Kevin Flynn decided last summer that he would not seek re-election to Cincinnati City Council. But now he’s getting pressure to change his mind.
“My decision is made – I’m not running,” Flynn said in an interview Thursday. “It’s certainly possible I could change my mind between now and the end of May, but right now I don’t believe I will.”
If Flynn does run for a second term, it would have a dramatic impact on the highly competitive City Council election in November. The unusually crowded field of candidates would only have two open seats to compete for, instead of three. Charlie Winburn is term limited off council and Yvette Simpson is running for mayor.
Dozens of Democrats are expected to run for a spot on City Council. Many began fundraising last year and are actively campaigning now. But Flynn isn’t impressed with the roster of candidates so far.
“Last summer I wanted to put it out there that I wasn’t running in the hope that other good people would step up – people who did not just want to be politicians, but were willing to take the slot in order to help the city,” Flynn said. “Unfortunately that didn’t happen.”
Flynn, a real estate lawyer and adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati, said he has recently gotten pressure from large donors – Republicans and Democrats -- to run for a second term. He said he has also gotten encouragement from Mayor John Cranley, and Councilman Christopher Smitherman, an Independent, who is also running for re-election.
Flynn was elected to council in 2013 after two failed attempts. He ran as a Charterite.
But if Flynn runs for a second term, he said he would run as an Independent candidate so “I don’t owe anybody anything.”
Flynn distanced himself from the Charter Committee since he and the party took opposing positions on the controversial parks levy in November 2015. Flynn sided with Cranley in favoring the levy, while the Charter committee ultimately voted to oppose it.
While Flynn still believes in the Charter principles of transparency and good government, he said the party has become an “anti-Cranley group.”
Flynn is best known on council for being a stickler for following city rules, criticizing political pet projects, questioning city spending, and pushing for more government transparency.
The Mount Airy resident has won respect from Democrats and Republicans. He doesn’t get caught up in council politics, which has made him the lone vote on some issues.
He brought back council’s Rules and Audit Committee in 2013, which he chairs, and pushed for more staff on the city’s audit department.
Now Flynn worries about the future of his achievements.
“The fact is that I do care about our city,” Flynn said. “If I thought for some reason I would be the only voice that could help preserve some things on City Council, good things that we’ve done, that might make me change my mind (and run for a second term)”
He said he also worries about the future of council without a spending watchdog. He wondered what would happen, for example, if Republican Councilwoman Amy Murray decided to run for a higher office, which is highly speculated, or if something improbable like a health emergency struck Smitherman.
“There needs to be somebody on council willing to be not just a sheep,” Flynn said.
On the other hand, Flynn is considering whether he could have more impact on the city by not running again, and fighting for issues such as better accessibility for the disabled. Or perhaps taking a break from council, and then running again in 2021.
If he ran again, Flynn said he would like to raise $200,000 in order to afford television commercials, and would not consider running if he had less than $100,000.
Flynn said he spent $220,000 of his own money on the 2013 campaign, which the campaign still owes to him – an amount that is roughly equal to what his total salary for four years as a council member.
“So it’s kind of like I worked for free on City Council,” he said, chuckling. “But that’s okay. That’s what I think public service is about. You don’t do it for the paycheck.”