By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Cincinnati Councilman John Cranley will make it a crowd.
Cranley, a 30-year-old Democrat in his second full term, said Monday that he intends to run for mayor in 2005 - becoming the third Democrat to join the fray. His entry came one week after Mayor Charlie Luken - a close friend and political mentor - said he would not run for re-election.
Cranley made the announcement from the back deck of his East Price Hill home, which overlooks the Ohio River and the downtown skyline. He said his West side roots give him "a different view" than other candidates.
"I've been willing to tackle controversial issues," he said. "What I bring to the table is strength, a willingness to take charge, and to take on the big issues."
Indeed, Cranley's four-year record is filled with accomplishments and controversy. His 2001 campaign promise to hire 75 more police officers quickly won City Council approval, and he led the fight against the expansion of Lunken Airport.
But he's also rankled some with his proposal to redevelop Main Street into a beacon for the "creative class," especially after his chosen developer made a comment about Chinese restaurants that some interpreted as a slur. And he's been unapologetically pro-development, even in places such as Oakley where leaders opposed it.
While Cranley's statement left him room to drop out - he's technically forming an exploratory committee to see if he can raise the money - he said his "heart is ready to run."
With television cameras crowded onto his deck, Cranley mentioned former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani - a Republican - at least three times, speaking favorably of his leadership qualities and anti-crime initiatives. Cranley was an intern in the Giuliani administration in 1995, working in the New York City Department of General Services on a welfare-reform initiative.
"If I'm convinced that I can do for Cincinnati what Giuliani did for New York, I will run," he said.
Cranley said he felt it necessary to make the announcement now because he was previously on record saying he wouldn't run for mayor. Luken's decision to drop out changed that, he said.
Cranley's announcement followed a lunch with supporters, including Mid Point Music Festival founders Bill Donabedian and Sean Rhiney, Lunken Airport Coalition leaders Joe and Judy Zehren, developers Keith Glaser and Ken Robinson, and Westwood neighborhood leader Randy Hammann.
Cranley, chairman of City Council's Finance Committee, has been a close ally of Luken and his father, former U.S. Rep. Thomas A. Luken, since he ran for Luken's old congressional seat in 2000.
Cranley joins state Sen. Mark Mallory and Councilman David Pepper, both Democrats, who have already announced their intentions 15 months before the election. Vice Mayor Alicia Reece, also a Democrat, and Ohio 1st District Court of Appeals Judge Mark Painter, a Republican, say they're also actively considering campaigns for mayor.
Luken's surprise decision to drop out of the running for a second four-year term under the city's new "stronger mayor" form of government could have further shock waves in local politics.
A candidate can't run for mayor and council in the same year, so mayoral campaigns by Cranley, Pepper and Reece would create three open seats on City Council. City Hall hasn't seen that kind of turnover since 1993, when Democrat Tom Luken and Republicans Phil Heimlich, Nick Vehr and Charlie Winburn took advantage of newly instituted term limits and weak incumbents to sweep onto City Council.
A three-candidate race for mayor would also ensure an open primary in September 2005, after which the top two finishers would proceed to a nonpartisan election in November.
How the field is shaping up
Each week brings new developments in the Cincinnati mayor's race, with candidates scrambling to get in - and out - of running. And there's still 10 months until the filing deadline. The scorecard so far:
State Sen. Mark Mallory: He kicked off the intrigue July 20, ending a six-month exploratory effort by announcing he would begin a neighborhood-to-neighborhood campaign.
Councilman John Cranley: The Luken protege said he'd never run against his mentor. But with Luken out of the picture, Cranley said Monday he plans to run.
Councilman David Pepper: Pepper has taken a low-key approach - quietly confirming that he'll run when asked but not calling the television cameras to do it.
... on the fence ...
Vice Mayor Alicia Reece: Her father is heading an exploratory effort that's considering a number of jobs, including mayor, Mallory's state Senate seat and Ohio secretary of state.
Judge Mark Painter: The state Appeals Court judge is the only Republican to have floated his name. He has said he's most interested in seeing Luken defeated, but probably won't run if Mallory stays in.
... and who's out
Mayor Charlie Luken: Mallory's announcement forced Luken to show his hand. Luken folded. The 53-year-old mayor - who will be the longest-serving ever by the end of his term - said Aug. 2 he lost his enthusiasm for the job. But he's considering statewide office.
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