Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Republicans lining up for council seat

We'll deal with the 2005 mayoral race soon enough, but right now the only campaign that counts is the intrigue-filled Republican contest to replace Hamilton County Commissioner-elect Pat DeWine on City Council.

As the only Republican left on the council, Sam Malone gets to make the call, in consultation with Hamilton Council GOP Chairman Michael R. Barrett.

The top two contenders are Leslie Ghiz, the former city labor lawyer now with Freking & Betz, and Price Hill Civic Club President Peter G. Witte.

The case for Ghiz: She got the most votes of any unsuccessful Republican in 2003 (20,365, to Witte's 13,734). And she campaigned hard for the Bush-Cheney ticket.

The case against her: Ghiz was the only Republican to support the repeal of Article XII - the anti-gay rights charter amendment that Malone fought to keep.

"The issues that were instrumental in (President Bush) maintaining his seat are critically important," Malone said. Translation: Only rock-ribbed social conservatives need apply.

For the most part, the rest of Malone's short list looks like the 2003 GOP slate for City Council. They are, in descending order of their 2003 election returns: former Councilman Chris Monzel of Winton Place (19,589 votes), Barbara W. Trauth of Hyde Park (17,874 votes), John Connelly of Mount Washington (14,351 votes) and Tom Jones of North Avondale (10,645 votes).

Organized lobbying efforts are already forming for Witte and Trauth.

A wild card: former Councilman Charlie Winburn, appointed by Gov. Bob Taft to the Ohio Civil Rights Commission as Winburn was approaching term limits in 2001. Under the city's 1991 term limit amendment, Winburn must take four years off before getting elected to City Council, but it's unclear whether that would preclude him from getting a mid-term appointment.

Malone is a Winburn protege.

MAYOR SETBACK: The movement toward an executive mayor/district council form of government in Cincinnati was a big loser in last Tuesday's election even though the issue wasn't on the ballot.

Why? Because if the Cincinnati school levy renewal had failed, the Board of Education would have almost certainly come back at a special election in February. That would have allowed the anti-Charterites - led by the likes of Jeff Berding of the Cincinnati Bengals and state Rep. Tom Brinkman Jr. - to piggyback on that special election, forcing a vote on a charter amendment without having to pay for it.

As it was, Issue 32 passed, and proponents of the electoral reform plan say it could be 2007 before they're ready to bring the charter amendment to voters.

NEAR DEATH: Councilman Christopher Smitherman proved a formidable campaigner in his first race for City Council in 2003, coming in seventh place and resurrecting the Charter Committee from near oblivion.

But it's even more impressive considering the allegations he makes in a medical malpractice lawsuit filed last week.

In it, he alleges that he was "near death" in June 2003 after a hernia operation at Bethesda North Hospital. He and his wife, Pamela, are suing the hospital and Dr. Philip J. Buffington of Montgomery in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court, claiming that complications from the operation laid him up for more than two weeks.

Buffington's lawyer did not return a call seeking comment.

E-mail or call (513) 768-8391.

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