Election Day draws near, and change is afoot. You can feel it in the air. You can hear it in the desperate TV ads being run by Republicans. You know you're unhappy with how things are going, and so are your friends and even your conservative relatives.
Hell, The Enquirer actually endorsed a couple of Democrats.
Don't believe us? Check out our legendary "Who's Endorsing Whom" charts on the following pages and see for yourself.
Once again CityBeat brings together all the election endorsements in one place — all the media, parties, political action committees, civic associations and unions. The candidates like to tout their support, but in case you've given up watching television and/or are tossing your junk mail without reading it, you might not know all of the endorsements.
One of the main features of "Who's Endorsing Whom" — besides its grammatical correctness — is the instant reading it gives about which candidates and issues are getting broad support and which are very narrowly supported.
We've found that these levels of support often predict victory and defeat at the polls.
This year, for instance, consider the big races in Ohio — governor and senate. Ted Strickland has been endorsed by every major Ohio newspaper except The Enquirer and has received unexpected group endorsements (Fraternal Order of Police), indicating he'll likely beat Ken Blackwell comfortably in the governor's race. Endorsements for U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine and challenger Sherrod Brown, however, are more evenly split, and the group endorsements are as expected (unions for Brown). This race will be close.
Locally, David Pepper has walked away with the lion's share of endorsements in the Hamilton County Commissioner race and seems to be in good position to defeat incumbent Phil Heimlich. Just about every major organization except CityBeat has endorsed yes on Issue 12, the proposal to fund a new jail, so chances are you'll be paying more sales taxes soon in Hamilton County.
With less than a week until Election Day, our work here is almost done. It's up to you now. You have to bone up on the issues and candidates and make some decisions, and then you have to vote Tuesday.
If you let CityBeat help, you'll have access to a wealth of background information via our coverage over the past few months — interviews with candidates and issue proponents and detractors, debate coverage, columns, editorials, blog posts and endorsements. Get it all at www.citybeat.com/election.
In this week's issue alone you'll find:
· A recap of all the CityBeat endorsements.
· Our final round of new endorsements on page 14.
· A "Vote the Clean Sweep Ticket" reference chart at the right; cut it out and take it with you on Tuesday.
· Katie Laur's column on her connections to the Democratic Party going back to FDR (page 8).
· A feature story on the new voting procedures you'll face Tuesday as well as on the confusion still reigning in our election system (page 15).
· A feature story on Kentucky's 4th Congressional District race (page 18).
This is the election for a clean sweep of state and national scandals, "staying the course," underhanded ballot initiatives and politicians enriching themselves, their friends and their corporate sponsors while ordinary working people suffer. Grab your brooms, and join us Tuesday at your local polling station.
Ohio Governor: TED STRICKLAND
Strickland's background is varied, his life experiences have taught him what real Ohioans go through and his multiple terms in Congress have tested and shaped his leadership skills. His "Turnaround Ohio" plan hits all the right areas of concern in this state: high-quality early childhood care and education, better public schools, a stronger economy through spurring small and mid-size business growth and supporting entrepreneurs, stabilizing health costs for government and businesses and attracting/keeping jobs by focusing on industry sectors in which Ohio companies are growing. We'll see how much of this plan he can accomplish with a Republican-controlled legislature, but Strickland will have at least four years to get everyone on board.
And that's really one of the key reasons to vote for Strickland — as the state's top elected official, even if he's the only Democrat, he can begin to change the malaise and the culture of corruption in Columbus.
U.S. Senate: SHERROD BROWN
After eight years as Ohio Secretary of State in the 1980s and seven terms in Congress representing suburban Cleveland, Brown has earned a well-deserved reputation for sticking up for the little guy. He's always favored workers' rights, better health care and tougher environmental laws. He's always been against the botched invasion of Iraq and was one of the few members of Congress to vote against giving Bush the power to wage such a war.
Brown's priorities as a new senator sound good to us: pass the bipartisan recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Report; raise the federal minimum wage, which hasn't been increased since 1997; break the economic stranglehold of drug manufacturers by directing Medicare/Medicaid to negotiate better drug prices; and help make Ohio the Silicon Valley of alternative energy, encouraging and funding entrepreneurs who want to work on breaking our economy's dependence on foreign oil.
U.S. Congress (Ohio 1st District): JOHN CRANLEY
Since Cranley first ran against U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot six years ago, the country has fallen on hard times, as the Bush administration has screwed up a robust economy, a huge budget surplus and the military response to 9/11 — aided and abetted by a do-nothing Republican-controlled Congress. Chabot voted with the president 92 percent of the time, helping strip away civil liberties, paying lip service to homeland security and engaging volunteer soldiers in endless tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Cranley can serve this district well, having represented Cincinnati for seven-plus years on city council and having West Side roots as deep as Chabot's. He's learned to be a leader since 2000, while Chabot has learned to be a follower.
U.S. Congress (Ohio 2nd District): VICTORIA WULSIN
We all know Jean Schmidt hasn't been impressive in her year-plus tenure as Congressional representative from Ohio's 2nd District. From her famous "coward" epithet about ex-Marine John Murtha, a Democratic colleague from Pennsylvania, to her "ghost-written" guest editorial, Schmidt has had a difficult time gaining positive traction.
Victoria Wulsin M.D., like most first-time political candidates, is an unknown commodity when it comes to predicting legislative success. But her real world experiences as a doctor serving local causes via the U.S. Public Health Service and international women's health care via the U.S. Agency for International Development speak volumes about her dedication to service. Her medical career has been a good training ground for elective office, teaching her to make decisions based on research and facts and to work for the common good.
Hamilton County Commissioner: DAVID PEPPER
Incumbent Commissioner Phil Heimlich allowed the county's two highest-profile concerns — funding the parking garages as the foundation of The Banks riverfront development and building a new jail — to languish. He finally saw an opportunity to help build a case for re-election (and perhaps higher office) and grabbed unilateral control of both projects.
Pepper came close to becoming Cincinnati's mayor last fall, and there have been a few days recently when we wished he'd won that race. His business-like approach to governing will work well on the county level, where it sometimes didn't suit the larger nine-person Cincinnati City Council. And his partnership with fellow Democrat Portune will open Hamilton County to new ideas, fresh approaches and untapped relationships.
Ohio Secretary of State: JENNIFER BRUNNER
The most important "down ticket" race is Secretary of State, Ohio's top elections officer, a post that Ken Blackwell has done a good job (depending on your point of view) of using to his political advantage. Given the challenges ahead with the state's elections system, the next Secretary of State must restore trust in this office and assure Ohioans that their votes count.
Brunner has a wealth of experience with the Franklin County (Columbus) Board of Elections and as legislative counsel with the Secretary of State's office as well as her 13 years in private law practice representing candidates, businesses and associations in election-related cases. Her time as a judge on the Franklin County Common Pleas Court also offers valuable insight into how an elected official can make objective decisions based on facts and not politics.
Ohio Treasurer: RICHARD CORDRAY
Currently serving his second term as Franklin County Treasurer, Cordray is raising a lot of good questions about why this office — in essence the state's bank — approved the Bureau of Workers' Compensation investments with "Coingate" conspirator Tom Noe and why the office seems to be run by party hacks without investment knowledge.
Ohio Auditor: BARBARA SYKES
Sykes also raises Noe/Coingate-related questions about why an independent audit didn't root out this scandal and why a Toledo Blade investigation uncovered it first. Her background includes three terms as a state representative, where she's president of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus; 12 years as a deputy auditor for Summit County (Akron); and six years on Akron City Council.
Ohio Attorney General: MARC DANN
Dann has the difficult task of defeating Betty Montgomery, who's won previous statewide elections by wide margins. Yet with all the attention on the Coingate scandal, Montgomery is the one Republican candidate who can be personally be connected to a pervasive lack of oversight in the current administration. Plus Dann, a state senator representing Youngstown, has been Gov. Bob Taft's biggest critic about allowing and encouraging a pay-for-play system throughout state government, suing the governor twice to get Coingate documents released.
Issue 1 (Ohio Referendum on Workers' Compensation Law): OFF THE BALLOT
Issue 2 (Ohio Constitutional Amendment to Increase Minimum Wage): YES
Issue 2 raises the state minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $6.85 and indexes the rate to inflation so that it's adjusted every Jan. 1. More than 700,000 Ohioans would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage, either directly or because the head of their family earns the minimum wage. If you work 40 hours per week at a minimum wage job right now, your yearly gross pay is $10,712 — the official U.S. poverty line is $13,200. That's criminal.
Even at $6.85 an hour, your yearly income rises to only $14,248. But that's something, isn't it? It's incredible that, in an era when corporations pay their CEOs tens of millions of dollars and when the Republican-led Congress cuts the taxes of the nation's wealthiest citizens, many politicians and business leaders actually are complaining about raising the minimum wage. All because some hard-working man or woman, often supporting a family, might earn an extra $3,500 next year.
Issue 3 (Ohio Constitutional Amendment to Approve Slot Machine Gambling): NO
Issue 3 allows up to 31,500 slot machines at seven horse tracks around Ohio and two other Cleveland locations. Gaming can later be expanded into full-scale casinos at four Cuyahoga County locations (two tracks, two downtown spots) if approved by the county's voters, but nowhere else. Full-blown casino gambling currently is a short drive from most Ohio cities, and the world hasn't ended yet. It's coming to Ohio as well as to Kentucky — it's just a matter of when.
Still, Issue 3 smells bad. Many Learn and Earn petition workers fudged the truth about the gambling vs. college scholarship provisions, and Cincinnati was cut out of the deal — even though Learn and Earn subsequently offered $100 million in development grants to buy the support of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Vote no on Issue 3. We guarantee you the horse tracks and various downtown developers will be back next fall, if not sooner, with a better thought out and fairer plan.
Issue 4 (Ohio Constitutional Amendment to Ban Smoking Except in Restaurants, Bars, etc.): NO
Issue 5 (Ohio Law to Prohibit Smoking in Public Places): YES
The American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Ohio Hospital Association, Ohio State Medical Association and other groups organized Issue 5 to prohibit smoking in enclosed areas of public places and enclosed areas in places of employment. Tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds sponsored Issue 4 as a Constitutional amendment to prohibit smoking in enclosed areas except restaurants, bars, bingo halls, bowling facilities and race tracks. Two kickers: Issue 4 would erase retroactively any local anti-smoking law in effect and would prohibit the future adoption of any such local law, and, if both issues pass, Issue 4 takes effect because it's a Constitutional amendment.
When it comes down to it, public health trumps private enterprise. Smokers have a right to smoke, but governments have the duty to protect their citizens from unwanted second-hand smoke and thus should enact laws that do the most good for the most people — such as Issue 5.
Issue 12: (Hamilton County Sales Tax Increase to Fund New Jail): NO
Issue 12 raises the existing sales tax levy by one quarter of 1 percent from the current 6.5 percent to 6.75 percent for 10 years. The tax increase would raise a total of about $325 million over its life to fund construction of a new 1,800-bed jail facility as well as a three-year property tax reduction in the form of a credit.
Commissioner Phil Heimlich has pegged his flagging re-election campaign to the jail construction issue, so much so that voters are facing a rushed and desperate plan funded by the worst possible source — a sales tax increase. It's the most regressive tax of all, hitting low-income people with the same sales tax as upper income people when, of course, people of means are able to absorb the additional tax in their daily lives.
Issue 13: (Hamilton County Children's Services Renewal Levy): YES
Issue 13 is a five-year renewal of a property tax levy at the same level as previously passed in 2001. It would generate more than $41 million a year over the five years and cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $48.95 per year.
Levy funds provide the local matching funds required to annually receive the state and federal revenues that protect disadvantaged children of Hamilton County. The system operates the 241-KIDS hotline for reporting suspected abuse and neglect; investigates allegations of abuse, neglect and dependency; places children in temporary care when necessary; prepares children for adoption; and more.
Issue 14 (Hamilton County Health and Hospitalization Services Renewal Levy): YES
Issue 14 is a five-year renewal of a property tax levy that's actually a slight reduction from the level previously passed in 2001. If passed, it would generate more than $47 million a year over the five years and cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $47.24 per year.
Annual levy funds would reimburse University Hospital to pay for costs of care to medically indigent or uninsured patients; Children's Hospital Medical Center to fund innovative programs to reach poor and uninsured children; Tuberculosis Control Services to provide screening, diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis (mandated by the state); Juvenile Court Medical Services for health care needs of detainees at county juvenile facilities; and more.
U.S. Congress (Kentucky 4th District): KEN LUCAS
Ken Lucas un-retires as he seeks the Congressional seat he held from 1998 to 2004, when Republican Geoff Davis beat Nick Clooney to become Northern Kentucky's representative in Washington, D.C. As with other GOP reps whom we'd like to see replaced, Davis too often has backed President Bush and his own party leadership without questioning them or reining them in, voting with Bush 96 percent of the time.
When in office, Lucas was a conservative Democrat who bucked his party when he felt he needed to — something Davis and most fellow Republicans never learned to do.
Still, Lucas did vote to give Bush the authority to wage war in Iraq and has had to defend that vote while criticizing Davis and the current Congress' lack of oversight for subsequent war failings. It's become clear, however, that a Republican majority in the House and the Senate can't or won't provide the vision needed for bringing Iraq to a successful resolution. Only a bipartisan approach led by a Democratic-held Congress will be able to solve the nation's problems, and Lucas must be returned to office for that to happen.
State Senate (District 7): RICK SMITH
Smart and creative newcomer wants to focus on expanding health care insurance coverage, shifting school funding away from property taxes and raising the minimum wage.
State Senate (District 9): ERIC KEARNEY
This rising star in Ohio politics and successful entrepreneur is running for election in his own right after being appointed to the seat in late 2005; he's an advocate for small businesses and children's safety issues.
State Rep (District 28): CONNIE PILLICH
Air Force veteran and defense attorney is quickly learning the pitfalls of political campaigns, as her opponent, the Republican incumbent, branded her a defender of those accused of crimes; we can't have that now, can we? Pillich would be a breath of fresh air in Columbus.
State Rep (District 31): STEVE DRIEHAUS
A member of Democratic Party leadership in the Ohio House, he's an effective legislator who has earned a fourth and final term from the conservative West Side.
State Rep (District 32): NO ENDORSEMENT
As much as we'd like to see Democrats level the legislative playing field in Columbus, Dale Mallory is too tainted and too invisible to deserve this open seat.
State Rep (District 34): STEPHEN SILVER
Incumbent Republican Tom Brinkman's anti-tax platform is crumbling, as he hasn't opposed his friend Phil Heimlich's jail sales tax increase; he's also facing scandal charges for his work on a botched Citizens for Community Values petition drive. A first-time candidate, Silver focuses on improving the state's public schools and making quality health care more available and affordable.
Vote the Clean Sweep Ticket
Ohio Governor: Ted Strickland
U.S. Senator: Sherrod Brown
Ohio Secretary of State: Jennifer Brunner
Ohio Attorney General: Marc Dann
Ohio Auditor: Barbara Sykes
Ohio Treasurer: Richard Cordray
Congress 1st District (Ohio): John Cranley
Congress 2nd District (Ohio): Victoria Wulsin
Congress 4th District (Kentucky): Ken Lucas
Hamilton County Commissioner: David Pepper
Issue 2 (Minimum Wage): Hell Yes
Issue 3 (Gambling): No
Issue 4 (RJ Reynolds' Trick Amendment): Hell No
Issue 5 (Smoking Ban): Yes
Issue 12 (Jail Sales Tax): No
Issue 13 (Children's Services Levy): Yes
Issue 14 (Health & Hospitalization Levy): Yes
State Senate (District 7): Rick Smith
State Senate (District 9): Eric Kearney
State Rep (District 28): Connie Pillich
State Rep (District 31): Steve Driehaus
State Rep (District 34): Stephen Silver
ENDORSEMENTS written by John Fox. WHO'S ENDORSING WHOM CHARTS researched by Kevin Osborne and designed by Sean Hughes, Geoff Raker and Jim Fugett. POLLS ARE OPEN TUESDAY from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. in Ohio and 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Kentucky.