January 6, 2008

Welcome to The Politicians’ Republic of Hamilton County, Ohio

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:57 am

County seat: Cincinnati

Home of: Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati Reds, Cincinnati Bengals, Skyline Chili, Graeter’s Ice Cream, La Rosa’s Pizza, …. and now, shady backroom two-party deals.

Nickname, effective this week: The Politicians’ Republic of Hamilton County (bolds are mine) –

(excerpted text presented in different order than it originally appeared)

Deal limits voter choices

In an unprecedented last-minute deal, the Republican and Democratic parties have decided not to compete against each for the two Hamilton County commission seats up for election this year.

It will mean that when Hamilton County voters go to the polls in November, they are likely to find:

- No name on the ballot opposing Republican Greg Hartmann – the county clerk of courts who is running for the seat Pat DeWine is vacating;

- Only the name of Ed Rothenberg – a Republican who won’t have his party’s backing – next to the name of Democratic incumbent Todd Portune.

….. As part of the deal, the Democrats also agreed not run anyone against Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters and 10 of the 12 common pleas judges running for election – an easy decision for them, since the party had not recruited any candidates for those positions.

The Republican Party, for its part, agreed not to run a candidate against the Democratic county coroner, O’dell Owens. The Republican and Democratic parties in Hamilton County have been making deals for decades, but never before involving county commission seats.

Most of the deals have involved judgeships, such as the long-standing agreement not to challenge each other’s African-American judges, a deal which was broken several years ago when Democrat Cheryl Grant challenged Republican incumbent Kim Burke for a municipal court seat.

….. Leaders of both parties said they believe the arrangement – unprecedented at the level of county commissioner, the top-of-the-food-chain job in county politics – will benefit both parties.

But they both concede it is likely to anger not only many voters, but some in their own parties.

“I saw it as an opportunity for us to make damn sure we kept our majority on the county commission,’’ said Hamilton County Democratic Party chairman Tim Burke. “and we can concentrate our resources on picking up other county offices, which I think we can do.”

This should be cause for significant national embarrassment, if for no other reason than to deter all-too-comfy politicians in other cities and counties from doing the same thing.

It’s also the best reason I’ve seen yet for having a “None of the Above” choice on the ballot. Of course, that would be a choice that “wouldn’t benefit both parties,” so don’t expect the Politicians’ Republic of Hamilton County to adopt it any time soon.


UPDATE: This scripted endorsement process should have been a national embarrassment almost two years ago. It was ignored, despite yours truly having the script.

UPDATE 2: Obvious question, with an obvious answer — Since HamCo still leans red, which party’s presidential candidate is more likely to be hurt in the critical fight for Ohio’s electoral votes in November?

UPDATE 3: I think this makes Hamilton County the only area of the country that can officially be shown to have “White Flag Democrats” (on Iraq) and “White Flag Republicans” (willing to concede the commission majority to the other side in a county where GOP voter registration probably still exceeds that of Democrats).



  1. Hi Bizzyblog/Tom

    I admire your description of the “Politician’s Republic,” and believe it is quite apt considering what has happened. The incident will likely confirm the suspicion of many who believe that those who most fear competitive elections are those who hold elected offices. There has been much hell raised over voting and voting rights since the 2000 Bush v. Gore contest, and the 2004 Bush v. Kerry contest in Ohio. Democrats, especially, have been worked up about the Rovian course they believe they have seen in American politics. This no-compete deal seems at minimum part and parcel and probably goes far beyond. It clearly puts the interests of the political class ahead of the interests of the ballot box. I don’t know that Karl Rove could even come close to pulling off something like that.

    Comment by Bill Sloat — January 6, 2008 @ 12:03 pm

  2. #1 Bill, I bet a well-organized and determined third party could clean out the stables. Those adjectives are important.

    New London, CT’s 7-member council lost two seats and almost a third to a new party in 2005 over its handling of Kelo. Who’s to say it can’t happen here over this backroom deal?

    Comment by TBlumer — January 6, 2008 @ 6:57 pm

  3. Hi Tom –

    Adjectives and all, I think there is no chance that a third party could make a difference on this. However, the deal contributes to a growing cynicism about politics, which is damaging. If people come to have no faith in the system, they lose faith in all institutions of government. And over time, that kind of erosion becomes dangerous.

    Comment by Bill Sloat — January 6, 2008 @ 8:35 pm

  4. #3, we’re already almost there. I would think that the Charterites, to the extent that they exist, could get something going.

    Comment by TBlumer — January 6, 2008 @ 8:39 pm

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