Sunday, January 26, 2020

Do the Hamilton County Republicans Have a Plan for the 2021 Elections or NOT?

With the internal fight in Hamilton County Republican Party circles still smarting this week, what can be gleaned from what their strategic plan is for the 2021 City of Cincinnati Elections for Mayor and Council?

Get beyond your inclination to ask "Who cares?" That would be a mistake. I am a realist and very pragmatic. Always know as much as you can about what your oppornet is doing.  In the case of the Hamilton County GOP, that is a big question mark.  The one consistent thing they have done for the last nearly 20 years has been to give up on winning control of the City of Cincinnati.

The best they have been able to do is win over back room allies.  Case in point is moderate Democrat John Cranley, who only won the mayor's race because he got full throated support from Republican voters and donors. Cranley got a deal, no GOP opponent.  It has been over 10 years since the last Republican ran for mayor of Cincinnati and the number of publicly endorsed candidates for council has dwindled to less than a possible majority slate.

In 2021 there will be six open seats and a change in the length of term to only two years, down from four after a charter amendment.  That provides a big open door for new candidates. The problem for the GOP is that they have no bench strength.  They have one incumbent, Jeff Pastor, who eked out the ninth spot by just over 200 votes, so he will be at the whims of the tides on the next election.  Seth Maney was the other available endorsed candidate last time around.  Tamie Sullivan was another candidates as well, but I don't remember her getting much Republican support after she made a sensible anti-Trump public statement. She's thought of more as a moderate, which normally is what the Republicans mostly put forth in the City, but anymore you gotta drink the Kool-Aide on Trump.  Based on his Twitter likes, Seth Maney surprisingly fits the Kool-Aide drinking test on Trump, so he may be able to attempt a Yasser Arafat style campaign.  That's one where you speak one way to the world (the voters) and another way to a domestic audience (Suburban Republican donors.) Any other candidates out there are being kept low key or outright secrets.

Another surprise move for HCRP was to their new headquarters in Pendleton. They left their long time Downtown space and when north, to the edge of Downtown.  To many suburbanites, they can't tell the difference between Downtown and Hyde Park, so this move was not significant in terms of geography. The surprise is that they stayed Downtown.  Alex Triantafilou is no stranger to Downtown, but the party rank and file don't like Downtown, let alone anywhere in the City of Cincinnati itself. Keeping the headquarters in the city is a surprise. Moving out closer to their base would have been what I would have expected.  One would think that they could have also gotten a cheaper space, but that may been part of the deal with the move to Pendleton. I don't see a reason for them to stay there, other than the logical point that Downtown is the Center of the region and is where any group looking to be relevant on the big stage of the area. When they moved the BOE to Norwood, one would have thought they would be vacating the city at every chance.  As part of their anti-City national platform, leaving the big city for suburbs is the logical choice.

Does that given any support to the idea that the HCRP has a plan to win in 2021?  Do they think they have a mayoral candidate or a full slate of council candidates that can win? The right combination of money and name recognition can be the basis for any candidate for any party in Cincinnati. Have we reached a point, however, that thanks to national politics and the Westside White Flight of the last 20 years that the Republican Party is not a viable entity in City elections?

That leads me back to my initial thought, do they have a plan?  Well, Republicans are to blame for the frivolous scandal to hit City Hall and are doubly responsible for the interference from the State Republican officials interfering in local affairs to create a round two of that fabricated scandal. This effort is clearly being done for political purposes to damage future Democratic candidates for Mayor and Council. The knuckle draggers who manufactured the initial lawsuit that found a sympathetic activist Republican Judge that gave them a fishing license to create a scandal, would disagree with it, but the odd things is, as I wrote about recently, they are having a fight with HCRP leadership.

While the HCRP is certainly reveling in the scandal the knuckle draggers have created, they also know that overall, they need to have a longer view.  They know the County demographics are not changing in their favor and that they are losing the power of the Prosecutor's office and the Hamilton County Courts. That means the Republican scandals would be fair game for Democrats to pursue.  That pursuit would be one a long time coming and as well all know payback is a bitch. So, embracing the efforts of the knuckle draggers attempting to wrestle control of the Party isn't in their interest at all.

It just goes back to the simple truth about the Republican Party, it has become the White man and his wife's party and few others.  It's policies are extreme. Those in the City don't agree with the narrow mindedness of that party. Hamilton County voters are not far behind the City.  That scares the HCRP.

So, what can they do? I don't have an answer and I don't think they do either.  I don't think they have much of a plan.  Maybe they can find some young candidates or recruit a few well known names to run as candidates, but if they are right wingers, they are going to lose.  I think John Cranley is as conservative as a candidate can be and win as Mayor in Cincinnati. Some Republicans are pushing 80 year old David Mann to run and that is the most disingenuous support as could be. Sure he's in a Cranley orbit on policy, but they would drop him like a rock if flashy guy chose to run last minute and force a primary. It is underhanded to play that game with David Mann.

Unless Republicans can change the election rules, they are going to be out of control of City Hall.  Don't be surprised if they make their support for the effort to change to a district and at-large council structure, which is not a good one.  That would be the only way they can have an advantage, but even then, a right wing candidate wouldn't make it very far and that wouldn't give them the Mayor's seat.

In 2021 I think you can expect more of the same.  They might try and get a high profile Republican that thinks they can be next Brad Wenstrup, the last Republican to enter the Mayor's race.  He was able to turn that loss into a win in a gerrymandered congressional seat.  That will be difficult to repeat in the 2022 mid-terms, but who knows.

As for City Council, I wouldn't be surprised to see five Republicans make the ballot and that be spun as some grand victory alone, but then only two win.  That would be a loss in the number of Republican seats now held by Republicans or people who pretend to not be a Republican, but get elected by their support. That might be the best Plan the HCRP could have for 2021, unless a fascist state is established before then. That would make the knuckle draggers happy, but likely they'd be alone on that one.

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