News: End of Days

The last part of a campaign is usually the best

 


The final days of a political campaign often provide the best view of a candidate's character, a political organization's street smarts or the trans-party couplings that usually go unadvertised.

Perhaps it was inevitable that the race for mayor of Cincinnati finally saw the kind of negative campaigning that so many voters claim to find off-putting — but which has repeatedly proven effective. Thus Councilman David Pepper's final TV ads chided his opponent for allegedly opposing a measure to put more cops on the city's streets, while a union backing State Sen. Mark Mallory mailed literature declaring, "David Pepper must think we're real dummies."

Both candidates tried to score points by accusing the other of violating Ohio campaign laws. But Mallory had the advantage, what with Pepper twice found guilty of misleading advertising, but complaints about Mallory's fund-raising were left unresolved until after the election.

A new grassroots group this year used a tactic that political parties have employed for decades, giving likeminded voters free rides to the polls. The Get Cincinnati Out to Vote Association offered free rides to anyone promising to vote for Mallory, city council members Christopher Smitherman, David Crowley, Sam Malone or Laketa Cole or council candidates the Rev. Damon Lynch III or Gerry Kraus.

The League of Pissed Off Voters (LOPC), launched during the 2004 presidential campaign, proved it has staying power, with members active in local elections across the country this year. Characteristic of its offbeat style, LOPC struck a come-hither pose in an effort to entice voters to support four state reform measures in Ohio. The leer arrived in an e-mail the day before the election: "You.

Me. A cozy little voting booth with the curtains closed. A yes, another yes, and another, and oh yes!"

Meanwhile, the most provocative candidate in the city's 2003 council election seemed to go mainstream. Lynch, who championed a civil rights boycott of Cincinnati for several years, came close to winning his last-minute independent race two years ago. He ran this time with the endorsement of the Democratic Party and none of the criticism his comparatively radical views used to evoke.

Widely disparaged for failing to even field a candidate for mayor in 2001 — the last time Cincinnati voted for the position — the Republicans this time put up a contender who didn't make it past the nonpartisan primary, ensuring the new mayor again will be a Democrat.

Nor did the GOP appear poised to enhance its representation on the nine-member city council. Both Republican incumbents ran this year — one, Sam Malone, awaiting trial for domestic violence; the other, Chris Monzel, rejected by voters in 2003 and later appointed to fill a vacancy.

The typically tame judicial races, which in years past have mainly been ceded by the Democrats, attracted competition this season for several seats on Hamilton County Municipal Court. In District 7 the contest got so heated that the staid Cincinnati Bar Association felt compelled to issue a last-minute clarification, saying Jon Dameron (D-Golf Manor) had misrepresented the organization's assessment of incumbent Lisa Allen (R-Cleves). Just how reserved is the bar association? It endorsed both candidates and wanted to make sure voters knew it.

The whole process is apparently much too confusing for some voters. The day before the election, the Hamilton County Democratic Party issued a statement warning against "over-voting." With 31 candidates on the ballot for city council, the party wanted to make sure voters knew they could choose a maximum of nine. Pick a 10th candidate, and none of them counts.

Final election results weren't available in time for CityBeat's press run. For our full coverage of the election, visit citybeat.com. ©

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