Voters may be tired of politics after an exhausting presidential election season. But get ready for a second round in 2017 with a crowded Cincinnati City Council race and a hotly contested battle for mayor.
Democrats are lining up to run for City Council, with eight new candidates stepping forward so far. And Mayor John Cranley already has one Democratic opponent: City Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, with possibly another stepping forward in the coming weeks.
“I am not looking forward to this year in the way I looked forward to 2016,” said Tim Burke, longtime chairman of the Hamilton County Democratic Party. “Last year (2016) the Democrats worked together and helped contribute to a pretty successive year here in Hamilton County. I worry that 2017 will not be nearly as harmonious for Democrats because they will be contesting with one another.”
There will be three open seats on the nine-member City Council. Already eight Democrats have told Burke they are interested, in addition to four Democratic incumbents who are running for re-election.
And Burke expects even more Democratic candidates to step forward early next year.
It is a good time to be a Democrat in Hamilton County. The November election revealed just how blue the county had become.
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton may have lost big in Ohio, but she won in Hamilton County by a wide margin that even Barack Obama couldn’t beat in 2012.
At the local level, Democrats won the clerk of court race, two Hamilton County Commission seats, and all three county levies passed overwhelmingly.
That creates a lot of excitement for local Democrats.
“We will have too many candidates for City Council again and (the Republicans) will struggle to have enough,” Burke said. “I know that we will have more people wanting to get a democratic endorsement than we have seats to endorse. The party will have to figure out what it’s going to do about that."
According to Burke, these four incumbents will be running for re-election to City Council: Chris Seelbach, David Mann, Wendell Young and P.G. Sittenfeld.
Other Democratic candidates for City Council include Laure Quinlivan, Greg Landsman and Michelle Dillingham, who all ran strong campaigns for council in 2013 but did not win seats.
Other candidates, according to Burke, are: former Sittenfeld aide Tamaya Dennard; former Young aide Sedrick Denson; community organizer Ozie Davis; Kelly Prather who ran for U.S. Senate in 2016; and Brian Garry, who ran for City Council in 2003 and 2007 and for Ohio District 31 in 2016.
Whoever wins, Burke is hopeful that Democrats can expand their majority on council by winning at least six seats and giving more attention to issues such as housing, health and social services.
"What I am hoping for is there will be significant Democratic majority who will be willing to work cooperatively with the mayor in a way that hasn’t been done in the past few years," Burke said.
Meanwhile Republicans will be heavily focused on keeping Amy Murray’s seat on council.
“The real focus for the party is to support Amy Murray’s election,” said Hamilton County Republican Party Chair Alex Triantafilou. “We see great things for Amy and we want to finish high in her run this year.”
So far the Republican slate looks pretty lean.
“The best case scenario for us is at least a slate of five candidates,” Triantafilou said. “We’d like a diverse ticket, and to offer the voters some real choices.”
So far two candidates have told Triantafilou they would like to run for council: Jeffrey Pastor, who is active in the Ohio Republican Party, and community activist Tamie Sullivan.
No Republican has stepped forward to run against Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley. And Triantafilou isn’t sure anyone from his party will.
“We have no candidate who has stepped forward and expressed interest in running for mayor, but that doesn’t mean we’re discouraging it … we would support that,” Triantafilou said. “There’s no denying that a lot of Republicans supported John Cranley in the past.”
Cranley is a strong fundraiser who appeals to moderate Republicans. That alone may deter a strong GOP candidate from stepping forward.
Even Triantafilou said he would only support a credible mayoral candidate who had a chance of winning before the candidate began approaching business leaders for campaign donations.
One potential candidate -- Republican City Councilman Charlie Winburn, who is term limited out of his seat -- apparently will not run for mayor. In a conversation weeks ago, Triantafilou said that Winburn told him he was not interested in the job.
“If Charlie were interested in running for mayor we would be very interested in talking with him about it,” Triantafilou said.
Winburn declined to comment.
Meanwhile Councilwoman Simpson declared in August that she would run against Cranley for mayor. Another possible Democratic contender for mayor is UC Board of Trustees Chair Rob Richardson.
“There’s been a great deal of speculation about whether or not Rob Richardson will announce (in December) that he’s running, after his term as chair of the UC Board of Trustees ends,” Burke said.
Richardson did not return a request for comment.
The filing deadline for Cincinnati mayoral candidates is Feb. 16, 2017. If three or more candidates file, a primary will be held on May 2, 2017.
The filing deadline for Cincinnati City Council candidates is Aug. 24, 2017.