When Charter Committee candidate Christopher Smitherman vaulted onto City Council Nov. 4, he became the latest in a long line of surprise Charter wins for relative political unknowns. Charter is the city's third political party, a rarity in these days of two-party domination. "It's the oldest third party in the nation that's continually elected officials to office," observes Michael Goldman, its board president.
It's been almost 80 years since the Charter Committee launched itself with an intention to reinvent local government — and eliminate the corruption of the Box Cox era — by reforming the city charter. "Murray Seasongood is the famous name in that first slate of council candidates," notes Goldman, who says he can't even count the number of Charter wins that have come over the decades since. "A lot of council candidates, certainly. And a lot of mayors, most recently Bobbie Sterne and Arn Bortz."
The Charter Party (locals insist on calling it that, even though that's not its official name) differs from the two major parties because it functions strictly at a local level. "Our candidates are only interested in serving in local government as citizens and generally don't have higher office in the back of their minds," Goldman says.
He says the Charter board of directors is all-volunteer: "They're people who are setting aside their national party affiliations to focus on non-partisan good government at a local level. We have Democrats and Republicans on our board."
Charter's Smitherman — a 36-year-old financial planner from North Avondale who ran seventh in the 26-candidate field — finished particularly strong in Avondale and Clifton but also did well in Hyde Park.
"Christopher's win was a great cause for celebration," Goldman says. "And (Charter's) Jim Tarbell, he's done better each time he's run. This time he finished fourth. Who knows what will happen next time?"
Charter candidates shaking up the status quo. That's soooo Cincinnati.
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