Wednesday, November 5, 2003

Smitherman win gives Charterites new oomph

Monzel ousted from council; Malone's in

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A surprising, topsy-turvy election night put Republican Sam Malone and Charterite Christopher Smitherman on Cincinnati City Council.

Republican Chris Monzel - a three-year councilman with a campaign war chest of more than $135,000 - was booted off, finishing 12th. His loss was a big disappointment for Republicans, who had hoped to gain at least one at-large seat on the nine-member council.

Mayor Charlie Luken said he will appoint committee chairs in the next two weeks.
The Hamilton County Board of Elections will certify results of the election Nov. 18.
By charter, the new City Council must be sworn in at 11 a.m. Monday, Dec. 1.
The Election Reform Commission will recommend changes to city government by Feb. 1.
But the Charter Committee - which hasn't had more than a single councilman since Tyrone K. Yates left Cincinnati's third party to become a Democrat in 1993 - showed a remarkable resurgence with Smitherman's candidacy.

"It's a good night for Charter, but it's a great night for Cincinnati," said Charter Committee President Michael Goldman, who has led the party for just a year. "He's a new face on council. He's a man of ideas. He's right on the issues."

Smitherman, a 36-year-old financial planner from North Avondale, stressed themes of racial reconciliation throughout the campaign.

"You put everything you have on the line for two years to win," said Smitherman, who lost 15 pounds during the campaign. "I'm very emotional, even tearful. The people of Cincinnati are speaking tonight. They want change, and I want to give it to them."

Malone, a 32-year-old Republican from Bond Hill, said his anti-boycott, pro-police message got through to voters. His commercial, called "Had Enough," showed footage from the 2001 riots.

"I believe it was the television that got through to many white Republican voters who might not otherwise have considered me," he said. "I'm glad they did."

The election of Malone and Smitherman means that the composition of City Council - with four out of nine seats held by African-Americans - will equal the racial proportion of the city for the first time since 1997.

Democrat David Pepper cruised to his second consecutive first-place finish. Democrat Alicia Reece ran second and Democrat Laketa Cole ran third.

Independent Damon Lynch III - a civil-rights leader who came into prominence in the aftermath of the 2001 riots - ran 10th, 949 votes out of out of contention the final, unofficial count.

Lynch told supporters at his Bond Hill campaign headquarters Tuesday night that they made an impact.

Walking in to a Bootsy Collins song written especially for the campaign, Lynch was greeted by a throng of 200 hand-clapping, dancing supporters.

"We're very proud of the race we've run. We're proud of the message we put out," he said.

Monzel's loss was the surprise of the night. He was appointed to the seat vacated by Charlie Winburn in 2001, and finished ninth later that year.

"I'm definitely not going to rule out public service at some time,'' he said.

Despite the change in personnel, the overall balance of City Council isn't likely to change much. Malone and Monzel are both conservatives. Smitherman replaces Minette Cooper, a consensus-building Democrat who was a voice for children and seniors.

"I think the youth movement continues, and the Malone and Smitherman victories mean big changes. What they are remains to be seen," said Mayor Charlie Luken, who serves a four-year term and was not up for re-election. "I don't know how people can argue with what the voters did today. It's a good result."

Monzel's GOP colleague Pat DeWine was also punished at the polls. The son of U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine slid from third place in 2001 to sixth place in 2003.

DeWine was the target of a late-campaign phone bank operation by Fraternal Order of Police Vice President Keith Fangman. A recorded 30-second phone message sent to registered Republican households in the city called DeWine "the ultimate pretender."

"Pat DeWine pretends to support law enforcement, but he does not," Fangman said in the message.

Fangman was talking about DeWine's opposition to a police supervisors' contract, which contradicted a 2001 city charter amendment by keeping the assistant police chief position in civil service.

That stance also cost DeWine the chairmanship of the Law & Public Safety Committee Tuesday.

Luken didn't even wait until the final results to announce his picks for key leadership posts on City Council.

Reece, he said, would remain as vice mayor. But Luken said he would remove DeWine from the chairmanship of the powerful Law & Public Safety Committee.

The right to appoint the vice mayor and committee chairmen is reserved for the mayor under the "stronger mayor" system in place since 2001. After Luken's election, he appointed a tripartisan leadership of council committees in order to forge consensus.

Reece has elevated the prominence of the vice mayor's office - previously considered in the past to be a ceremonial title with ribbon-cutting duties - into an office with some national stature.

Luken said her national campaign against the boycott of Cincinnati was a major reason why Cincinnati has been able to move forward with needed police reforms.

Reporters Howard Wilkinson, Kevin Aldridge and Maggie Downs contributed.


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