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Analysis: And The Winners Of Cincinnati's Mayoral Primary Are... Don't Ask

Every year since 1974, the year I started covering politics, people have been asking me the same question over and over and over again on the day before an election:

So, who's going to win?

And, in every one of those 48 years, my answer has always been the same:

The person who gets the most votes.

They usually walk away, cursing me under their breath. Apparently, that is not the answer they were looking for.

My middle name is not Nostradamus. Nor has anyone ever confused me with Carnac the Magnificent.

If I had those powers, I would probably open up a Guess Your Age and Weight booth on the county fair circuit.

So if you are looking for someone to predict which two of the six candidates for Cincinnati mayor will finish on top Tuesday and go on to face each other in the November election, you have come to the wrong place.

RELATED: A Voter Guide To Cincinnati's 2021 Mayoral Primary

I'm not going to do it; and you can't make me.

I will tell you this, though – I believe, as I did at the beginning of the campaign, that there are two tiers of candidates – a well-known top tier and an extremely long shot lower tier.

The top tier is made up of Council Member David Mann, a former mayor and one-term congressman who is in his sixth decade of Cincinnati politics; State Sen. Cecil Thomas, a former Cincinnati police officer and City Council member; and Aftab Pureval, the current Hamilton County clerk of courts and unsuccessful congressional candidate in 2018.

david mann aftab pureval cecil thomas
Credit Mann, Jan Hanselman; others courtesy
From left: David Mann; Aftab Pureval; Cecil Thomas.

I have a suspicion that a fourth candidate - one who was totally unknown when he began his campaign – may be quietly moving up the ladder. He is Gavi Begtrup, a physicist and entrepreneur, who is like a long-odds race horse moving up the rail in the last quarter mile.

The other two, Democrat Raffel Prophett and Independent Herman Najoli, are likely also rans.

Gavi Begtrup Herman Najoli raffel Prophett
Credit Courtesy of the candidates
From left: Gavi Begtrup; Herman Najoli; Raffel Prophett.

Despite what some say, this is likely to be a low-turnout election.

Did I mention that it is likely to be pouring down rain in Southwest Ohio for most of the day Tuesday?

It will likely be a relatively low turnout even with Issue 3 on the ballot, the charter amendment that would require the city place $50 million a year into an Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Progressive types – Democrats and Independents – may be motivated to come out and vote for Issue 3. I suspect that many of the 20% to 25% of the city voters who are Republicans will come out to vote against it.

RELATED: Understanding Issue 3

And, while they are at it, those Republicans will probably vote for Mann, because there is not a Republican mayoral candidate on the ballot and they see Mann as the most tolerable of the six.

Mann picked up the endorsement of a former Democratic mayor, Charlie Luken, over the weekend.

Luken told me it was sort of by accident; he hadn't planned a big announcement, but when an Enquirer reporter called and asked who he would vote for, he said Mann, whom he served with on council.

"David called me up; he didn't even know I was backing him,'' Luken said. "David's been in politics a long time and his integrity has never been questioned. He's the one with the most experience to lead, which is what we need right now."

RELATED: Can Democrat David Mann Succeed In Mayoral Primary By Wooing GOP Voters?

One of Luken's fellow former mayors, Democrat Mark Mallory, made a more formal endorsement of Pureval over the weekend.

Mallory told me that when he was elected in 2005, he ran on a theme of being the City Hall outsider who could end the "chaos" on City Council.

"Aftab is that candidate this year; he's not been part of the mess at City Hall,'' Mallory said. "I talk to voters out there and the thing I here the most often is, 'Throw them all out.' Well, Aftab is a fresh face with new ideas."

Tuesday night, we will find out how much weight high-profile endorsements and name recognition matter.

And I will be here waiting for someone to ask me a new question:

So, who will be the top two finishers?

politically speaking 2
Credit Jim Nolan / WVXU

Read more "Politically Speaking" here.


Howard Wilkinson is in his 50th year of covering politics on the local, state and national levels.