Local Democrats are counting on a planned statewide referendum on Senate Bill No. 5 to boost Democratic voter turnout this fall, and help restore the party's majority on Cincinnati City Council.
That was the message preached Thursday night by party leaders — along with Mayor Mark Mallory and three of the four Democratic incumbents — during a meeting of the Cincinnati Democratic Committee (CDC).
As expected, precinct executives gave their formal OK to a nine-member slate recommended by a CDC committee. The slate includes incumbents Roxanne Qualls, Laure Quinlivan, Cecil Thomas and Wendell Young, along with challengers Nicholas Hollan, Jason Riveiro, Chris Seelbach, Yvette Simpson and P.J. Sittenfeld.
All were in attendance except for two contenders. They were Qualls — who an aide said had “a longstanding, previous commitment” — and Seelbach, who was in Columbus attending an Equality Ohio Campaign Fund event. He sent Sherri Crowley, widow of ex-Vice Mayor David Crowley, to accept the endorsement and thank the crowd on his behalf.
Hollan, a Westwood resident who ran for council the first time in 2009 and finished 16th in a field of 20 candidates, urged the slate to campaign as a team and not compete with one another. Under Cincinnati's form of government, all council candidates run at-large citywide and the top nine finishers get a council seat.
“We're all stronger when we're pulling the same weight in the same direction,” Hollan said, to applause. “This shouldn't be a contest between us.”
Mallory noted the diversity of the slate, which includes two African-American men, an African-American woman, a Latino man, a gay man and two white women.
“Realize this group of people brings together a set of skills and a set of experiences and intellect and energy that will serve this city well,” the mayor said.
“We have an awesome opportunity to not only take back control of City Hall but also to make real, progressive change at City Hall for the next two years and beyond,” Mallory added.
During the last council election two years ago, precinct executives revoked the party's endorsement from incumbent Jeff Berding, after years of grumbling that Berding didn't adhere to Democratic principles and too often criticized his Democratic colleagues.
Although Berding won reelection then, he often was on the losing side of votes at City Hall and resigned in March. In a last rebuke to his former supporters, he appointed Republican Wayne Lippert to fill his seat — giving conservatives a majority on City Council for the first time since 1969.
“We're going to do everything we can to help the newcomers get elected,” Thomas said. “There are some people downtown who have some crazy ideas … it's critically important we stand together as a team so we can turn back the tide.”
Precinct Executive Bernadette Watson, who ran for council in '09 and was a longtime aide to former Mayor Charlie Luken, summarized the prevailing sentiment and took a jab at Berding when she said, “We may not always agree with each other but it doesn't mean you need to go to the other side and give them the credence they seek.”