Nine candidates filed petitions by Thursday's deadline for the May 4 Cincinnati mayoral primary.
If they all qualify for the primary ballot, it will be a record number of candidates since Cincinnati went to the direct election of the mayor in 2001. The previous record was seven in 2005.
They all remain unofficial candidates until the Hamilton County Board of Elections meets on March 2 to certify them for the ballot.
In many circles, Cincinnati Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld was a lock for the 2021 mayoral race to replace Mayor John Cranley, who is term-limited out this year. That all changed Nov. 19.
Before that day – when Sittenfeld was arrested on charges he accepted $40,000 in bribes in exchange for council votes, which he denies – only three others had thrown their proverbial hats in the ring, and only one of them had significant name recognition: Sittenfeld's fellow Democrat, Council Member David Mann.
Now with Sittenfeld out of the race for good – "due to the current situation, I've decided not to run for mayor after all," he wrote on Facebook Feb. 18 – Cincinnati's mayoral race has gotten a lot more interesting.
Here's how the Cincinnati mayoral primary, which has been around since 2001, works: The candidates run in a field race, without party designations on the ballot. The top two vote-getters in the May 4 primary will face each in the November election for a four-year term as mayor.
And, although there are no party designations, all but one – Najoli – is a Democrat. The Republican Party didn't field a mayoral candidate, choosing to focus instead on getting their three appointed council members elected this fall in this heavily Democratic city.
Here is a list of the candidates who filed petitions with the Hamilton County Board of Elections by Thursday's 4 p.m. deadline. The candidates will be officially certified for the primary ballot at the March 2 board of elections meeting.
On Jan. 14, the current Hamilton County Clerk of Courts announced he would run for the office of mayor "with an emphasis on leading an economic recovery from COVID and restoring the public's trust in City Hall." In 2018, he ran a spirited campaign for Ohio's 1st Congressional District seat, but lost to Republican incumbent Steve Chabot.
Najoli, a native of Kenya, finished third in a three-candidate race for Hamilton County commissioner in November. He is an adjunct professor at Indiana Wesleyan University,
Mann, a former mayor and congressman, declared his intention to run in May. After a political career that stretches back to the 1970s, Mann has the advantage of almost universal name recognition in the city.
The physicist and entrepreneur is making his first run for elective office.
Prather, an occupational therapist, activist and perennial candidate for various offices, declared her intention to run in August.
Prophett is a retired Cincinnati Fire Department district chief and a retired Lt. Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves.
A state senator, Thomas is a former member of Cincinnati City Council and a former Cincinnati police officer.
The tech entrepreneur from Mount Auburn is making his first run for public office.
Who Expressed Interest, But Ultimately Decided Against Running
Christopher Smitherman (I)
The vice mayor, who is term-limited off council this year, had petitions ready to go, but put out a statement a half hour before the filing deadline saying he will not be a candidate.
Mark Mallory (D)
The former state senator served as mayor of the city from 2005 to 2013, running originally as a City Hall outsider who would "end the chaos" on City Council. He previously told WVXU that a number of people urged him to run, and on Dec. 22, he picked up petitions. Still, at the time, he told WVXU he was only considering it.
On Jan. 26, he told WVXU he had come to a decision to not run in order to "focus on other priorities."
Chris Seelbach (D)
On Dec. 9, 2020, Seelbach issued a statement saying he was "exploring" a run. On Dec. 20, that exploration became a mission when he issued a statement stating he would pick up petitions for the candidacy. "There is a long road to reach the May 4 primary," he wrote. "Today, we take the next step down that road." However, on Feb. 17, Seelbach, who is term-limited on council, said he had ultimately decided not to run, stating, "I'm looking forward to my next move, but it will not be in elected politics."
Young is term-limited off Cincinnati City Council this year, and though he submitted signatures by the deadline, he did not gather enough to make the May primary ballot. He needed 500, but came up about 150 short.