Cincinnati is one of several metropolitan cities electing mayors in November 2017, but unlike New York City, Chicago, Boston, or Los Angeles, the Cincinnati races for Mayor and for City Council are kind of boring at least if you take the word of Jason Williams at the Enquirer.
No one seems to have the exact answer why city voters are snoozing so far. Based on conversations, here are five potential reasons why voters are feeling blah:
1. No defining issue
This is certainly the case for the City Council race. The Children's Hospital expansionis arguably the defining issue in the mayor's race between Democrats John Cranley and Yvette Simpson. Nonetheless, 2017 is nothing like four years ago, when the future of the streetcar was on the line in the election. In fairness, the streetcar could be one of the most divisive issues in city history, and it's hard to top the energy and emotional investment poured into it. But even then, voter turnout was just 29 percent.
2. Trump fatigue
Are voters taking a breather after last year's intense presidential election? The energy around the Donald Trump resistance has subsided since all the marches and protests locally and nationally early this year. Two council candidates told PX they're sensing voters are tired of hearing about politics and are in need of a breather before the 2018 midterms heat up.
3. Meh about top of ticket
Neither mayoral candidate has really given voters a really strong reason to vote for them. Mayor Cranley gets things done, but his abrasive personality has rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. Cranley's campaign has focused on touting his record, but he's not offered any new big plans for the future. Simpson has gotten little done in nearly six years on city council, and her puzzling decision on the Children's Hospital expansion in August has raised serious questions about her ability to lead. She also hasn't presented any solid, new plans.
4. City's going in right direction
Conversely, almost everyone PX talked to said they believe voters generally feel like the city is in a good place and heading in the right direction. There are polls out there showing that, but PX is skeptical of all polling. Despite all the childish infighting at City Hall, Cranley and this council have overseen the arrival of GE at The Banks; made a commitment to public safety; improved basic services such as street paving and garbage collection; and fixed the pension system. In addition, someone pointed out we just drew 1 million people to Downtown for the Blink light show – and that's said to be record attendance for a weekend-long event here.
5. Under-the-radar council candidates
Insiders had expectations of an exciting race, considering it's the first since council terms moved from two to four years. But it hasn't come to pass. It's not a real deep field of serious nonincumbents. There have been few intriguing story lines. First-time candidate Seth Maney has stood out. The first openly gay Republican to run for council has gone after openly gay Democratic incumbent Chris Seelbach for making too big a deal of identity politics. Democratic candidate Michelle Dillingham has talked openly about overcoming a heroin addiction. But other than that, most nonincumbents seem content to fly under the radar.
Mostly, all sides want to put the Sam DuBose shooting behind the city. Cranley certainly isn't going to bring it up and risk pissing off the CPD, and Yvette Simpson isn't going to bring it up for the same reason. Frankly, nobody wants to engage on the injustice of this. As far as both mayoral candidates are concerned, they've tried their best.
But remember too that Cincinnati is a town where the mayor can't really do much of anything without the City Council and the City Manager. When County Prosecutor Joe Deters gave up on a third trial in July, this issue simply went away for both candidates other than a couple of gripes.
If I had to pick, it would be Yvette Simpson. Cranley had his shot and he didn't exactly cover himself in accolades, while Simpson actually has gotten things done on the City Council. Ironically, it's the fact that Cranley was much more effective on City Council 12 years ago than he is as Mayor now that remains the main argument against him getting a second term.