CINCINNATI -- Rob Richardson Jr. knows he's the underdog candidate in Cincinnati's upcoming mayoral primary.
Although the 38-year-old Springfield Township native has worked as an attorney and an engineer as well as serving nine years on the University of Cincinnati's board of trustees -- one of them as board chairman -- he's the only one of this year's three candidates who's never held previous public office or run a campaign.
He also knows what people might think about his chances of surviving the May 2 primary against incumbent Mayor John Cranley and City Councilmember Yvette Simpson.
"I think people wouldn't say that, as an African American man with learning disabilities, I'd ever be here, but here I am," he said.
Struggling against impossible odds is a recurring theme of Richardson's personal story. He spent six years of school -- second through eighth grade -- in learning disability classes where his teachers and counselors cautioned his parents against expecting too much, he said. Attending college at all didn't seem to be in his future, let alone becoming one of the top-ranked officials at a university.
His mother's support stopped those low expectations from becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.
"She said, ‘Don't be defined by someone else's narrow expectations,'" he recalled. "'You define yourself for yourself by yourself.'"
Richardson now hopes to provide that same support to his adopted son, Mario. By blood, Mario is Richardson's cousin, but Richardson recognized in him the same need for encouragement and positivity that he himself felt as a child. The pair spend their free time playing video games and seeing movies together, Richardson said.
Other things you might not know about the candidate: He's a black belt and, he insists, a very good dancer. (He was so confident in the latter assertion that he provided video evidence, and we have to admit it: Dude's got some moves.)
It's not that Richardson has illusions about the odds he faces, he said. He simply has faith that his vision and his commitment to the city of Cincinnati make him the best candidate for its people, and he's hopeful about the road ahead.
"(When I look at Cincinnati), I see beauty and I see opportunity," he said. "It's a beautiful city. I think we have one of the most beautiful skylines anywhere. There's so much more that can be done, and I'm ready to do it."