Hamilton County’s 2021 general election is shaping up to be a doozy and will effectively change the city of Cincinnati’s entire leadership. Voters will decide who will launch the city’s next era as mayor while also filling nine Cincinnati City Council spots from among 35 candidates.
Here’s what to look forward to at the polls within the city on Nov. 2. All candidates, issues and voting information can be found on the Hamilton County Board of Elections website at votehamiltoncountyohio.gov.
There is no incumbent candidate on the ballot, as current Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, a Democrat, is nearing the end of his second and final term. He now is campaigning to become Ohio’s governor in 2022, joining current Governor Mike DeWine, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and others in the ring.
Instead, this year’s mayoral race is between two current government servants — Aftab Pureval and David Mann — both of whom are Democrats. This will be Cincinnati’s first new mayor in eight years.
Pureval is Hamilton County’s current clerk of courts. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Ohio State University and a juris doctorate from the University of Cincinnati College of Law. He was an associate with the international law firm White & Case for several years. Pureval spent a year as a special assistant United States attorney and then became counsel for global beauty care at Procter & Gamble.
Pureval has served as clerk of courts since 2017. He was the top vote-getter during Cincinnati’s mayoral primary in May, earning 39% of the vote.
Pureval’s opponent, Mann, is currently on Cincinnati City Council. He earned a Bachelor of Arts from Harvard University in biochemical sciences followed by a legum baccalaureus (a precursor to today’s juris doctorate) from Harvard Law School. Mann served in the United States Navy, won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, and has had several long stints on city council.
Mann had previously served for three years as Cincinnati’s mayor and owns a local law firm with his son. During May’s primary, Mann earned 29% of the vote.
As part of the race for mayor, Pureval and Mann have appeared together in a variety of debates and town halls, including those hosted by media outlets, universities, neighborhood groups and industry groups.
CINCINNATI CITY COUNCIL
The 2021 race for Cincinnati City Council is one of the largest in the city’s history, with 35 candidates running for nine seats at two-year terms.
The Nov. 2 election is nonpartisan and the ballot will not show party affiliations, though candidates may have them. The full list of candidates, in alphabetical order, includes:
- Jalen Alford (D)
- Tom Brinkman (R)
- Jaime Castle (D)
- LaKeisha Cook (D)
- Jeff Cramerding (D)
- Michelle Dillingham (D)
- Kevin Flynn (D)
- Jackie Frondorf (D)
- Bill Frost (D)
- Brian Garry (D)
- Steve Goodin (R)
- Galen Gordon (D)
- Kurt Grossman (D)
- Reggie Harris (D)
- Rob Harris (D)
- K.A. Heard (I)
- Evan C. Holt (D)
- Nick Jabin (D)
- Mark Jeffreys (D)
- Scotty Johnson (D)
- Liz Keating (R)
- Andrew Kennedy (I)
- Greg Landsman (D)
- Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney (D)
- John Maher (D)
- Peterson Mingo (D)
- Phillip O’Neal (I)
- Meeka Owens (D)
- Victoria Parks (D)
- Te’Airea Powell (D)
- Logan-Peter C. Simmering (I)
- Stacey Smith (I)
- Betsy Sundermann (R)
- Jim Tarbell (D)
- John J. Williams (D)
The candidates largely are new to city council politics, but many have become known in local activist, political or business circles. Additionally, there is one elected incumbent candidate as well as four appointed incumbents on the ballot.
Greg Landsman is the elected incumbent. He assumed office in January 2018 and is known for passing 2019’s eviction-prevention program, which aimed to help tenants who fell behind on rent.
The four appointed incumbent candidates include Steve Goodin, Liz Keating, Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney and Betsy Sundermann.
Goodin, who served as assistant Hamilton County prosecutor for five years, was appointed to Cincinnati City Council in 2020. Goodin took the place of Jeff Pastor, who was arrested on corruption charges.
Kearney was appointed to Cincinnati City Council in 2020 after Tamaya Dennard was arrested on corruption charges and later resigned. The Cincinnati Herald publisher has taken an interest in gun issues, including questioning the Cincinnati Police Department’s gun range in Evendale.
Keating was appointed in 2020 to replace P.G. Sittenfeld, who was arrested on bribery charges. Earlier this year, Keating proposed a Cincinnati charter amendment in which the mayor and council members would need to resign in order to run for another salaried, elected office.
Sunderman, a lawyer and former Hamilton County prosecutor, was appointed to the Council in 2020 after previous member Amy Murray accepted a job working for former U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration. She is known for her work on anti-corruption matters.
CPS BOARD OF EDUCATION
Six candidates are running for four seats on the Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) Board of Education: Pamela Bowers, Brandon Craig, Gary Favors, Kareen Moffett, Mike Moroski and Mary Wineberg.
Bowers, who assumed office in 2019, is running for another term, along with Moroski, who has been on board since 2018.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has shaped the candidates’ focus, particularly the option for students to remain in school or return to remote learning if COVID-19 cases were to significantly rise again. In a recent interview with WVXU-FM, most of the candidates claimed they were against returning to remote learning.
In September, CPS became the first major school district in Ohio to require a COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment (employees may apply for exemptions based on medical or sincerely held religious reasons).
In Cincinnati, voters will decide several issues at both the city and county levels.
Issue 3 is a proposed Cincinnati city charter amendment of anti-corruption measures, designed to rein in the activities that caused many corruption and bribery scandals in recent years.
State Representative and city council candidate Tom Brinkman wrote the amendment and gathered signatures for it to appear on November’s ballot.But when the city printed the ballots, a word was changed from the initial language. Brinkman’s draft said “to establish the compensation for members of Council to the amount equal to the median household income for the City of Cincinnati and adjust that compensation annually,” while the city’s version changed “household” to “family,” changing the potential median salary.
City solicitor Andrew Garth has claimed the change was a human error, while Brinkman has wondered if it was done to sabotage the issue’s chances. The city declined reprinting the ballots with the original language. Some legal experts anticipate challenges.
Here is the charter amendment language that voters will see on the ballot:
Shall the Charter of the City of Cincinnati be amended to require approval by Council before litigation on behalf of the City of Cincinnati or any of its officials can be filed; to establish the compensation for members of Council to the amount equal to the median family income for the City of Cincinnati and adjust that compensation annually; to require candidates for Mayor and Council to be residents of the City of Cincinnati for at least one year prior to assuming office; to eliminate the use of successor designation by members of the Council and to provide that if a member of council dies, resigns, or is removed, then the person who received the highest number of votes for election to council at the most recent municipal election but who was not declared elected to council at such election and who is not otherwise already serving or has served as a member of council since the most recent municipal election shall be the successor to hold the office for the remainder of the unexpired term of that member of council. To require the Mayor to assign legislative proposals to the appropriate committee no later than thirty days after being filed with the Clerk and to require the Mayor to put legislative proposals on the Council agenda no later than thirty days after they are reported out of Committee; to provide that the Mayor and members of Council are personally liable for violations of state law regarding open meetings or public records where the violation was to avoid or circumvent those laws or was purposeful, knowing, in bad faith, or in a wanton or reckless manner; and to provide for the removal of the Mayor as provided by state law and other processes, by amending existing Sections 3, 4, 4a, and 4b of Article II, “Legislative Power,” and amending Section 2 of Article III, “Mayor,” and enacting new Section 11 of Article IV, “Executive and Administrative Service,” and new Section 2c of Article IX, “Nominations and Elections.”
In Cincinnati’s Issue 4, voters will decide if Kantam, L.L.C., doing business as Andy’s BP, can sell wine and mixed beverages between 10 a.m. and midnight on Sundays.
For Hamilton County, a tax levy for children’s services that would continue support for the care and placement of children is on the ballot. Here is the Issue 1 ballot language:
A renewal of two and seventy-seven hundredths (2.77) mills and an increase of one and seventy-four hundredths (1.74) mills to constitute a tax for the benefit of Hamilton County, for the purpose of supplementing the general fund to provide support for children services and the care and placement of children at a rate not exceeding four and fifty-one hundredths (4.51) mills for each one dollar of valuation, which amounts to forty-five and one tenths cents ($0.451) for each one hundred dollars of valuation, for five (5) years, commencing in 2021, first due in calendar year 2022.
For Issue 29, Great Parks of Hamilton County is requesting a 10-year levy that would support infrastructure and improvements. If passed, homeowners would pay roughly $33.25 a year per $100,000 of home valuation annually, on top of the current levy of about $30 per $100,000. That levy expires in 2026.
Here is Issue 29 ballot language:
An additional tax for the benefit of the Great Parks of Hamilton County for the purposes of acquisition,conservation, and protection of natural resources and park land; operation and administration of park facilities, and programs; improvements to park infrastructure, facilities and natural resources;development, maintenance, and provision of outdoor recreation and nature education facilities,trails, programs, and services in current and future parks and nature preserves owned, leased, or operated by Great Parks of Hamilton County; and for such other parks and recreational purposes at a rate not exceeding ninety-five hundredths (0.95) mill for each one dollar of valuation, which amounts to nine and one-half cents ($0.095) for each one hundred dollars of valuation, for ten (10) years,commencing in 2021, first due in calendar year 2022.
HOW TO VOTE
Voter registration has closed for the Nov. 2 general election. Early voting at the Hamilton County Board of Elections office at 4700 Smith Road has begun for those who are registered to vote and continues through Nov. 1. Registered voters also may request an absentee mail-in ballot by Oct. 30.
To find your in-person voting location, enter your address at votehamiltoncountyohio.gov/where-to-vote. Voting is open 6:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m. on Nov. 2. As long as you are in line by 7:30 p.m., you are allowed to vote.
Voters should bring acceptable forms of identification to the polls. This includes an Ohio driver’s license or ID card, a state or federal photo ID card, or certain paychecks or utility bills.
For full information on how and where to vote, visit votehamiltoncountyohio.gov.
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