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Counter Points is written by WVXU Senior Political Analyst Howard Wilkinson. In it, he shares insights on political news on the local, state and national level that impacts the 2020 election. Counter Points is delivered once a week on Wednesdays and will cease publication soon after the November election is decided.

Alicia Reece Wins Tight County Commission Race Over Connie Pillich

alicia reece
John Minchillo
Then-Ohio Rep. Alicia Reece speaks to supporters at a newly-opened organizing office for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in the Roselawn neighborhood of Cincinnati , Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016.

Former state representative and Cincinnati council member Alicia Reece appears to have won a narrow victory in a three-way Democratic primary to run this fall for Hamilton County commissioner.

In the unofficial vote count, Reece had 46.5% to 44% for former state representative Connie Pillich. Neighborhood activist Kelli Prather trailed far behind with 9%.

Early Wednesday, Pillich released a statement saying the race was too close to call and did not offer a concession. "I am optimistic that when the official results are in, our campaign will be moving on to November," she wrote. "Through all the challenges we have faced in the primary so far, I have never given up hope that I will be the next county commissioner. I am looking forward to the final count coming in so we can move on to the general (election)."

There was a 1,751 vote difference between Reece and Pillich in the unofficial count of 70,297 ballots cast.

"I know that when there are a lot of outstanding ballots, whether provisional or just not yet received, that anything can happen," Pillich said during a news conference Wednesday. "There are 18,000 absentee ballots that have not yet arrived at the board of elections."

If Reece defeats little-known but well-funded Republican Andy Black of Indian Hill, she will have won the seat formerly held by the late Todd Portune – who said several months before he died in January that he wanted Reece's principal opponent in the primary, Connie Pillich, to take his place.

Reece's old 33rd Ohio House District is in the center of the county, and mostly made up of Cincinnati neighborhoods. It's 49% black, 2% Hispanic and the rest of it is made up of white voters.

Reece is well-known and well-liked in the city – particularly the East side, where the African American vote is concentrated and where Democrats grow on trees.

Pillich's short-lived run for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2018 didn't get very far, but it did leave her with about $540,000 in her campaign fund – money she could have used to run for county commission. That gave her a pretty good start on fundraising,

Reece couldn't match Pillich dollar-for-dollar, but in the end, she didn't need to.

Both candidates have reputations as being tough, not a bit hesitant to mix it up in some political street-fighting.

Reece served on Cincinnati's council, and was the District 33 representative in the Ohio Statehouse for eight years. She sees the start of the new decade a good time to get back into government with the vision for making Hamilton County the "number one county in America."

Reece says her time in those offices would give her an advantage on commission. "I understand the city of Cincinnati is in Hamilton County, it's not a separate entity," she says. "I've been able to get things done. I can work across party lines. I've shown that at the statehouse when I've been in the minority."

She says as commissioner, she would work with the leaders of Hamilton County communities. "That's what people want to hear. They don't want to hear we're just fighting about something," she said on a recent Cincinnati Edition. "They want people who have relationships and people who can get things done."

Howard Wilkinson joined the WVXU News Team after 30 years of covering local and state politics for The Cincinnati Enquirer. A native of Dayton, Ohio, Wilkinson has covered every Ohio governor’s race since 1974 as well as 12 presidential nominating conventions. His streak continued by covering both the 2012 Republican and Democratic conventions for 91.7 WVXU. Along with politics, Wilkinson also covered the 2001 Cincinnati race riots; the Lucasville Prison riot in 1993; the Air Canada plane crash at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in 1983; and the 1997 Ohio River flooding. The Cincinnati Reds are his passion. "I've been listening to WVXU and public radio for many years, and I couldn't be more pleased at the opportunity to be part of it,” he says.