Wednesday, November 5, 2003

Volunteers swarm polls in last-minute try for votes



By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] The Reverend Joseph Herron (left) and his wife Carol leave the polling place at Nativity School in Pleasant Ridge Tuesday afternoon.
([name of photographer] photo)
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PLEASANT RIDGE - Joseph and Carol Herron didn't expect to attract a crowd when they pulled into the Nativity School parking lot in Pleasant Ridge to vote.

But the moment the Pleasant Ridge couple locked their car door and headed for the school's side entrance, they were surrounded by eight campaign poll workers for Cincinnati City Council candidates.

"I can't believe all the attention we're getting,'' said Mr. Herron, associate pastor of the Gray Road Church of Christ. "Everybody wants our vote.''

With 26 candidates vying for nine council seats, not everybody got the votes of Joseph and Carol Herron, or of the tens of thousands of their fellow city voters who went to the polls Tuesday on a perfect voting day of cobalt blue skies and sunshine.

The Herrons and other Cincinnati voters were voting in what was an unusual election for the city - one in which the contest for those nine seats was center stage.

Two years ago, the mayor was elected separately for the first time in 75 years, and the contest between Charlie Luken and Courtis Fuller stole the spotlight.

And, unlike in most council election years over the past two decades, there was no Cincinnati Public School levy to drive up turnout.

"There's never been a council election where people had nothing else to focus on,'' said Jim Tarbell, a Charterite running for a third term. "But with 26 candidates on the ballot, it's hard to get a message through the clutter.''

From Nativity Church to the Madisonville Community center, from a Methodist Church in Mt. Airy to the Central Church of Christ in Westwood, it appeared the voting was being done in large part by long-time voters who looked for favorites and a new candidate.

Dan Armstrong, a long-time resident of Pleasant Ridge, cast one for Republican Sam Malone. He was impressed that a black candidate would speak out against the economic boycott.

"We need some new blood in city hall and I was looking for somebody like him, not afraid to speak out,'' Armstrong said.

Several miles away, at the Madisonville Community Center, Edgar and Pauline Porter say they have voted in every election since they moved to Madisonville 50 years ago.

"I listen to what the candidates say, but I know enough to know that they don't always follow through on what they promise,'' said Mrs. Porter. "Look at our neighborhood. This was a lovely place when we came here 50 years ago. Now the streets are filthy and the drug dealers are everywhere. Every candidate says he will do something about it. But will we see them after election day? I doubt it.''

In Bond Hill, a phalanx of campaign workers crowded the gates outside Integrity Hall when Eula O'Neal came out of the polling place. She saw Vice Mayor Alicia Reece and hugged her.

"I've known this girl since she was born,'' O'Neal said. "Before she was born.''

O'Neal, too, said she was looking for new candidates. She said she found one in Chris Smitherman, a Charter candidate.

Voters support candidates who are advocates for their neighborhoods.

Otis Flinchpaugh is one of those voters. He stood at the back door of the Central Church of Christ in Westwood and handed out Republican sample ballots.

"This neighborhood gets nothing out of city hall,'' he said. "Our streets are getting filthy. I don't think Mt. Lookout and Hyde Park get treated like this. I bet Observatory Avenue gets swept now and then.''

E-mail hwilkinson@enquirer.com




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