Can Mayor John Cranley’s campaign bounce back after rough month?


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City of Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley addresses the Police Memorial event, and apologizes for the inadvertent issuance of a proclamation in honor the man who fatally shot Police Officer Sonny Kim.
Kareem Elgazzar

Politics Extra is a weekly column looking inside Greater Cincinnati and Ohio politics (Scroll to the bottom to read “Micro-scoops & more”)

Hand it to Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley for immediately apologizing and taking full responsibility for his office staff’s inadvertent decision on Thursday to issue a proclamation to honor a dead cop killer.

It was a sloppy mistake, but nonetheless unintentional and innocent. Cranley, who personally didn’t make the mistake, did the right thing by owning it. He’s done a lot for the police department in his 3½ years in the big chair at City Hall, and Politics Extra believes those tears Cranley shed in Thursday’s press conference at the FOP hall were genuine.

So now Cranley can move on from his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad “Tre Day” and not worry about it hurting his bid for re-election, right?

It might not be that easy.

If Cranley had been enjoying high levels of popularity before his staff made the boneheaded mistake of issuing a proclamation deeming June 1 as “Tre Day” in honor of Trepierre Hummons, then yeah, probably no worries.

But this flub came a few weeks after City Councilwoman Yvette Simpson stunned Cranley in the mayoral primary. Simpson’s double-digit victory gave her the momentum heading into the November election, and it left Cranley scrambling to figure out how a big-money incumbent with a strong record of delivering results could suddenly find himself as the underdog.

“It does add to the narrative that he didn’t have a ground game, and now he’s on the defensive after an unforced error,” said Mack Mariani, Xavier University political science professor. “These things tend to compound themselves.”

The election still is 5½ months away, which can be an eternity in politics. Cranley’s track record of supporting police and fire jobs probably in the long run helps him win the support of voters who place a high value on public safety. There’s no way Simpson can get to the right of Cranley this issue.

But right now it looks like Cranley has little margin for error. Especially considering the next six weeks could be tough. It’s budget season, and the city is facing a $26 million deficit.

Cranley plans to unveil his budget proposal next week. City Council will then get its chance to pick apart Cranley’s proposal in the coming weeks. There’s no money in the couch cushions to fix this problem.

Where is Cranley’s next win going to come from?

Maybe he’s already gotten at least a small victory by how police leaders and the rank-and-file generally have responded to his apology.

“I’ve seen the face of God in the police officers who have been very forgiving,” Cranley told PX on Friday. “I think that the forgiveness is some bond of trust that I have earned over many years with our police officers.

Some of Cranley’s biggest critics seem to think he’s toast after Thursday. But this race is going to be a dogfight, and it’d be ill-advised to go all-in for either candidate after voter turnout was just 11 percent on May 2.

Still, that didn’t stop some Streetcar Mafia members from reveling in the proclamation gaffe on social media. It was sickening to see how giddy some of these keyboard warriors were about this mishap. One even taunted the mayor’s wife on Facebook.

This was absolutely nothing to celebrate. The mistake undoubtedly drudged up painful memories for Officer Sonny Kim’s family, friends and brothers and sisters in the police department – and for Cranley.

Community activist Marilyn Ormsbee, who’s been a campaign consultant for Simpson, was a voice of reason among the Cranley critics.

“I am extremely disappointed to see the comments about the screw up on a proclamation from the mayor’s office,” she posted in The Enquirer’s Greater Cincinnati Politics Facebook group. “Almost EVERYONE knows I am not a John Cranley supporter. But to dump on that man for an honest mistake made in his office, which has obviously hurt him personally, is beneath everyone in Cincinnati.”

MICRO-SCOOPS & MORE

• Were Republicans tuning out ESPN as some of the network’s talking heads started offering their political opinions last year? Well, a national media analytics turned to ESPN viewers in Cincinnati to try to find out. Washington, D.C.-area Deep Root Analytics conducted the study in 2015 and last year, and found: “ESPN’s viewership in this key swing state market became less Republican during 2016.” Deep Root released the study a day after ESPN laid off 100 workers last month, leading some conservatives to speculate that revenue was down because of the uptick in political commentary.

Deep Root is a right-leaning firm, but it acknowledged it could not definitively draw that conclusion. “To be sure, the layoffs signal a larger business challenge facing the network,” according to a release. “But at least in Cincinnati, the partisanship of viewers noticeably shifted – just as ESPN’s problems got worse.”

• Look for Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, a Democratic candidate for governor, to leverage her Cincinnati connections to help bolster her first statewide campaign. She was in town Tuesday for a joint press conference with Cranley, who co-founded an Ohio mayor’s organization with Whaley last year. Cranley’s connections to high-dollar donors could help Whaley, whose brother, David Whaley, is a Cincinnati-based attorney and parents live in Wyoming.

• Spearheaded by Commissioner Denise Driehaus, Hamilton County has formed an economic inclusion advisory council. The 15-member council will make recommendations to the office of inclusion and provide a level of accountability to make sure minority- and woman-owned businesses have a fair chance to receive county contracts. County residents are welcome to apply to be a volunteer council member by May 30. Strong decision here by Driehaus, especially considering the changing demographics in the county.

• Northeast Ohio Democratic Rep. Kathleen Clydetweeted about her campaign for secretary of state while the House was in session on Wednesday afternoon. It’s small, yes, but bad optics and a no-no to be tweeting about her political ambitions while sitting in the session on the taxpayers’ dime. “I’m running for Secretary of State because no matter who you are or where you are from, Ohioans deserve better from their state leaders,” Clyde tweeted at 2:03 p.m. The session started at 1:30 p.m. and she was in attendance.

• The city informed Pete Witte that he has to resign from the Cincinnati Elections Commission after PX reported last month the West Price Hill resident is re-starting the Partnership of Westside Residents PAC ahead of November’s city election. The PAC has been dormant since 2009.

• Former Congressman Steve Driehaus is returning home to Cincinnati after spending six years in Africa with the Peace Corps, WVXU’s Howard Wilkinson reported. Driehaus is returning home at a time when Democrats in Washington are aggressively seeking a high-profile name to run against Republican Steve Chabot next year in Ohio’s 1st Congressional District. “I don’t know that I’m interested in running for office again,” Driehaus told Wilkinson.

Follow Enquirer political reporter Jason Williams on Twitter @jwilliamscincy. Send tips, questions and comments to jwilliams@enquirer.com.

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