CINCINNATI -- Democratic newcomer Aftab Pureval toppled Republican Tracy Winkler, one of the best-known names in Hamilton County politics, in an upset victory Tuesday night. Pureval edged out the incumbent Hamilton County Clerk of Courts by around 16,000 votes.
Pureval, a 34-year-old former federal prosecutor and the son of immigrants from India and Tibet, was singled out as one of the “rising young stars" of the Ohio Democratic party earlier this year, according to Cincinnati magazine.
"Today is just an incredible, incredible experience," he said Tuesday night. "I really believe that our ideas and our work won the day."
Throughout his campaign, Pureval expressed a desire to bring better technology to the county court and to disrupt a web of local political connections that, he said, produced a justice system that did not treat all comers equally. To illustrate this, he pointed to brothers Joe and Dennis Deters, who both held county positions, and Winkler’s own family: her brother, Judge Robert Winkler; her husband, Judge Ted Winkler; and Tracy Winkler herself.
"Nepotism is a problem and political patronage is a problem," Pureval said. "What's really offensive is when political patronage leads to an inefficient court system. ... I think the courthouse should be the one place where it doesn't matter what you look like or where you're from or how much money you have."
Pureval's other campaign goals included establishing a full-time housing court for Hamilton County and adding legal self-service options for county residents who could not afford an attorney or were not familiar with the way the court system functions.
He credited his win to Hamilton County voters' enthusiasm for "new ideas" in the court system and his campaign's dedication to reaching people in every corner of the county.
"I had no reservations about it," he said. "I knew that we had the most qualified campaign, I knew that we had the best ideas and I knew we would be working harder. ... We had a creative campaign, we made people smile with our commercials, and I really believe our message resonated."