Dennis Deters, Denise Driehaus race for Hamilton County Commission seat will be close, insiders say

Posted at 6:00 AM, Oct 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-27 12:54:58-04

CINCINNATI -- Republicans and Democrats agree on at least one thing: The race for one Hamilton County Commissioner seat is going to be close on Election Day.

So close, that many believe the contest between Democrat Denise Driehaus and Republican Dennis Deters may not be called by night's end. 

“I plan on being up at three in the morning,” Alex Linser, Driehaus’ campaign manager said in an interview Wednesday. “It’s going to be down to the wire. It’s a 50-50 race now. I don’t want to try to predict this one.”

Both candidates hail from well-known Cincinnati families and have developed political resumes of their own over the years.

Republicans are counting on a Deters’ win for the GOP to keep their majority on the three-member county commission. Meanwhile, Democrats hope Driehaus takes the seat, upending the GOP’s longtime control of the board.

The importance of which party will control the state’s third largest county isn’t lost on donors, who have donated more than $1 million to the two candidates’ campaigns over the last year.

The last time donors dropped that much on a race was in 2006 when party control of the commission was also at stake. Democrats won. Republicans want to even the score this year.

New campaign finance reports released Wednesday show Driehaus is winning the cash war so far; she’s raked in more than $655,000 this campaign cycle. Deters - who got a later start in the race - has raised more than $475,000.

But both had the same amount of money – roughly $200,000 – in the bank as of October 19, the reports reveal.

Deters and Driehaus each have enough cash for TV ad buys and began running commercials earlier this month.



Deters released a second ad this week that insinuates Driehaus would raise sewer rates.


“If you get an ad out there, donors start to appreciate that there’s a real election,” said Hamilton County Republican Chairman Alex Triantafilou. “It’s going to be close. I think this county is close but I do believe Dennis is well-positioned.”

Rally the base or focus on swing voters?

In recent weeks, Deters has focused on reaching out to Republicans in the county’s suburbs to make sure they turn out to vote and check his name on the ballot.

He’s spent time stopping in at meetings for local GOP clubs. His campaign volunteers will be stationed near polls on Election Day to remind voters – especially Republicans – to vote in down ballot races like Deters'.

“There’s a lot of effort to make sure my base is going to come out and vote,” Deters said by phone Wednesday.

In the final stretch, the Driehaus campaign, however, is working to win over voters who will support candidates from either party.

“So many of those voters are going to be persuadable to voters who are splitting their tickets,” Linser said. “I think you’ll see a lot of people vote for Hillary Clinton, Rob Portman and Denise.”

Both candidates have spent the last few weeks knocking on doors and attending events in the county’s east side, where they are lesser known. Driehaus is from Price Hill and has represented mostly Cincinnati residents as a state representative, a job she will hold until the end of the year. While Deters was appointed to the county commission earlier this year, he started his political career as a Colerain Township trustee.

Linser said the Driehaus campaign plans to pivot to door knocking on the county’s West Side for the final two weeks.

They might spot Deters walking blocks on the West Side, too.

“I’ll probably be on the West Side,” Deters said. “We’ve been on the East Side the last month, the last two weeks we’re focusing on the West Side.”