'People Should Rise Up'

The good news is Mike Allen has withdrawn from the ballot and won't seek re-election as Hamilton County Prosecutor. The bad news is his predecessor, State Treasurer Joe "Death Row" Deters, is h

Sep 15, 2004 at 2:06 pm
John Arthur

Steve Embree (left) and Justin Brogden lobby people at ChiliFest to support the repeal of Article 12 of the city charter.

The good news is Mike Allen has withdrawn from the ballot and won't seek re-election as Hamilton County Prosecutor. The bad news is his predecessor, State Treasurer Joe "Death Row" Deters, is his likely successor. During his previous tenure as prosecutor, Deters — who moved back to Hamilton County last weekend in order to qualify as a write-in candidate — gave us the distinction of having sentenced more people to death than any other county in Ohio. The bad news is the Democrats, unable to foresee the sex scandal that brought Allen down, put no one on the ballot. The best news might be the expansion of a third party that long ago helped reform city government.

The prosecutor election saga might just be a hallmark scandal in the history of Greater Cincinnati. So say the folks at the Charter Committee, which early in the 20th century helped throw out George "Boss" Cox, the Republican who for 30 years ran Cincinnati from a saloon.

"This Mike Allen situation is a real Boss Cox moment," Charter President Michael Goldman says. "This is the Hamilton County equivalent, revealing a shocking lack of accountability in county government and showing how our election laws really favor the ruling party. This is a real disservice to voters."

Charter has until now been focused on city government; the organization has been Cincinnati's third party for 80 years. As a result of the prosecutor debacle, Charter's leaders are going to begin discussions about involving the organization in county affairs — particularly in ideas for making Hamilton County government more accountable to the public. Goldman says Charter would "love to" interview the write-in candidates for prosecutor and might offer an endorsement in the race if anyone seeks it.

"The citizens of Hamilton County are paying a price for this fiasco," he says. "People should rise up and use this opportunity to demand more accountability from their elected county officials."

The Allen scandal reveals many truths, including the Republican Party's complete freedom to do whatever the hell it wants to in Hamilton County. Shame doesn't stop them. Humiliation doesn't faze them. Criminal charges and unethical behavior are mere bumps in the road.

So it's inevitable that conspiracy theories would emerge regarding the back-room maneuvers pulled off by the GOP. Here are some of our favorites making the rounds:

· Deters, like former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, has been sent back home to cool his heels in the wake of embarrassing scandals that have effectively ended — or at least seriously stalled — their statewide careers.

· Lt. Gov. Jennette Bradley will replace Deters as state treasurer, and U.S. Rep. Rob Portman will replace Bradley. If President Bush is elected, unpopular Gov. Bob Taft will be appointed to a federal job, perhaps an ambassadorship. Portman will then become governor and run as the "incumbent" in 2006.

· Another line of thought is that Deters is running for prosecutor simply to keep the job in Republican hands, where it's been since 1932. After he's elected, he'll resign and turn over the prosecutor's office to Clerk of Courts Greg Hartmann or Municipal Judge Patrick Dinkelacker, neither of whom, party leaders suspect, could win the election on their own.

· Allen's presence on the Nov. 2 ballot had the potential to delay all ballot counting in Hamilton County and thus delay the presidential vote count for all of Ohio, maybe screwing up the entire election a la Florida in 2000. Someone very high in GOP circles — from the White House, perhaps — pressured Allen to withdraw. Now the prosecutor election is a total write-in campaign, which won't delay vote-counting in any other race.

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Cincinnati City Councilman John Cranley isn't running for prosecutor. Entertaining a write-in bid up to the last minute before the filing deadline, Cranley once more showed how he yearns to imitate Mayor Charlie Luken, his political patron. Last month Luken announced he won't seek another term as mayor.

"Maybe I'll run for mayor!" Cranley announced.

Last week Democratic Party leaders unsuccessfully courted Luken to run as a write-in candidate against Allen.

"Maybe I'll run as a write-in candidate against Allen!" Cranley announced.

Instead the party still has no endorsed candidate, although two largely unknown Democrats have registered for the all-write-in election: Jodi Luebbers and Fanon Rucker. Joining Deters as Republican write-in choices are James Rueger and Melissa Powers.

"This campaign will be like nothing anyone else has seen before or probably ever again," Rucker says.

The once moribund prosecutor race has even overshadowed, at least for now, the fight over repeal of a homophobic amendment to the city charter. A referendum to dump Article 12, which bars city council from passing laws against discrimination based on sexual orientation, is on the Nov. 2 ballot. Last weekend backers of the repeal campaign buttonholed people at ChiliFest downtown. Who would ever have thought a GOP sex scandal could out-sensationalize a fight over gay rights?

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