Hartmann Pulls Out of 2016 County Commissioners Race

Republican Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann will not seek reelection next year, he said in an emailed statement sent Nov. 21.

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Republican Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann will not seek reelection next year, he said in an emailed statement sent Nov. 21.

Hartmann’s departure from the race could mean big changes for county government. Hanging in the balance: a partisan majority on the powerful commission, which sets Hamilton County’s budget, among other functions.

In his email, Hartmann did not mention that dynamic, nor a contentious fight last year over a countywide sales tax increase to pay for multi-million-dollar renovations to historic Cincinnati icons Music Hall and Union Terminal. Hartmann’s support of a move stripping Music Hall from that deal caused a great amount of ire among many in the city.

“A large part of this decision has been motivated by a firm belief that fresh air and new perspectives add much to our political process and public service — one might call it a self-imposed term limit,” said Hartmann, who will finish out his second term next year. “Our party has many qualified candidates to serve our county, and I look forward to helping ensure we nominate and elect someone who represents our future.”

One of two Republicans on the three-member county commission along with Chris Monzel, Hartmann was initially set to face off against State Rep. Denise Driehaus next year. Now, Republicans will lose the advantage of incumbency in that race and are left searching for a candidate less than a year before the election. Democrat Todd Portune is the third member of the commission currently.

Driehaus presents a formidable opponent to whomever the Hamilton County GOP taps as its candidate. She has served four terms representing Ohio House District 31, which encompasses much of Cincinnati’s East Side, and is a head of the House Finance Committee.

Driehaus’ family is also a well-known political force in local and state politics; her brother Steve Driehaus spent four terms in the Ohio House before being elected to represent Ohio’s 1st District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2009-2011.

Driehaus announced her campaign for the commissioner’s seat in September, stressing a need for big changes there. She will leave her current position as state representative next year due to term limits.

“Hamilton County needs a commissioner who has a proactive vision for the future,” Driehaus said during a news conference announcing her campaign. “Hamilton County needs a commission that will work with both Republicans and Democrats, with cities, villages and townships, with business and labor to build a better Hamilton County.”

In his email, Hartmann touted his record of fiscal conservativism during his tenure as county commissioner, pointing out that he helped shave 1,500 positions and $100 million in spending from county government since he arrived in office in 2008. He also celebrated his work toward alleviating the region’s heroin crisis and progress at riverfront development The Banks.

Driehaus told The Cincinnati Enquirer Nov. 23 that Hartmann’s announcement “stunned” everyone, but that she won’t be changing her campaign strategy.

“I’m still running and hoping to win for same reasons I did yesterday — that the county will be a better partner for city and the business community,” she said.

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