Cranley elected mayor, with big changes on city council

Nov 6, 2013

Clearly, the majority of Cincinnati voters who went to the polls Tuesday were determined to shake up Cincinnati City Hall, electing John Cranley as their new mayor and changing the face of the nine-member city council.

Cranley, a 39-year-old Hyde Park resident who grew up in Price Hill and a former council member, easily defeated a fellow Democrat who has been one of the top vote-getters in the Queen City over the past three decades, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls.

In the unofficial vote count, Cranley took 58 percent to Qualls’ 42 percent.

He will become the city’s 69th mayor on Dec. 1, taking over for Democrat Mark Mallory, who has served the past eight years and who backed Qualls to take his place.

Cranley won on a wave of voter discontent – mainly with the $133 million streetcar project and the plan to the lease out the city’s parking system. Cranley has said he plans to scuttle both plans, if he can gain support on the new city council.

After hammering at the streetcar project for months, Cranley talked about the streetcar supporters and his plans.  

“The streetcar supporters have all the best intentions and their hearts are in the right place,’’ Cranley told WVXU at his victory party. “It’s just the solution they’ve got is too expensive. We’re going to find an alternative.”

It is not clear yet if Cranley has a majority to end the streetcar project on the new council.

And Cranley will have a city council to deal with that will have three new faces – none of whom are totally unfamiliar faces.

David Mann, the former mayor and congressman, finished third in the council race, making a come-back after nearly 20 years out of office.

“The budget needs to be straightened out,’’ Mann said. “We need to spend the money each year that we have coming in.. That relates also to the pension plan and the complications there.”

Mann was referring to the current $870 million shortfall in the city’s pension system – an issue that the new mayor and council will have to address.

Kevin Flynn, a lawyer who has run twice before for council, came in eighth and won a seat on council, while Republican Amy Murray – who served as an appointed council member in 2011 and lost the seat in that year’s election – was returned by voters Tuesday, finishing ninth.

Democrat P.G. Sittenfeld was the top vote-getter among council candidate, with 37,456 unofficial votes – nearly 5,000 more than Cranley gathered in against Qualls.

Five other incumbents were re-elected: Republican, Charlie Winburn, Yvette Simpson, who ran with a Democratic Party and Charter Committee endorsement; Democrat Chris Seelbach, independent Christopher Smitherman, and Democrat Wendell Young.

Qualls had promised to make Young vice mayor if she had been elected mayor. Cranley has not said who his vice mayor will be.

This was the first council election since the 2011 city charter amendment changing council terms from two years to four years. Democrat Laure Quinlivan, who championed the four-year term amendment, won’t get to serve one – she lost by 900 unofficial votes to Murray.

The other incumbent who lost her seat on council was Democrat Pam Thomas, who was appointed to council earlier this year to take the place of her husband, Cecil Thomas, who could not run under the term limits law.

One of Cranley’s first jobs as mayor will be to appoint council committee chairs; and he has yet to tip his hand on who might be in and who might be out. He can also replace city manager Milton Dohoney Jr. All he has said on that subject is that Dohoney can apply for the position.

Qualls conceded the election at a gathering of supporters at Mahogany’s at The Banks.

“It is not the result I had hoped for,’’ Qualls said. “However, one of the things I am very sure of is that every single person in this room is committed to the future of the city of Cincinnati.”

Qualls told WVXU that she will step back and decide how she can continue to be involved in the community, possibly in neighborhood development. She would not say if she would run for office again.