Democratic challenger Denise Driehaus barely edged out Republican incumbent Dennis Deters Tuesday night for a seat on the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners.
But Tim Burke, chairman of the Hamilton County Board of Elections, said about 12,000 provisional ballots have to be checked out. Those that are found to be valid votes could tip the election back to Deters, but Burke said that provisional ballots generally favor Democratic candidates.
The final unofficial vote count was 190,834, or 50.23 percent, for Driehaus; and 189,122 votes, or 49.77 percent for Deters.
Democratic incumbent Todd Portune was headed easily defeated his Republican challenger, Anderson Township Trustee Andrew Pappas.
Portune had 58 percent, while Pappas was at 42 percent.
"I ran a very aggressive, grassroots campaign,'' Portune said. "It was positive, never went negative on my opponent."
Pappas, who had never run for countywide office before, said "it's hard when you try to take on somebody who's been in office as long as my opponent."
Driehaus and Deters could not be reached for comment.
Driehaus will join Portune on the three-member county commission. It would be the first time the Democrats were in the majority on the county commission since Portune and David Pepper were there from 2006 to 2010.
In another high profile Hamilton County race, first-time candidate Aftab Pureval, a Democrat, had an early lead over Republican incumbent Tracy Winkler. Pureval, who became famous overnight for his campaign commercials with a duck puppet squawking his first name, had 52 percent support in early voting to 48 percent for Winkler.
The race between Deters and Driehaus pitted two very familiar political names against each other.
Deters is the youngest brother of Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, while Driehaus is the sister of former congressman Steve Driehaus.
Deters was a Colerain Township trustee before he was suddenly thrust into county politics last December
Incumbent Republican Greg Hartmann suddenly announced in December that he would not run for re-election. The party leadership immediately fixed on Deters as his replacement.
He created a stir when he filed his petitions for election, saying he wanted to use the name "Dennis Joseph Deters." Democrats objected, saying he was trying to trade on the name of his more famous brother. Democrats on the board of elections argued that as a public official, a lawyer or as a private citizen, he had never used the name "Joseph." But board member Alex Triantafilou, the county GOP chairman, produced his birth certificate which said he had two middle names – Patrick and Joseph.
The secretary of state broke a tie on the board of elections and allowed Deters to use Joseph on the ballot.
Driehaus had proven herself to be a political survivor in the past.
She was elected to her brother's west side Ohio House seat in 2008 when he was elected to Congress and kept it until after the 2010 Census, when the Republicans in the legislature re-drew her district to make it nearly impossible for a Democrat to win.
But they also created a heavily Democratic district on the east side. Driehaus moved from West Price Hill to Clifton and was elected to the Ohio House from the new district. Now, though, she is term-limited out of the House.
Portune, born and raised in Cincinnati, has been a fixture on the local political scene for decades now, elected to the county commission in a time when few Democrats could break through the Republican wall around Hamilton County government.
In 1993, he was appointed to a seat on Cincinnati City Council and was then elected to two-year terms in 1993, 1995,, 1997 and 1999.
In 2000, he took on incumbent Republican county commissioner Bob Bedinghaus and won. He has been re-elected now four times.
Pappas, the owner of a dry cleaning company with locations in Anderson Township and Hyde Park, was never given much of a chance of beating Portune, who has made a political career of racking up Democratic voters and pulling away enough Republicans to be elected to five terms as a county commissioner.
Pappas was first elected an Anderson Township trustee in 2013 and would be up for re-election to that job next year.
In other Hamilton County races:
- Democratic sheriff Jim Neil easily defeated GOP challenger Gary Lee, 62 percent to 38 percent;
- Former Republican judge Norbert Nadel bested incumbent county recorder Wayne Coates by two percentage points with 51 percent of the vote.
- And Democratic county coroner Lakshmi Sammarco easily defeated her Republican opponent, Bret Bruder, with 63 percent of the vote.