CINCINNATI -- When John Cranley last faced off against Roxanne Qualls at the polls, he lost to her by just three votes.
That was in 2007, when Cranley and Qualls were both running for a seat on Cincinnati City Council. In that race, the top nine vote-getters were elected, so the difference in outcome was essentially meaningless.
Tuesday’s mayoral primary, however, was different.
Cranley easily won in the primary, coasting ahead of Roxanne Qualls for a first-place finish by more than 2,000 votes.
It was no surprise that Cranley and Qualls were the two top vote-getters in the primary, and will now face off in the November general election.
But heading into the primary, most political observers pegged Qualls to place first.
In various polls done at the beginning of the year, Qualls’ lead over Cranley ranged from 12 to 23 percentage points.
Cranley got 6,388 votes (55.9 percent) to 4,249 votes for Qualls (37.1 percent).
Libertarian Jim Berns placed third, with 557 votes (4.9 percent); and independent Queen Noble was last, with 242 votes (2.1 percent).
Another 109 provisional ballots will be counted within 10 days after the election. Even if all 109 were for a single candidate, which is unlikely, it wouldn't alter the outcome.
Voter turnout, however, was far lower than in the two previous mayoral primaries, in 2001 and 2005.
Tuesday’s election had about a 6 percent turnout. That compares to 15 percent in 2001, and to 21 percent in 2005.
A total of 11,545 votes were cast. There are 201,843 registered voters in the city.
Cranley savored the victory at a party in Price Hill.
“The voters today spoke clearly that they want this election to be about the future and the issues, not the same old politics of the past,” Cranley said.
“They rejected the politics of the status quo and the politics of personal destruction,” he added. “Roxanne ran an ad that accused me of unethical behavior, which was untrue.”
Cranley referred to a TV commercial in which Qualls noted Cranley sought $750,000 in taxpayer assistance for a development in Price Hill while on City Council.
But Cranley sought advice from the Ohio Ethics Commission about the action, and resigned from City Council when it advised him to do so. Also, Qualls voted in favor of giving aid to the project. Neither fact was mentioned in her ad.
Qualls wasn’t fazed by Tuesday’s outcome, and remained hopeful for the November election.
“The results of the primary are not predictive of the outcome of the general (election),” Qualls said.
In fact, Courtis Fuller won the 2001 primary against Charlie Luken, but Luken won the general election. And in 2005, David Pepper won the primary, but Mark Mallory won the general election.
Cranley supporters noted the 2001 primary was held on the same day as the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, which they said suppressed turnout. Also, there were four major, competitive candidates in the 2005 primary, unlike this time.
For her part, Qualls said it was time for her campaign to become more focused.
“I do think complacency is the enemy of every campaign,” she said. “I hope that my volunteers and those that support me will wake up tomorrow and we will get to work and we will win on Nov. 5.”
Earmon Powell, a Qualls campaign worker who watched results arrive at the Board of Elections, believes voters aren’t energized by either candidate.
“These candidates don’t have anyone motivated,” Powell said.
Berns, who opposes the system of having a September primary, criticized the $437,000 cost of the election for the meager turnout.
“If this were a real election, I would concede,” Berns said. “It’s a farce and total waste of money.”
A Libertarian, Berns ran on a platform of legalizing marijuana.
“I was counting on the pothead vote, but they were probably too stoned to come out to the polls,” Berns joked. “Well, at least I beat Queen Noble. That was one of my goals.”
To view neighborhood-by-neighborhood vote tallies visit: http://results.enr.clarityelections.com/OH/Hamilton/47984/118337/Web01/en/summary.html