News: It's Political, Not Science

The ups, downs, ins and outs of Election Night in Hamilton County

Nov 9, 2000 at 2:06 pm
Jon Hughes/

The first Democrat elected to the Hamilton County Commission since 1964, Cincinnati City Councilman Todd Portune celebrates with his wife, Angie

Weird night on Nov. 7. Local Democrats whoop it up. The guy who built the new stadium lies low.. Small fry take over the Hamilton County Board of Elections office. John Dowlin is sporting a bow tie. Gore wins Florida, then loses it. Bush wins it, then it's a toss-up again. Just when you think it can't get any stranger, two women in Green Party T-shirts claim John Cranley — 26 year-old John Cranley, first-time candidate John Cranley — is beating Steve Chabot.

Can't be. The Green women are suspect.

True believers. Doing their part to make the environment chemical-free by eschewing the use of conditioner. Maybe anti-perspirant, too. But it's stuffy, so maybe not.

Cranley ahead? You check the screen at the board of elections, and there it is, at 9:10 p.m., with witnesses all over the place. More than 200 precincts counted, and Cranley leads Chabot in the 1st District Congressional race.

Gets to the point you're actually glad for the suit walking by, talking into his cell phone, rattling off the reasons the Republicans ain't gonna lose in Hamilton County, no way, no how: "Anderson isn't in yet, Delhi isn't in yet, Colerain isn't in yet, Green isn't in yet."

The list of solidly Republican townships yet to be tallied serves as a reality check.

A woman walks around the room, repeatedly introducing people to a guest who seems mildly ill at ease. "This is Andrea," the woman says. "She's from Germany." This latter information is interesting, but not once can the woman be heard explaining why Andrea from Germany is wearing a Dowlin campaign button.

Meanwhile, a seventh-grader named Steven Smith strolls with a cell phone of his own, looking like a miniature Jerry Maguire, talking about journalism and election results with more acumen at the moment than does Hamilton County Prosecutor Michael Allen.

The prosecutor isn't sweating. He's running unopposed. So is the sheriff. Republicans both. This is a Republican county. Allen's analysis seems to consist of the theory that different parties win in different places. Really.

"We have trouble fielding candidates for city council," Allen says, "and the Democrats have trouble running people countywide, so it balances out."

Another Allen, a few blocks away, offers a more directly empirical observation. This Allen, whose last name isn't on his name badge and who doesn't want to give it, is one of two bartenders working the Democrats' party at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. Asked if Democrats tip well, he says they do, up to a point.

"They were until they yanked Florida," he says. "Then it got to be like a funeral."

Tonight the mourning passes quickly. The Democrats are so hungry for a little bit of victory in Hamilton County that Al Gore's defeat seems mere background to the excitement over Todd Portune unseating Bedinghaus.

Cranley loses and Chabot keeps his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. But the newcomer does surprisingly well — better, in fact, than Gore does in Hamilton County. Gore wins 42.3 percent of the votes in the county; Cranley's take is 44.1 percent.

Rob Portman wins re-election in the 2nd Congressional District, of course. He wasn't unopposed but might as well have been, taking 74 percent of the votes.

At the end of the night, Hamilton County backs the Republican candidate in every contested federal race — President, U.S. Senate and both House seats. But the Democrats, on this night, are positively gushing. ©