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John Cranley's history with Bill and Hillary Clinton goes way back

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Posted at 6:00 AM, Jun 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-26 09:27:54-04

CINCINNATI – Nearly a decade ago it was former President Bill Clinton traveling to the Queen City to throw a major fundraiser for an up-and-coming Democratic politician.

That time, though, Bill Clinton was in town to raise money for John Cranley, then a 32-year-old city councilman who was making an unlikely swipe at nabbing a congressional seat from a longtime Republican representative.

Cranley and his then-fiancée Dena both met the former president at that October 2006 fundraiser.

“It was an incredible honor,” Cranley said of Clinton’s support. “That’s a big surprise – when you’re an unknown candidate for a congressional seat – getting the former president in for you.”

Cranley lost that race to Congressman Steve Chabot. But he stayed in touch with the former president and, 10 years later, Cranley is the one preparing to throw a fundraiser for the Clinton family.

The Cranleys will host Hillary Clinton for a $1,000-per-ticket fundraiser at their Hyde Park home today from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. She is also set to make a public appearance at Union Terminal with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren

It’s no happenstance that she would pick Cranley’s home for an event. Over the years, the Cincinnati mayor forged a connection with the Clintons; a relationship political insiders speculate could work to his – and the city’s – advantage if Hillary Clinton wins the White House.

“Certainly, the Clintons have been here a lot over the years, with John in particular,” Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Tim Burke said. “You’re talking about three very smart people. I think they appreciate each other’s intellectual abilities, they appreciate their belief that politics is a tool to help everyone.”

Cranley lined up to endorse Hillary Clinton in 2008, when she made her first stab at running for the presidency. He co-chaired the local campaign for Hillary Clinton and then got the chance to meet with both the Clintons that year.

Bill Clinton didn’t forget it. When Cranley was elected Cincinnati’s mayor in 2013, Clinton reached out with a phone call.

“We talked for 12 or 15 minutes. My wife and son and I were at dinner at Teller’s,” Cranley recalled in a recent interview with WCPO. “Luckily, I took the call.”

The following year, Cranley again returned the favor when he announced his support for Hillary Clinton before she even officially launched her presidential campaign. Cranley hosted a presidential fundraising kickoff called “Ready for Hillary” in September of 2014, with his former mayoral opponent Roxanne Qualls.

Hillary Clinton called and thanked Cranley for his support after the event. This time, he missed the call. But Cranley said he still has the voicemail saved on his phone.

They’ll have time, however, to talk again. And, if Hillary Clinton is elected as the next president, local Democrats expect Cranley will continue to stay in touch with the Clintons.

“In politics, it’s rare to have friends who remain loyal for decades,” said Jared Kamrass, a Cincinnati-based political strategist who has worked with Cranley. “It’s a big opportunity for the city. Having your city led by someone who has a close relationship with a sitting president can be nothing but helpful.