The Hamilton County Electoral Board sets the line-up for the Cincinnati Mayor’s Race

NORWOOD, Ohio – Despite the efforts of two hopefuls, the main race for the Mayor of Cincinnati on May 4th will remain a contest among six candidates.

At a Friday afternoon meeting of the Norwood Headquarters of the Hamilton County Board of Elections, members examined the appeal of two people who requested to appear on the ballot, but later learned that not all of the signatures they collected were valid.

“I think I would have made an excellent candidate,” said Adam Koehler, 44, of Mount Auburn. “Of course we’re disappointed. I think voters should have more choice, not less.”

Koehler and 48-year-old Kelli Prather from West Price Hill – both hoping to run for Democrats – did not collect the 500 valid signatures required to secure a seat in the main mayor election, according to the electoral board.

Both also failed to get board members’ support for their Friday appointments because of the flawed way in which the signatures were collected and submitted.

To obtain a valid signature, it must be from a registered Cincinnati voter and must be accompanied by an address that matches the address that the electoral board provided for that name. The Ohio City Charter and Revised Code also contain some more specific technical details.

See the full discussion by the members of the electoral committee on the appointments of Koehler and Prather here:

Ultimately, the board voted 2-1 against Koehler’s appeal and 3-0 against Prather. One board member abstained from each vote.

“I think there are errors in the process as regards the decision that is permissible,” Koehler said after presenting his case to the board.

Prather took the board’s rejection of their signatures on a more personal level.

“In my opinion it just cries out for discrimination or process of elimination and I am very concerned about the way the process was carried out,” she said, referring to what she argued in an inconsistent manner, process the signatures it has collected as valid.

Prather is no stranger to local elections: in 2016 she ran in the Democratic primary for an open seat in Ohio in the US Senate and in 2020 in the race for the Hamilton County Commissioner.

She advised the board on Friday that she would have been the only woman on the ballot in May and would have been the first black woman to serve as mayor of Cincinnati when she was elected.

Democrat Yvette Simpson won the 2017 primary before losing to incumbent John Cranley in this year’s general election.

In attempting to collect signatures for this race, Prather submitted three rounds of signatures, each time finding that not enough of them were verifiable as valid.

Some of the signatures she submitted were photocopies as the original documents were damaged when they were collected during a snow storm.

Board chairman Gwen McFarlin, also a Democrat and chairman of the Hamilton County Democratic Party, pointed to Prather’s experience in elections and said the clock just worked against them.

“You are a very skilled candidate and haste is wasteful,” said McFarlin. “You know the process. In this situation you must be held responsible for not filing original applications. These are copies.”

In addition to Koehler and Prather, the employees of the electoral board also refused the signatures requested by City Councilor Wendell Young in order to be on the ballot. Young decided not to appeal this decision.

Before the end of Friday’s meeting, Prather showed an interest in challenging the board members’ decision.

In the votes on Friday, there are six candidates on the mayor’s ticket for May 4th:

  • Gavi Begtrup (Mount Lookout)
  • David Mann (Clifton)
  • Herman J. Najoli (West Price Hill)
  • Raffel Prophett (Avondale)
  • Aftab Pureval (Clifton)
  • Cecil Thomas (Avondale)

The top two voters in the May 4 primary will advance to the general election in November.

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