Interviews will be held Monday to screen the candidates interested in filling the remainder of John Cranley’s term on Cincinnati City Council. Facing term limits, the longtime Democratic councilman resigned Thursday to ponder the next step in his political career as he works as an attorney.
Democratic Party sources say six people will be interviewed separately Monday as possible replacements. They are Tony Fischer, Brian Garry, Greg Harris, Rocky Merz, Bernadette Watson and Wendell Young.
The candidates will be interviewed by the four remaining Democrats on City Council — Jeff Berding, Laketa Cole, David Crowley and Cecil Thomas — who will be making the decision, as well as Mayor Mark Mallory and Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Tim Burke.
** Fischer is a Madisonville resident and U.S. Army veteran, who worked on Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.
** Garry is a Clifton resident who’s employed as a music teacher at two area Montessori schools and also owns a small construction company that specializes in environmentally friendly materials. He placed 18th among the 25 candidates running in the 2007 council elections.
** Harris is a West Price Hill resident who works as a public policy officer at KnowledgeWorks Foundation and is a former Miami University instructor. He placed 15th in the 2007 council race, and ran twice unsuccessfully for Steve Chabot’s congressional seat.
** Merz is a Pleasant Ridge resident who is the Cincinnati Health Department’s public information officer. He helped manage all of Crowley’s campaigns and worked on his staff for more than six years. Also, Merz was deputy campaign manager in Todd Portune’s 2000 Hamilton County Commission race.
**Watson is an Avondale resident who is a Democratic activist and was a longtime aide to ex-Mayor Charlie Luken. She currently works as a regional supervisor for the U.S. Census Bureau.
** Young is a North Avondale resident and a retired Cincinnati police sergeant, who finished 17th in the 2007 council race. He is a past president of the Sentinels Police Association and the NAACP's local branch.
Two people frequently mentioned as possible contenders who aren’t interested in the appointment — or haven’t expressed an interest so far — are former Councilwoman Minette Cooper and Sam Luken, the former mayor’s son.
Although Fischer and Harris are widely considered the front-runners among party insiders, Garry and Merz and considered dark horse candidates who have a shot.
Garry, although Caucasian, performed well in many predominantly black wards in the city during the 2007 race and has the backing of several prominent African-American ministers including Rousseau O’Neal, Damon Lynch Jr., Kazava Smith, Peterson Mingo and Aaron Greenlea.
Merz is popular in Democratic circles from his work on numerous campaigns. It’s not uncommon for a municipal employee to move onto a council seat, as one-third of the current City Council has done so in the past. Cole worked for ex-Councilmen Paul Booth and Dwight Tillery; Republican Leslie Ghiz was an attorney in the city’s Law Department; and Thomas is a retired police officer and former director of the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission.
Council’s Democrats hope to make a decision by Wednesday, or by the following week at the latest.