Morning News and Stuff

Democratic state rep. candidate criticized for paper he wrote as student; Hamilton County administrator to step down; Kasich PAC fundraising sees slide

Good morning all. With the Iowa caucuses today, it seems like a good time to talk politics, and we’ve got a bunch of local political stories to touch on. Let’s get to it.

Cincinnati City Councilman and U.S. Senate hopeful P.G. Sittenfeld is running neck and neck in with an opponent in the upcoming March Democratic primary, according to a new poll, but it’s not Ted Strickland. In a recent survey paid for by the Ohio Democratic Party, about 10 percent of 1,138 Ohio Democrats said they would vote for Price Hill resident Kelli Prather, an relatively unknown candidate who has never held elected office before. That’s the same proportion of support that Sittenfeld received in the poll. Strickland received 61 percent of the vote in the poll.

Sittenfeld’s campaign has shrugged off that poll, saying it’s biased and designed by the Democratic Party to support Strickland — who the party has endorsed — in the primary. Sittenfeld has raised a good deal of money from some notable donors, but has yet to catalyze much needed statewide recognition. Prather, meanwhile, has received little news coverage or other attention. She’s an occupational therapist whose harrowing experience as a victim of gun violence in 2004, when her husband shot her, inspired her to run for office, she says. Sittenfeld and Prather will debate in Cleveland Feb. 22. Strickland has declined to attend that event.

• More drama within the Democratic Party: A candidate to replace outgoing State Rep. Denise Driehaus in Ohio House District 31 says the local party is sidelining him over a research paper he wrote in 2009 while he was a student at Yale University. Candidate Ben Lindy says Hamilton County Democrats might take away his party rights — access to voter files and mailing information, lower postage rates and other benefits of being part of the Democratic Party — because the paper is now being used in anti-union arguments in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. That paper was published by Yale Law Journal in 2011 and is currently being used by anti-union groups in a case that could seriously undermine organized labor. Lindy says that’s not fair. 

Hamilton County Democrat head Tim Burke has said  he doesn’t want to totally marginalize Lindy but that the content of that paper is “bothersome.” In the research, Lindy found that public schools in New Mexico with mandatory union membership had higher SAT scores, but also lower graduation rates, than schools where collective bargaining arrangements weren’t mandatory. Lindy says in the paper that the results suggest collective bargaining arrangements for teachers actually hurt low-income students. He’s stuck by that particular research, but says that overall he supports unions and opposes efforts to restrict union dues collection in the current Supreme Court case. But he also points to other Democrats who have beliefs outside the party, such as those who are pro-life, and says he doesn’t deserve to be drummed out of the party for his position.

• Hamilton County Administrator Christian Sigman will step down from his job as county government’s top appointed official in September, he told county commissioners Friday. Sigman has served in the role — in which he helps set county budgets and oversees economic development plans — since 2011. He’s recently had a rocky time in the position, however, having been removed from oversight of riverfront development The Banks by county commissioners after he made statements suggesting that the county should consider working with another developer. Initially, commissioners considered firing him over those statements.

• Here’s a break from politics for a business story: Will local giant corporation Procter & Gamble split up? There’s a buzz going around financial analysts and others in the business world that it could, or should, happen as the company sees slow sales growth. It might be too large to grow any more, some experts say, and should consider splitting the company up. While the company has made some progress under new CEO David Taylor, lack of major progress could cause stockholders to push for the split-up, something that has happened at more than 300 other large companies in the last five years. Proponents of that course of action at P&G say it would allow the resulting companies to better focus on particular sectors of P&G’s business. However, others say the company’s sales problem exists across all its various enterprises and wouldn’t be solved by breaking them up. Already, P&G has sold off 100 smaller brands that were not as successful as its core products.

• And now, back to politics. Two political action committees supporting Ohio Gov. John Kasich as he vies for the GOP presidential nomination saw a significant slowdown in fundraising in the second half of last year, recently released financial disclosures show. Super PACs New Day for America and New Day Independent Media Committee, both of which were formed to tout Kasich’s bid, saw about $6 million in contributions from July to December last year. That’s little more than half the $11.7 million those PACs took in in the first half of the year. Much of that money came from big donors with ties to large corporations.

Under campaign finance rules, Super PACs have no contribution limits but cannot coordinate directly with candidates’ campaigns. Kasich’s fundraising has trailed other candidates in the heated primary race. Similar super PACs for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio raised  $30 million last year, for instance. The PACs supporting Kasich have seen an uptick in fundraising, however, in the last couple weeks, as primary season starts in earnest. Kasich hopes some of that support pays off in Iowa tonight, where he’s trailing far-right candidates like U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Donald Trump in polls of Iowa’s staunchly conservative caucus-goers.

That’s it for me. Enjoy this warm weather while it lasts, eh?

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