Schmidt Sparks Strange Bedfellows

An anti-tax group has made opposing Cincinnati’s planned streetcar project its primary cause in recent years, so it might be surprising to now find one of its leaders teaming up with a major streetcar advocate.

But that’s exactly what is happening later this month as Chris Finney, of the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), co-hosts a political fundraiser with Chris Bortz, an ex-Cincinnati city councilman.—-

Finney and Bortz are the co-hosts of a Jan. 23 fundraiser for Dr. Brad Wenstrup, a local podiatrist who is running in the GOP primary against incumbent U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Miami Township). The event will be held from 6-8 p.m. at Finney’s law offices on Beechmont Avenue in Anderson Township.

The cost to sponsor the event is $500 per person. Admission is $125 per person, or $150 per couple. Others listed on the host committee include Neil Bortz, Brian Bortz, James Zimmerman, Dan Regenold and Durk Rorie.

The primary election is scheduled for March 6.

Chris Bortz was an early and vocal supporter of the city’s proposed streetcar system, which is set to begin construction later this year with opening slated for late 2013. Bortz lost a bid for his fourth and final City Council term in November.

In conjunction with the NAACP’s local chapter, Finney has mounted two unsuccessful ballot issues to stop the streetcar project. The first, in 2009, would’ve required a public vote before any money was spent on a streetcar system. It was rejected by voters, 56 percent to 44 percent. The second attempt, last fall, would’ve prohibited any spending on passenger rail projects in Cincinnati through 2020. It was defeated 52 percent to 48 percent.

Also, Finney serves as legal counsel for the NAACP’s local chapter. He was appointed by chapter President Christopher Smitherman, now a city councilman.

Last summer, Smitherman publicly and repeatedly called for Bortz’s resignation from council for allegedly using a racial slur against a sanitation worker who was black; Bortz adamantly denied the allegation.

“Mr. Finney and I are aligned in our support for Brad Wenstrup, and we elected to combine our efforts for a fundraiser, given the short time line in the rapid run up to the Republican primary,” Bortz told CityBeat.

“Mr. Finney and I are able to set aside whatever city-related policy disagreements we have, or have had in the past, in order to support Dr. Wenstrup's candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives,” Bortz added. “We are in total agreement that Brad has the skill and experience to represent the Second Congressional District at a substantially higher level than we have seen to date, or are likely to ever see, from Congresswoman Schmidt."

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