Tuesday, September 7, 2004

Luken won't run against Allen

Democrats left searching for a write-in candidate

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken decided against waging a write-in campaign for Hamilton County prosecutor Monday, leaving Democrats scrambling to find an opponent for the embattled incumbent, Mike Allen.

Luken dropped out just three days after he reinstated his law license and floated his name as a candidate. Allen, a Republican who is running unopposed, admitted last month to an extramarital relationship with a subordinate and faces a federal sexual harassment lawsuit.

"I talked it over with family and friends. I want to continue to serve as mayor, and we have plenty to do at City Hall," Luken said in an e-mail to the Enquirer. "That is where I belong right now."

He declined to elaborate.

Luken's decision prompted a new round of recruitment in Democratic circles.

In an informal series of meetings at the Cincinnati AFL-CIO's Labor Day Picnic Monday, Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Timothy M. Burke continued the hunt for a challenger.

"All I can tell you is we will have a candidate," Burke said at the picnic. But he also underscored how little time there was: "It's a holiday. There's a week until the deadline, and we have John Kerry coming in on Wednesday."

Few Democrats have the name recognition and organizational ability to mount an effective write-in campaign.

"Write-in campaigns are daunting tasks and almost never succeed. They are simply too hard to organize," said John C. Green, director of the Ray C. Bliss School of Applied Politics at the University of Akron.

Still, Green said, write-in campaigns can serve a purpose.

"Write-in campaigns are potent protest activities - precisely because they are so hard to mount. Even a few percentage points of write-in ballots can undermine an officeholder's credibility," he said.

With Democrats still trying to field a candidate, Allen faces increasing scrutiny from fellow conservatives.

Aug. 27, Judge Robert P. Ruehlman, a Republican, suggested that Allen should step down.

Citizens for Community Values, a conservative group that has had close ties with Allen, now says the scandal has caused "irreparable damage" to his leadership.

While stopping just short of explicitly asking Allen to resign, CCV President Phil Burress called on Allen to "make the tough decision to do what's best for Hamilton County."

"Allen's affair with an employee and the pending sexual harassment lawsuit have critically injured his ability to lead the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office," Burress says in a written statement to be released today. "That position demands a leader whose personal moral conduct is beyond reproach."

He said Allen had violated the public trust and the confidence of his subordinates.

Neither Allen nor Hamilton County Republican Party Chairman Michael R. Barrett returned phone calls seeking comment.


E-mail gkorte@enquirer.com

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