After many months of planning and preparation, Cincinnati City Council Member P.G. Sittenfeld formally launched his campaign to be elected the city's mayor in November 2021 at a socially distanced gathering of supporters in an Evanston union hall.
The 35-year-old council member, who became the youngest person ever elected to City Council in 2011 at the age of 27, was surrounded at the Laborers Union Hall in Evanston by a diverse and eclectic group of high-profile Democratic supporters.
They included African American leaders like former Mayor Mark Mallory and State Sen. Cecil Thomas, four of his fellow Democratic council members, leaders of Cincinnati area labor unions, members of the Cincinnati Board of Education and candidates for county offices this year in a display of support meant in part to impress Council Member David Mann, who has already announced his mayoral candidacy, and any others who might be considering jumping into the race.
Sittenfeld enters the fray at a time when the city – not to mention the state and the nation – face multiple and unprecedented challenges in the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic damage that fighting the virus has done to the city's finances, and a city where African American citizens and many others are crying out for racial justice, especially in terms of policing.
"We are living in unprecedented times, dealing with great challenges on several fronts,'' Sittenfeld told WVXU. "But we intend to rebuild the city's future – rebuild what our city is going to look like in the future.
"It is a daunting task,'' Sittenfeld said. "But we have faced serious crises before and we have rallied, we have bounced back and we've gotten back on our feet. We can do it again."
A theme of Sittenfeld's campaign will be the idea that Cincinnati today is the "tale of two cities" – one made up of neighborhoods of privilege and prosperity and a second one where neighborhoods are more likely to face poverty and despair.
"We have come to shape the future – to take Cincinnati's 'tale of two cities' and make us one,'' Sittenfeld said in a draft of the speech he gave Sunday afternoon in Evanston, "to ensure that no matter who you are, what neighborhood you live in, or what circumstances you were born into, you have the opportunity to experience the best that Cincinnati has to offer."
The only negative mark on Sittenfeld's record came in 2019 when he was the leader of the so-called "Gang of Five" – a council majority of Democrats who exchanged thousands of secret text messages aimed at undermining Mayor John Cranley and circumventing open meeting laws.
They were sued and agreed to turn over texts in the lawsuit. In them, the five ridiculed members of the public, discussed the sexuality of city employees and plotted to save the job of then-City Manager Harry Black. It cost the city $101,000 to resolve the suit.
"Did I make mistakes?'' Sittenfeld said. "Absolutely I did. I've been all over this city talking to people. They never ask about this. They want to know about issues that impact their lives directly and how City Hall is going to help."
Sittenfeld was a high school basketball star at Seven Hills School who went on to earn an English degree at Princeton University and went on to attend graduate school in the United Kingdom on a Marshall Scholarship. The youngest of four siblings, his sister Curtis Sittenfeld is a well-known novelist.
Assuming Mann stays in the race – and there is no reason to believe at this point that he will not – there will only be a mayoral primary election next March if one or more candidates enter the race. If there is a primary, the two top vote-getters will face each other in the November 2021 general election.
This story has been updated.