Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Commissioners cozier than expected in election year

Around the suburbs

The love is flowing at Hamilton County commissioners' meetings, but it may soon be dammed by election-year politics.

Commissioner Todd Portune jumped in recently to contradict a Cincinnati resident who accused Commissioner Phil Heimlich of not playing well with others.

"I rise to the defense and support of Mr. Heimlich around that," Portune said, pointing to the Republican's vote to join a federal lawsuit against the Bengals. "Mr. Heimlich has become a real champion and a rock in that fight."

Heimlich, likewise, criticized fellow Republican John Dowlin last week for questioning Portune's request to cancel their April 5 meeting.

Portune wanted to take part in the Opening Day parade and said his use of a wheelchair would make it hard to attend both the 9:30 a.m. meeting and the 11:30 a.m. parade.

Dowlin asked if canceling the meeting was a way to avoid being dinged for being absent.

(Short refresher: Dowlin was criticized in this month's GOP primary for missing 17 percent of commissioners' meetings the past two years. Dowlin lost his re-election bid to Pat DeWine.)

Heimlich chided Dowlin for playing politics, and the April 5 meeting was canceled.

Heimlich's support of Portune goes only so far, however.

This is still an election year and Portune is still a Democrat. Retired Juvenile Court Judge David Grossmann, the Republican nominee to take on Portune in November, will have Heimlich's full support, Heimlich said Tuesday.

Heimlich's backing of the Bengals suit may give Portune's crusade for a better stadium lease new life for the election, but that's a coincidence, Heimlich said.

MEANWHILE: Could DeWine's challenger in the November election come from the man who sits to his left - way left - at Cincinnati City Council?

"Some people have talked to me, and I've talked to some people," Democrat David Crowley said. "There's a lot of things to consider."

To wit: how a commissioner campaign would affect his goal to repeal Article XII of Cincinnati's charter, and the implications of having another Cincinnati liberal on a ticket with Portune.

ALL ABOARD: A familiar face has been attending Hamilton County Board of Elections meetings lately, and we were pretty sure he wasn't coming for the comfy chairs.

Sure enough, Bob Bedinghaus, former election board director and county commissioner, is representing Election Systems and Software of Omaha, Neb., one of the country's largest makers of electronic voting machines.

The nationwide switch from punch cards to electronic voting is not only a political and civic issue, it's also big business. Hamilton County - Ohio's third-largest county - estimates it will spend $8 million to $13 million on hardware, software and training.

The leading companies have been hiring political heavy-hitters to help their cases. Former state Sen. Stanley Aronoff and Chip Gerhardt are representing Hart InterCivic.

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