Commentary: Amy Murray Gets Some Trump Street Cred

Feb 12, 2020

A lot of folks in and around Cincinnati politics have their shorts all bunched up worrying about who is going to take Republican Amy Murray's place on Cincinnati City Council when she leaves next month to take a job in Donald Trump's Department of Defense. Frankly, I can't even pretend to get worked up about it.

Somebody will be appointed, with the stamp of approval of the Hamilton County Republican Party, and go on to run for a full term in 2021. And more likely than not, get the boot from the voters in a city that is most decidedly Democratic.

So Democratic that you could take the five council Democrats who make up the "Gang of Five," convict them of whatever, issue them orange pajamas and lock them in the Hamilton County Justice Center and throw away the key.

They'd probably still get re-elected.

I'm much more interested in the future of Amy Murray, who will be leaving 21 months before her current four-year term ends.

She's headed for Washington to become director of small business programs for the Defense Department – a job that fits with her pre-council job at Procter & Gamble, where she worked in global business development for 14 years, with an emphasis on P&G's business dealings in Japan.

That job could be over by the end of this year if Trump loses his re-election bid. If Trump wins a second term, she could stay on the job, but the chances of her doing that seem to be remote.

The fact is, Amy Murray wants to be elected to something. Not just anything, but something big. County commissioner would not be big enough, although there are party leaders who would like to see her do that.

A seat in Congress is the apple of her eye.

Last year, she was laying big hints that she might even challenge the Methuselah of southwest Ohio politics, Republican congressman Steve Chabot, in the March GOP primary for the house seat Chabot has held on to for nearly a quarter of a century.

But the district – made up of western Hamilton County and all of fire-engine red Warren County – was not made for a centrist Republican like Murray. It was made by the Ohio General Assembly in 2011, after the 2010 Census, for a true-believer Trumpite like Chabot.

Murray thought better of taking on the old boy network and quietly sunk back into her seat on the dais in city council chambers.

She was never a particularly strong candidate for city council, but that wasn't all her fault.

She ran in 2009 and finished twelfth. Murray was first appointed to council in 2011 when Chris Monzel left to join the county commission. She finished 12th in that race and lost the Monzel seat.

Murray came back in 2013 and won the ninth and final spot on council; and she was re-elected in 2017, finishing 8th.

12th, 12th, 9th and 8th in four consecutive council races.

Not a particularly stellar record, but what can you expect from a Republican running for city council in a city where only 25% of the electorate voted for Donald Trump for president?

Another reason why her as-yet-unnamed successor may not be long for the world of City Hall politics:

In early 2018, she inexplicably agreed to become the lieutenant governor running mate of then-GOP congressman Jim Renacci, a true Trump acolyte. There was some grumbling in Trump circles in Ohio that Murray was not "ideologically pure enough" for the Age of Trump. She dared to think thoughts that were not those of The Fearless Leader.

Fortunately for Murray, Renacci's gubernatorial campaign quickly spiraled down the commode. He switched horses mid-stream, becoming a U.S. Senate candidate, running against – and losing to –Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown. That was another train wreck.

Murray had to be glad she escaped the Renacci Curse and once again retreated to her seat at city council.

Until now.

Suddenly, she is going to Washington, to work for the same president whom many Ohio Republicans feared she was opposed to.

Eventually, Amy Murray will come home to Hyde Park.

And it is likely she will come home from Washington with dreams of going back to Washington as the representative of Ohio's 1st Congressional District.

She will come back with some street cred that she probably hopes will shut up the MAGA crowd in her party – she will have actually worked as a presidential appointee of The Donald, who trusted her enough to put her in charge of billions of dollars of small business development funds.

How could the Trump crowd complain about a congressional candidate who has had the full faith and backing of the president of the United States?

One little problem though.

By 2022, her next opportunity to run for Congress, we will have had another U.S. Census and the Ohio congressional districts will be redrawn under new, more bipartisan rules approved overwhelmingly by Ohio voters in 2018.

What it will mean is that the Ohio legislature's 2011 gift to Steve Chabot – Warren County – will be gone from the 1st District. Hamilton County will be its own congressional district, with maybe a handful of Butler County precincts thrown in.

It is precisely why Chabot has talked of possibly retiring and not running again in 2022. The map will be a more-than-level playing field for Democrats.

And a disaster for any Republican who decides to run. Including Amy Murray.

Credit Jim Nolan / WVXU

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