It didn’t take long for the court fight over texting at City Hall to become a political fight over who gets to be Cincinnati’s next mayor.
The dispute is complicated. It involves Ohio’s public meetings law, a string of politically charged text messages and as many as nine and as few as five City Council members, depending on which lawyer is doing the talking.
A judge will likely need months to sort it all out, but one aspect of the case started to come into focus last week: The top two candidates in the 2021 mayoral race see the texting flap as a very big deal.
P.G. Sittenfeld and Christopher Smitherman have been pulled into the texting fray and recognize its potential for both political peril and opportunity. They're rivals for the seat now occupied by Mayor John Cranley, who can't run again because of term limits.
“There’s a desire to come out on the winning side,” said David Niven, a political science professor at the University of Cincinnati. “And there’s certainly a desire to keep the dirt running downhill and away from you.”
The dirt started flying three months ago when Cincinnati resident Mark Miller sued five members of City Council for texting and emailing one another about city business as part of “an elaborate scheme to avoid public scrutiny.”