about the prospect of having three very famous names to choose from. "Usually, voting is easy: Look for the name you know and poke a hole. Now, with three familiar names on the ballot, how am I supposed to make an informed choice?"

But, according to Xavier University Professor of Political Science Larry Phlingspin, Hunter's concerns might be unwarranted. "I believe any of the three famous names running for mayor are equally capable of having an incomplete grasp of the issues, not saying anything of substance, not taking a stand and not leading. And if past City Council races are any indication, that should be plenty good enough for the citizens here."

Phlingspin continued, "Keep in mind, there are two independent candidates with less than familiar names running for mayor, too. It's possible one of them could be elected." He paused a beat, then burst into laughter, adding, "Just dickin' wit'cha."

So, the question remains: Who will be Cincinnati's new mayor come fall? The former television anchorman, the former television anchorman or the late former television anchorman? No one knows. Thank God it won't make a bit of difference. ©



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