After months of speculation, Cincinnati Council Member Yvette Simpson announced Wednesday morning that she will take on incumbent John Cranley in next year's mayor's race.
Surrounded by dozens of supporters at the Carl Solway Gallery in the West End, Simpson said, that because of her background, she can be a mayor with "an open door, and open heart and open ear."
But Simpson – flanked by two of her Democratic colleagues on council, Chris Seelbach and Wendell Young – never once mentioned fellow Democrat Cranley, with whom she has clashed in recent years on issues from her support for the streetcar to the parks levy Cranley supported last year.
She told WVXU she has no intention of starting out her campaign by attacking Cranley's record.
"This is about introducing myself to the people of Cincinnati,'' the second-term council member and lawyer said. "There are people who don't know me, people who haven't had the chance to get to know me; and I want them to see me as the leader that they want, not the opposite of the mayor we have today.
"It is not my intention as a campaign or myself personally to make this some sort of battle between the two of us,'' Simpson said.
But, in the end, it could be a battle between the two Democrats. There will be a primary in May if another candidate files by February 2017. But if there are only two candidates, there will be no primary and Simpson and Cranley would face off in November 2017.
It is not at all clear if the Republicans, who are outnumbered in the heavily Democratic city, will field a candidate. Hamilton County GOP chairman Alex Triantafilou said he has talked to former Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann about it, but said "the chances of Greg running are low."
In her 15-minute speech to supporters, Simpson talked of her own childhood – born to a mentally ill mother and a drug-addicted father and raised by her grandmother.
"I learned the importance of pursuing a dream," Simpson said. She earned a full scholarship to Miami University; and, before running for council nearly six years ago, she practiced law and ran a program for pre-law students at Miami University.
"I am uniquely qualified to bring this city together," Simpson said. "I have lived in the hills of our city and I have lived in the valleys, the places that we don't talk about so much."
She wants a city, she said, "where residents feel safe and are invested in the safety of their neighborhoods."
The child poverty rate in Cincinnati, she said, "is one of the highest in the country; and children living in poverty in Cincinnati are more likely to become poor adults."
"Our young people can't wait,'' Simpson said. "The time is now."
In a written statement released after Simpson's announcement, Cranley said that since his election as mayor in 2013 "I've woken up every day thinking, 'What can I do to make this a better place to live for all Cincinnatians?'''
Cranley said his approach of "putting the needs of everyday people ahead of insiders and politicians has led to a sea change in the way our city works that has benefited all of us."
"As we head towards November 2017, I look forward to the discussion about my values and vision for moving our city forward,'' Cranley said in his statement.
Simpson has quite a way to go to match Cranley in campaign fundraising.
Campaign finance reports through June 30 showed Cranley with nearly $440,000 in his campaign fund, while Simpson had raised $84,000 since last September.