Why Mark Mallory Is Getting Involved In The Mayoral And Council Races
Mark Mallory is a fellow who plays his cards close to his vest.
The former mayor really hasn't been heard from much since he finished up his eight years as mayor nearly four years ago; and when he does say something publicly chooses the occasions carefully.
But now he's stepping out front again; and testing one of the age-old arguments of politics – do endorsements mean anything to voters?
We will be much interested in seeing what impact his endorsements of mayoral candidate Yvette Simpson and council candidate Derek Bauman will have – even though that sort of thing is very hard to quantify.
All we know for certain is that endorsements from politicians of Mallory's stature can't hurt, if used wisely and directed toward a targeted audience.
Mallory is the only person to have served two four-year terms as mayor since Cincinnati started direct election of the mayor in 2001. His successor, Mayor John Cranley, wants to be the second.
Mallory wants very much to prevent that.
He's come out swinging only twice in this year's Cincinnati municipal elections.
Last week, he appeared at a press conference in Over-the-Rhine to endorse Bauman, a former Mason police officer whose career ended with a duty-related injury.
Bauman moved to Over-the-Rhine during Mallory's time as mayor. He's been endorsed by the Charter Committee but was passed over by the Cincinnati Democratic Committee, an omission that didn't sit well with Mallory.
"He should have been endorsed,'' said Mallory, a former co-chairman of the Hamilton County Democratic Party.
But the Cincinnati Democratic Committee thought that its ticket was a little top heavy with white males and in need of another African-American candidate, a large and influential voting bloc in Democratic politics, so Bauman didn't make the cut.
So far, Bauman is the only one of the non-incumbent candidates Mallory has endorsed; and, in talking to him last week, we got the impression that he doesn't plan any more. Certainly, he said, he supports the re-election of incumbent council members Chris Seelbach and Wendell Young, two Democrats who were loyal soldiers for Mallory's agenda when he was mayor.
"That's a given,'' Mallory said, "although they can get re-elected without my help."
So, back in August, when Mallory held a press conference to endorse Simpson over Cranley, how many people in Cincinnati politics were surprised?
Answer: Absolutely no one.
"I endorsed her with all the strength I could muster,'' Mallory told WVXU last week. "She has the right motivation, the intellect, the focus to be a great mayor."
And she too, after her election to council in 2011, was a dependable vote for Mallory's agenda, particularly on the city budget. And, like Mallory, she was an ardent supporter of the streetcar.
Then there is the he-gets-on-my-nerves factor.
Often during this campaign, Cranley has talked about the "previous administration" in less than flattering terms and painted Mallory's performance as mayor as inferior to his own.
It clearly gets under Mallory's skin.
"Sometimes I feel like I am running for mayor again,'' Mallory told WVXU. "I will tell you this: I will stack my eight years as mayor up against anybody."
When he took over as mayor, Mallory said, "nobody wanted to come downtown."
He said his administration led the way in the revitalization of Over-the-Rhine, the emergence of The Banks, Washington Park, Smale Riverfront Park and other high-profile projects.
"(Cranley) talks about delivering basic services – filling potholes, picking up the trash,'' Mallory said. "Not the big ideas.
"It's like going into a restaurant and they tell you, 'You know, we wash all of our dishes,''' Mallory said. "Well, of course you wash the dishes. Tell me what the special on the menu is. That's what John Cranley doesn't do."
The Cincinnati Democratic Committee and the county party has stayed out of the mayor's race, but Tim Burke, the county party chairman, has personally endorsed Cranley for re-election.
"I was a fan of Mark and I remain a fan of Mark,'' Burke said. "But John Cranley has a good story to tell voters too."
Cranley, Burke said, can take credit for the expansion of Medpace, a clinical research company that is keeping its jobs in Madisonville; and convincing Mercy Health to locate its large headquarters operation in Bond Hill.
Burke, along with everyone else in the Democratic Party, knows that Mallory is a golden name much of the city's African-American community. They have been voting for Mark Mallory and his brothers for various offices for decades; and the patriarch of the family, the late William Mallory Sr., was a legend in both West End and Ohio politics.
So, if you are candidate fortunate enough to have Mark Mallory spend some of his political capital on you, how do you use it?
Chances are, with targeting advertising and mail pieces to African-American voters, who make up nearly half of the electorate in Cincinnati.
"We do plan on using this endorsement as much as we can,'' Bauman said. "Mark has offered to do radio spots and mail pieces. It means a lot to me, because he is so judicious about his endorsements."
And what about Simpson's campaign?
Simpson campaign spokeswoman Chaka Buraimoh told WVXU Mallory is currently featured on a Simpson radio ad.
"We look forward to having former mayor Mark Mallory help us in the home stretch of the election in various capacities,'' Buraimoh said in an email to WVXU. "He has been a great support to our campaign and we are honored to have his endorsement."
So, we asked, what other specific plans does the Simpson campaign have for using Mallory's endorsement. We didn't get an answer to that. It was sort of like the old legal phrase: Further affiant sayeth naught.
We'll just have to wait and see.
In the meantime, Mallory said he is ready, willing and able to help.
"I'm going to do whatever she asks me to do,'' Mallory told WVXU. "I'm willing to do whatever. Just say the word."
Until then, he said, he'll wait for his phone to ring with calls from other council candidates wanting endorsements.
"But I don't think there will be any more,'' Mallory said. "This is it for me in this election."