Hamilton County Democratic Party elects female chairs for the first time ever; more news

Former state Rep. Connie Pillich and Springfield Township Trustee Gwen McFarlin are the Hamilton County Democratic Party's new co-chairs, replacing retiring chair Tim Burke. It's the first time women have led the party.

click to enlarge Springfield Township Trustee Gwen McFarlin will lead the Hamilton County Democratic Party with co-chair Connie Pillich.
Springfield Township Trustee Gwen McFarlin will lead the Hamilton County Democratic Party with co-chair Connie Pillich.

Hello Cincy! Let’s talk news.

Hamilton County’s Democratic Party will be led by women for the first time ever after a Saturday morning vote to elect new leadership. The county’s 258 Democratic Party precinct chairs chose to make former state Rep. Connie Pillich and Springfield Township Trustee Gwen McFarlin co-chairs of the party. The two replace retiring chair Tim Burke, who has served in the role for 25 years. Precinct chairs also elected new faces to the party’s nine-member executive committee. Party members have touted that body’s diversity — it includes four black members and five women.

Pillich and McFarlin’s elections come as Democrats gain more clout in Hamilton County — more Democrats than Republicans turned out for the May primary in the county, and Democrats now hold a 2-1 majority on the Hamilton County Commission after the 2017 elections.

Pillich, who served in the Ohio House from 2009 to 2014, ran for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination last year, but dropped out of a crowded field earlier this year. McFarlin has been a Springfield Township Trustee for 23 years and is also the head of the Hamilton County Tax Levy Review Committee.

“Hamilton County is on the cusp of something great,” Pillich said. “It might not be easy. It might be bumpy, but Hamilton County is going to be blue.”

• A lawsuit filed in federal court Friday alleges that Cincinnati Police officers withheld evidence related to murder charges, causing a suspect named Joshua Maxton to be held for seven months without probable cause. Maxton was later acquitted in the murder of Robin Pearl after evidence his lawsuit says was suppressed by police came to light at trial. You can read our story on the lawsuit here.

• A spot near Cincinnati City Hall looks likely to get new residential development soon, beating out interest from Cincinnati Public Radio for the same site. The Cincinnati Business Courier reports that Indianapolis-based Milhaus has secured a preferred developer agreement with the city for a plot of land at Ninth and Plum streets, where it says it would like to build 100 or more market-rate, but not necessarily luxury, apartments and ground-level retail. Mayor John Cranley supports that project. But Cincinnati Public Radio also applied for the rights to build a new office building and plaza on the plot. That’s something Cincinnati City Councilman said he supported in a letter about the project. Sittenfeld floated the idea of combining the two projects, but said if that wasn’t possible, he would go with Cincinnati Public Radio’s plan. But Cincinnati Economic Development Director Phil Denning says the timing isn’t right for combining the two, and, because there is a dearth of housing being built in the urban core, that Milhaus is the right choice. The company submitted proposals to the city in the past for the site, but those plans required city contributions. Milhaus’ new plan requires the city sell the land to the developer at less than market rate, but does not ask for other subsidies.

• Investigators recently visited a luxury condo once occupied by former Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, who resigned from his post earlier this year amid an investigation into his ties with lobbyists. The FBI late last week toured the home owned by Republican heiress and fundraiser Virginia Ragan, who once rented it out to both Rosenberger and his successor, current interim House Speaker Ryan Smith. FBI agents did not have a warrant, but were invited by Ragan to see the condo. Agents took some photos but did not do a thorough search of the home. Rosenberger’s lifestyle, including international travel on the dime of lobbyists and the use of Ragan’s condo, drew the attention of federal investigators. The former speaker maintains he did nothing illegal.

• The U.S. Supreme Court sided with Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted today, ruling in a narrow 5-4 decision that Ohio’s voter purge practices do not violate federal law. That’s a blow to groups who have been pushing a multi-year challenge against the state’s practice of removing voters who haven’t voted or responded to mailers in six years from its voter registration rolls. You can read our story on the court’s decision here.

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