Is Mayor John Cranley stacking the deck in the local Democratic Party ahead of 2017 in hopes of gaining the party’s endorsement for his reelection and running allies for Cincinnati City Council elections? Some think so. A political action committee that has backed the mayor has been mailing out ads supporting Cranley allies running for Democrat precinct executives. Those positions in the Hamilton County Democratic Party help determine endorsements, the party’s City Council slate and other important partisan choices.
Meanwhile, Democratic opponents of the mayor who favor the streetcar and other policies Cranley has opposed are running for those spots. The mailers associated with the Cincinnatus PAC use President Barack Obama’s image and name candidates for the precinct positions that the PAC says will best “protect his legacy.” That PAC shares an address with Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Tim Burke’s law firm, though Burke says he’s not involved in the group. Cranley’s opponents say the PAC’s mailings are a kind of cronyism, while Cranley says they’re about building a stronger party. The spat is part of a larger divide within the local Democratic party between established and moderate politicians like Cranley and a more progressive cadre of Democrats. Look for this schism within the local Democratic Party to widen as we get closer to 2017.
• A man who recorded a video he says shows Cincinnati police harassing him in Over-the-Rhine will appear in Hamilton County courts today on contempt of court charges. Charles Harrell spent the weekend in jail without bond after an attorney filed an affidavit that he took photos of police officers outside a Hamilton County courtroom, a violation of security policy there. Harrell was in court at the time facing jaywalking and drug possession charges in relation to the incident he captured on video last month. In that video, officer Baron Osterman follows Harrell on a bicycle, confronting him over an alleged pedestrian violation. That encounter escalated into a verbal argument, at which time Harrell was arrested. Harrell pled guilty to the drug charge but not guilty to resisting arrest and the pedestrian violation.
• Breaking news: U.S. urban policy makers don’t look to Cincinnati, land of years-long battles over a small stretch of bike lane, for its urban policy expertise. That’s one takeaway from a new survey of 89 mayors by Boston University. Less than five percent of respondents to that survey mentioned Cincinnati as a place they look to for policy inspiration. Ouch.
• Cincinnati City Councilman and U.S. Senate hopeful P.G. Sittenfeld has a new endorsement, and it’s, uh, out of this world (preemptive apologies for that one). Yes, Mark Hamill, of Star Wars fame, has come out in support for Sittenfeld based on his advocacy for tighter gun laws. Hamill played Luke Skywalker, in case you were somehow unaware of that. My birthplace of Hamilton, Ohio is also named in his honor. (This is completely untrue, but I told my Minnesota-born coworker Natalie Krebs this and now she’s very, very confused).
Meanwhile, Sittenfeld’s opponent, former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, who is leading by a large margin ahead of Ohio’s March 15 primary, has announced some powerful endorsements of his own, including former Arizona congresswoman Gabby Giffords. Giffords has become a vocal proponent for gun control since surviving an assassination attempt in 2011. Strickland has taken much criticism from Sittenfeld for his mixed record when it comes to gun control and has in the past voted against tighter gun control laws. He now says he supports some gun control measures, however.
• Should 17-year-olds be allowed to vote on prospective presidential candidates in Ohio’s primary elections if they’ll be 18 for the general election in November? Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted says no, but advocates, including the American Civil Liberties Union, are pushing back against that. Husted issued a directive recently that says because delegates are elected for the primary instead of a presidential candidate simply being nominated, 17-year-olds can’t vote for them. That’s caused charges that Husted is trying to curtail young peoples’ rights to decide who will end up running in the general presidential election. Meanwhile, there are other points of confusion about Ohio’s primary voting systems heading into the March 15 election. Read about those here.
• Finally, four states will vote for GOP presidential primary candidates today and two will vote for Democratic presidential hopefuls. What’s gonna happen? It’s high drama as Hawaii, Idaho, Michigan and Mississippi weigh in on the GOP candidates and Michigan and Mississippi decide on Democrats. Michigan, with its big delegate count, is the big deal for both sides, and it’s a state where Ohio Gov. John Kasich is fighting tooth and nail to stay relevant ahead of Ohio’s primary next week. Should Kasich pull out a win here, as at least one poll suggests he could, it would help change the math around Donald Trump’s path to a clean, uncontested nomination. Meanwhile, fellow anti-establishment candidate U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is creeping up on Trump. You can read all about the drama in our primary edition out tomorrow.