Sunday, October 31, 1999

Council hopefuls mount final blitz

Personal touch takes precedence

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Up until now, the Cincinnati City Council campaign has been mostly wholesale politics, with 30-second ad blitzes and sophisticated, demographically targeted mailings.

        But, on the last weekend, the council campaign goes retail.

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        Candidates who have been riding the airwaves are suddenly forced to travel close to the ground, racing around the city from chili parlors to bingo halls to barber shops to meet as many voters face-to-face as they can, because most know that, in the end, a few hundred votes could mean the difference between winning and losing.

        “I'm going to try to be anywhere and everywhere, right up to election day,” said Democratic Councilwoman Minette Cooper.

        Ms. Cooper was one of a dozen or so candidates wading through the crowd of Cincinnati Public School supporters at a Sawyer Point rally for the school levy Saturday.

        The school-levy rally and march along the riverfront was a candidate magnet. Most of the Democratic council candidates and one Republican, Diane Goldsmith, were there, knowing full well that any adult who showed up would almost certainly be voting Tuesday.

        Turnout could end up being

        the key to Tuesday's council election, where voters will choose nine council members and the top vote-getter will become the city's new mayor.

        Traditionally, Democrats count on a high turnout while Republicans, whose core voters are more consistent about coming to the polls, tend to do better in low-turnout elections.

        In the last council election, 88,314 Cincinnatians showed up at the polls — about 39 percent of the city's registered voters.

        Most in Cincinnati political circles are expecting a similar turnout this year. But in 1995 — the last council election year in which there was also a Cincinnati school levy on the ballot — turnout shot up to 51 percent. Democratic candidates, in particular, are hoping the same will happen in 1999.

        The council candidates are spending well over $1 million on TV advertising, but on the final weekend, most candidates are stepping up their “retail” campaigning — the hand-shaking, door-knocking and leafleting.

        The last weekend push will take most of them to churches this morning — particularly in Cincinnati's African-American neighborhoods, where visits by the candidates to church services is an election-year tradition.

        It started during rush hour Friday, when Democratic candidate Alicia Reece stood on the corner of Mitchell Avenue and Vine Street in North Avondale waving at motorists.

        Early Saturday morning, Republican Councilman Phil Heimlich met with a group of about 20 high school-age volunteers at his downtown campaign headquarters before heading out to Price Hill and Westwood with them for some door-to-door campaigning. The candidate gave the volunteers some advice on how to deal with voters.

        “If everybody smiles and makes a good impression, then maybe they'll think I'm a nice guy, too,” Mr. Heimlich said. “And remember, don't cross people's yards. Use the sidewalks. People don't like you walking all over their lawns.”

        At lunch hour, Republican challenger Pat DeWine was at Price Hill Chili, eating coneys with campaign volunteers and walking around the restaurant, introducing himself to the lunch-time customers.

        “I'm here about once a week anyway,” Mr. DeWine said. “It's a great place to meet people.”

        Across town in Oakley, Democratic candidate Charlie Luken was going door-to-door on Millsbrae Avenue with Mary Jo Sylvester, a Millsbrae resident and Luken supporter.

        Most of the people who answered the door when Mr. Luken knocked recognized the former mayor and TV anchor, who would usually pick up the newspaper lying in the front yard and hand it to them, along with a campaign brochure.

        Dick and Melissa Karaus were outside working on their front porch when Mr. Luken stopped to chat.

        Mrs. Karaus told the candidate she would like to see council “do something about property taxes. We've put a lot into this house and we don't want to leave the city, but it is so expensive.”

        Mr. Luken said he was glad that council recently passed a slight rollback in the city's portion of property taxes, but said “the city only gets a small part of the property tax anyway.”

        “Give me one of your votes Tuesday and I promise you I'll work on it ... ” Mr. Luken said. “And if I get elected, you make sure you call me at city hall and bug me about it.”


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