Even as the local Republican Party searches for a competent person willing to take on Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune in next year's election, the GOP chairman insists the party won't be cutting another deal to let Portune run unopposed.
With the Dec. 7 filing deadline now past, the Hamilton County Republican Party has listed one of its staffers, Finance Director Maggie Nafziger Wuellner, as a placeholder to reserve a spot on the ballot against Portune, a longtime Democratic incumbent.
Republican leaders are trying to woo local developer Chris Bortz, an ex-Cincinnati city councilman who lost reelection in November, to challenge Portune. Regardless of whether Bortz accepts, local GOP Chairman Alex Triantafilou said, someone will be chosen.
“There is NO deal,” Triantafilou emphasized in an email to CityBeat. “We expect a spirited campaign.”
Readers might remember that the last time that Portune was up for reelection, in 2008, the Democratic and Republican parties cut a deal to forestall competition for Portune.
In a deal allegedly brokered by attorney Stan Chesley, the local Democratic Party promised not to recruit or endorse any candidate against Republican Greg Hartmann, who was running in a separate commission race at the time. In return, the local GOP wouldn’t recruit or endorse any candidate who challenged Portune. Also, the parties agreed they wouldn’t commit any money or volunteer help to challengers who bucked the arrangement.
Two challengers did defy the deal, Democrat Chris Dole against Hartmann and Republican Ed Rothenberg against Portune, but they ran as independents and were defeated.
The 2008 deal was roundly criticized by rank-and-file members of both parties.
In Hartmann's race next year, Democrat Greg Harris has filed to run; Harris is an ex-Cincinnati city councilman who lost his seat in 2009. Back in 2008, Harris was set to challenge Hartmann but was persuaded by Democratic leaders to back out after the deal was cut.