Morning News: Second mayoral debate tonight; Cranley snags FOP endorsement, Simpson touts poll; Portman pushes back against party's ACA replacement

Cincinnati's three mayoral primary contenders will debate again tonight in Walnut Hills. Mayor John Cranley is fresh off an endorsement from the Cincinnati FOP, while Councilwoman Yvette Simpson just released polling showing her and the incumbent tied.

click to enlarge Mayor John Cranley and Cincinnati FOP President Dan Hils outside City Hall. - Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell
Mayor John Cranley and Cincinnati FOP President Dan Hils outside City Hall.

Good morning all. Do you have any small boats, kayaks or other reasonably-sized watercraft I can buy for my morning commute? It just keeps raining and my bike doesn’t float. In the meantime, here’s some news.

Ahead of the city’s May 2 mayoral primary, Cincinnati’s three mayoral candidates will face off again tonight at the James Temple Church of God in Christ in Walnut Hills at 6:30 p.m. Mayor John Cranley, Councilwoman Yvette Simpson and former University of Cincinnati Board Chair Rob Richardson Jr. will each try to make the case that they’re the best choice to lead the city during a time of big growth and development in some neighborhoods and continued need for better opportunities in others. The debate comes as the city faces a $25 million budget shortfall due to lower-than-expected tax revenues, so spending may be a big focus of the discussion. Last week, the candidates engaged in heated debates on transit, Cincinnati’s police reforms, poverty and other issues at a forum in Avondale.

• Cranley will be going into the debate with another major labor endorsement in his pocket. Yesterday, the Cincinnati’s Fraternal Order of Police officially endorsed the incumbent, citing his support of police personnel during controversy around police-involved shootings, his efforts to extend raises to police and his refusal to lay off police in hard budget times. Cranley has used the endorsement to bash Simpson, saying that she voted to spend money on Cincinnati’s streetcar over supporting Cincinnati’s police force. The $100 million in city money for the streetcar came from the city’s capital budget, which is for infrastructure and equipment, not most employee salaries. Cranley hit Simpson over her resistance to offering Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac $160,000 a year, saying that she was OK with offering streetcar project manager John Dietrick $185,000 a year. Dietrick was paid on a finite time frame from the streetcar fund, while Isaac’s salary comes from the general fund and will be paid out into the foreseeable future. Simpson, along with several other Council Democrats, have questioned and sometimes resisted salary raises for top-level city administrators like police chiefs.

• Simpson, meanwhile, has her own card to play coming into tonight’s debate: Polling her campaign conducted suggesting she trails Cranley by just one point in the mayoral primary — a virtual tie. Richardson runs a distant third in that poll with just 11 percent of the vote. What’s more, Simpson’s polling, which the campaign sent out yesterday in a news release, suggests she would prevail in the general election. The poll of 500 likely primary voters between Feb. 27 and March 2 by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research shows Simpson grabbing 50 percent of the vote to Cranley’s 43 percent, with five percent of respondents undecided. Polling by campaigns is generally less accurate than outside polling, polls of likely mayoral primary voters don’t necessarily reflect voters in a general election, who are often less engaged, and the news release doesn’t stipulate key information — what questions respondents were asked, for instance. Still, the polling shows a race that is at least somewhat competitive with less than 60 days until the primary.

• Of course, that poll was taken before Bockgate, in which Simpson questioned the appropriateness of a woman removing her top during the annual Sausage Queen competition during last weekend’s Bockfest. Simpson was serving as a judge in that competition and drew boos for her comments — though to be fair, there were lots of people booing lots of things at the event. At the time, the Councilwoman cited her feminist beliefs for her statements condemning the dancer’s decision to take her bra off. She has since issued an apology for criticizing the dancer, whose nipples remained covered. Simpson cited her sensitivity to women’s exploitation due to her efforts to help sex workers as the reason she responded negatively to the performance. A small, not very substantive slipup, but an unforced error nonetheless — one The Cincinnati Enquirer has apparently decided to run with. The paper of record pledged yesterday to cover the Bockgate story “all day.

• Did you know that if tax dollars sent to the state were spread evenly across Ohio by population, our “donor county” would send $410 million less to the state in income and sales tax revenues — more than any other county? Hamilton County could use that money to prop up transit, basic infrastructure repair, increase basic services or fund education. But don’t hold your breath that we’ll see any of that money back. Local governments’ shares of tax receipts have dwindled in recent years thanks to adjustments by Ohio Gov. John Kasich in the way money is returned to municipalities from the state via the state’s Local Government Fund. Now, Kasich has tucked new proposals for further adjustments in the way that money is distributed into his latest budget — and those proposals would mean more losses for municipalities in Hamilton County. Overall, local governments here would lose more than $880,000 in 2019 under the new plan. Meanwhile, rural counties send less tax dollars than they would under an equal distribution of tax receipts by population. Turnbull County sends $77 million less to the state than their population suggests they could, Lorain sends $59 million less and Columbiana sends $57 million less. State lawmakers still have to approve Kasich’s budget, including the Local Government Fund adjustments.

• Let’s stick with Kasich proposals included in his state budget, shall we? Another idea the Big Queso has floated in his spending plan — a requirement that teachers do 40-hour-a-year internships with local businesses in order to stay accredited — has drawn big rebuke from education groups and Democratic lawmakers. The somewhat mystifying recommendation — which would have teachers spending hours at local manufacturers and food joints, one imagines — was cooked up by a group of business people who advise the governor on education. Some Democratic state lawmakers have fired back at Kasich’s plan, introducing a bill that would require him to also do 40 hours of internship a year — in a public school classroom. The bill, sponsored in part by local State Rep. Brigid Kelly of Norwood, stands little chance of passing the Republican-dominated legislature, however.

• Ohio Democrats have another entrant in the 2018 race to replace term-limited Gov. Kasich. Former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton has thrown her hat into the ring in that contest. She joins Ohio Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni, who announced his candidacy last week. Sutton is a big-name candidate in the state, and Democrats believe she could be an able opponent for any of the four potential Republican candidates. The GOP field includes Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, who announced her candidacy recently, as well as Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted and U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, who could announce their bids soon.

• There's a plan to end Obamacare, the GOP says, but some Republicans are not on board at all. U.S. House Republicans yesterday released their plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The new healthcare blueprint would allow citizens to create tax-free health savings accounts, create a 30 percent penalty added to insurance premiums for people who didn’t have health insurance at the beginning of a given year and roll back federal spending on Medicaid by 2020, eliminating the ACA’s Medicaid expansion. That has some Republican Senators, including Ohio’s Sen. Rob Portman, concerned. Roughly 700,000 Ohioans have gained insurance under the Medicaid expansion, and Portman and other Senate GOPers are pushing back against its removal. Republican lawmakers need the support of the four Senators to pass the measure through that chamber.

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