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Reform Ohio later. Or not.
That's the message voters sent Nov. 8, overwhelmingly rejecting four state constitutional amendments advanced by Reform Ohio Now.
Launched in response to widespread doubts about the integrity of the state's 2004 presidential vote, the reform package would seem to have had momentum on its side. After all, Democrats have pointed to the recent 2nd Congressional District election as proof that even Ohio, one of the reddest of states, wants change.
But change got walloped in the Buckeye State this year. Even the governor's conviction on criminal charges didn't convince Ohioans that they need to reform their political system.
Voting by mail, new limits on campaign contributions, appointing independent boards for redistricting and to oversee elections — none of them got better than 36 percent approval.
At the same time, the state approved by a comfortable margin a state bond issue modified from the one it rejected in 2003. In addition to funding technology research, this one includes funding for roads, bridges and sewers.
The tally was 1.42 million votes in favor and 1.2 million against.
In Cincinnati, voters handily approved a charter amendment requiring city council to vote on its own pay raises rather than automatically receive them when the state legislature grants increases to county commissioners. The charter amendment passed 40,851 to 22,321.
At the same time, as if to prove again that the electorate can't be taken for granted, voters turned down a proposal to phase out a city property tax, and the vote wasn't even close. The amount of the tax is so low as to be barely noticeable on an average tax bill, but given the city's tight budget it matters in aggregate. Voters rejected the tax cut by a margin of 39,270 to 25,432.
Residents of the Cincinnati School District chose two newcomers for the board of education — veteran child-welfare activist Eileen Cooper Reed and newcomer Susan Cranley, son of City Councilman John Cranley.
Voters ditched Harriet Russell, a longtime incumbent who formerly headed the teachers union. Catherine Ingram won re-election along with Melanie Bates, who last year split with the board and opposed a tax levy for the school district.
The name Cranley was magic on Election Day, with both mother and son leading the tallies in their respective races.
At the Hamilton County Board of Elections the night of Nov. 8, Ted Berry Jr. stood about, looking a little neglected as the TV cameras mostly focused on the mayoral and city council races. Berry, son of the city's first African-American mayor, Theodore Berry, was the only Democratic challenger to win a race in Hamilton County Municipal Court.
That result might have been deflating for Democrats, who contested more judicial races this year than in the past. But Chandra Yungbluth, the party's executive director, seemed undisturbed.
"We really ran a great judicial field of candidates, and it paid off," she said. "We elected Ted Berry."
The Democrats' goal in the future is to have no uncontested races, Yungbluth said.
"Nobody gets a free ticket," she said.
Next week the Democrats are holding an organizational meeting for the 2006 races, congressional and state on down. ©