Cincinnati Mayor Hopeful PG Sittenfeld has again found a way to raise big bucks at a time when it seems like many people are questioning his political future.
The Democrat raised $ 182,060 in the six months ended June 30, Politics Extra learned ahead of its campaign funding deadline on Wednesday. Sittenfeld currently has $ 529,797 in the bank and is considered the largest war chest for a first-time mayoral candidate so far from the city elections.
Mayor Primary School 2021 is more than 21 months away. Sittenfeld has not officially announced that he is running for mayor, but it is an open secret.
Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman, who is running for mayor in 2021, did not respond to a message looking for the amount of money he had raised during the reporting period.
What it means: Many of Sittenfeld’s donors were not impressed by the ongoing turbulence in the town hall in the last 1½ years. Sittenfeld has endured a number of bad headlines for his role in organizing illegal secret SMS meetings among the council’s five progressive Democrats.
He was embroiled in an ongoing power struggle with Smitherman, an independent man. There is no doubt that some of Sittenfeld’s allies were disappointed with him for turning City Hall into a three-ring circus, and it raises questions about his ability to be the future top leader of the city.
But Sittenfeld’s fundraising numbers may signal that while his critics are loud, they may be part of a small group of people with little influence. Donors clearly see him as the best option right now to follow Mayor John Cranley, who will be leaving office in late 2021.
Sittenfeld has a magnetic personality. He listens to people. He publicly deals with criticism with grace. He doesn’t do anything to make enemies and it has helped him overcome a reputation for being everything to everyone.
Since the beginning of his political career almost a decade ago, Sittenfeld never had problems raising money. This is the second time he has responded to skeptics and raised a lot of money. Many Democrats were on Sittenfeld for running against former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland in the 2016 Senate primary.
After a modest 48-point defeat, Sittenfeld ran out and raised more than $ 500,000 in his 2017 city race. It was a lot more money than he needed, but it was Sittenfeld’s way of reestablishing himself in a force of local politics.
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Why it matters: Beyond the actual numbers, Sittenfeld has a stake in the four power centers of money in Cincinnati politics – big business, real estate, organized labor, and prominent liberal donors.
By blocking donors in these categories, Sittenfeld has sent a message to everyone else who is considering running for mayor. There is no obvious lead on which other serious candidates can step in and raise a lot of money.
He has cultivated dozens of new relationships in every category this year. Some of the names that first appeared in Sittenfeld’s financial report for the campaign: Brad Lindner, CEO of United Dairy Farmers, Bill Butler, CEO of Corporex, David Herche, former CEO of Enerfab, and Mike Huseman, President of HGC Construction.
Sittenfeld also received some large donations after the embarrassing “Gang of Five” trial in March. Reds owner Bob Castellini and his wife Susan Castellini, former CEO of Procter & Gamble, John Pepper and his wife Francie Pepper, and Butler and his wife Mary Sue Butler each donated a maximum of $ 1,100 last month. Michael Fisher, CEO of Children’s Hospital, gave Sittenfeld’s campaign $ 1,000 in May.
Taking away Politics Extra: The choice is still a long way off, but Sittenfeld has continued to establish itself as a favorite. His focus on big business, real estate, labor and wealthy liberals echoes the fundraising plan Cranley pursued in 2013 and 2017. Sittenfeld took a smart move this year to connect with top local Democratic strategist Jared Kamrass, who also ran Cranley’s fundraising.
But not everyone in the business world is behind Sittenfeld. I wouldn’t be surprised if FC Cincinnati owner Carl Lindner III and some of the team’s investors stood behind a different mayor. The Cincinnati league leaders were not happy with the way Sittenfeld teased the stadium project, even though they ultimately supported it.
Given the chaotic situation in the town hall, Sittenfeld is vulnerable to an external candidate running on a platform to clean up the chaos. Some have mentioned former mayor Mark Mallory, who works for Cincinnati FC, as a potential candidate. But he’s not a true outsider.
It would take a well-funded, real outsider to defeat Sittenfeld – and it’s not yet clear if anyone will take on that role.
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