Hamilton County’s Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval and City Council member David Mann were the top two candidates after votes were tallied today in Cincinnati’s nonpartisan mayoral primary election. Beating out four other candidates, they’ll now face off against each other in the general election on November 2.
Unofficial returns showed Pureval in the lead with more than 39 percent of votes while Mann received more than 29 percent. The remaining candidates were state Senator Cecil Thomas, business owner Gavi Begtrup, retired firefighter Raffel Prophett, and educator Herman Najoli. Cincinnati’s current mayor, John Cranley, is term-limited and cannot run for re-election.
Public safety was among the most urgent issues for city residents ahead of the primary, local activists told The Appeal. True public safety, they said, means divesting from the police and investing in community needs.
Neither Pureval, who spent a year as a special assistant United States attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice, nor Mann, a civil rights attorney and former U.S. representative, support defunding police.
At a budget hearing in June, Mann adjourned the meeting early after community members began protesting over police funding.
“We have too many killings,” he told the Cincinnati Enquirer last month. “These incidents will go up if we have fewer officers.”
The mayor plays a critical role in policing. He appoints, with the City Council’s approval, all seven members of the Citizens Complaint Authority, an independent body that investigates allegations of police misconduct and abuse. The agency reports directly to the city manager, who oversees the police department and is also appointed by the mayor.
“The city manager is basically the CPD’s boss and so that’s a direct connection to make change in policing,” Jennifer Kroell, an ACLU of Ohio volunteer, told The Appeal prior to today’s election. The next mayor, she said, can “make or break policing in our city.”
“Our team really sees policing as the most important issue in this mayoral race,” said Greer Aeschbury, the Cincinnati organizing strategist for the ACLU of Ohio.
At a recent forum, Pureval said he supported reforming 911 and the city’s emergency response.
“We have to take action on this by making sure police officers are only responding to issues they’re trained for and where they’re not, sending unarmed, specifically trained professionals,” he said. “This is not just important for our Black and brown communities. Justice is important to all of us.”
Mann has also said that the city police chief’s request for funding for mental health teams should be met. “We must look for ways, in the case of a 911 call, to match citizen needs with resources and capabilities of personnel sent to respond to the call,” he told the Cincinnati Enquirer.
But Mann also told the paper that he would like to maintain, or potentially increase, the number of city police officers.
Rather than investing in the police department, activists have demanded that the city expand the availability of affordable housing—another issue that was on today’s ballot. In 2018, the city started a trust fund to create and preserve affordable housing, but it has been severely underfunded. Housing rights advocates hoped to change that with the passage of Ballot Issue 3, but nearly three-quarters of voters rejected it today at the polls. Issue 3 would have amended the city charter to require an annual investment of no less than $50 million to the fund from several potential sources, including the city’s general fund.
Both Pureval and Mann had said they didn’t support the ordinance. Mann had criticized it for requiring funds that he said would have “major impacts on basic city services” including policing. Pureval had said he would like to see federal, corporate, and philanthropic financing used to fund the trust. Pureval has also said he is committed to ensuring low-income residents have access to attorneys in housing court.
“We have to balance the playing field in eviction court by working to ensure greater access to lawyers and legal services for tenants who can’t afford representation,” reads his campaign website. “For too long our city has not been committed to affordable housing. As Mayor, I will change that.”
“Our affordable housing in Cincinnati is very scarce,” Chazidy Bowman, president and founder of Opportunities People’s Justice Leaders, told The Appeal last month. “Affordable housing is the main thing on the agenda right now.”