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Who will replace Landsman on Cincinnati Council now that he's won a seat in Congress?

greg landsman
Jason Whitman
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wvxu
Greg Landsman during a swearing-in ceremony for Cincinnati's new council and mayor at Washington Park, January 4, 2022.

Cincinnati Council Member Greg Landsman unseated Congressman Steve Chabot in Ohio's First District Tuesday night. Beginning in January, someone will have to fill his council seat for the rest of his two-year term, which goes through the end of 2023.

So who will pick that replacement? The process is laid out in the city charter.

At the beginning of each new term, council members must complete a "successor designation certificate," listing which council members should select a replacement should their council seat become vacant.

Landsman's certificate lists all seven fellow Democrats on Council (and each other Democrats’ certificate does the same).

Liz Keating, Council's only Republican, lists just one successor designee: Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney.

Once a vacancy occurs, those "successor designees" have 60 days to appoint a replacement. The designees have to agree on someone with at least a majority vote, which would be four of the seven members.

Landsman says he wants the discussions to be open and transparent. Any meetings of all seven council members will have to be open to the public, but initial discussion will likely happen on a smaller scale behind the scenes. Vice Mayor Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney told WVXU pre-election those conversations have not begun in earnest yet.

How has the process worked in the past?

The most recent use of the successor designation process was in March 2020, when Democrat Tamaya Dennard resigned after being arrested on federal charges of extortion, bribery, and wire fraud. (Dennard later pleaded guilty to honest services wire fraud.)

Dennard had only one other council member listed to choose her replacement: P.G. Sittenfeld, who chose Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney. Because Sittenfeld didn't have to consult any other council members, no public meetings took place. But Kearney says even that process was collaborative, with individual interviews with most other council members.

Not long before Dennard resigned, the process played out a bit differently for a different council seat. Republican Amy Murray announced her upcoming resignation in February 2020 so she could take a federal government job the next month.

Murray had selected Christopher Smitherman (Independent) and Jeff Pastor (Republican) to choose her replacement, but took an active role in the decision herself. The three ultimately selected Betsy Sundermann, but not before some drama surrounding the choice, which shows how the process is not always smooth or unanimous.

Smitherman and Pastor reportedly preferred another candidate to fill the seat. Murray also reportedly threatened to change her City Hall paperwork to allow another council member to make the appointment. A series of conversations and meetings apparently resolved the matter.

Kearney and Sundermann were considered permanent council members as soon as they were sworn in; the process was different, however, for the two people who filled in for Sittenfeld and Pastor when the two men were arrested in late 2020.

Because Sittenfeld and Pastor only accepted a suspension from Council rather than resigning, the choice for a temporary replacement rested with Republican Hamilton County Probate Court Judge Ralph Winkler.

Winkler chose Republican Steve Goodin to fill Pastor's seat, and Republican Liz Keating to fill Sittenfeld's seat.

Goodin and Keating were interim council members until the original terms ran out at the end of 2021.

All four people appointed to Council in 2020 ran in the 2021 election: Kearney earned the most votes out of all candidates and Keating snagged the ninth position on the nine-member council. Goodin and Sundermann fell short.

Updated: November 9, 2022 at 11:41 AM EST
This article was first published on Nov. 7, 2022 and has been updated to reflect Landsman winning the race for Ohio's First Congressional District.
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Becca Costello grew up in Williamsburg and Batavia (in Clermont County) listening to WVXU. Before joining the WVXU newsroom, she worked in public radio & TV journalism in Bloomington, Indiana and Lincoln, Nebraska. Becca has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including from local chapters of the Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists, and contributed to regional and national Murrow Award winners. Becca has a master's degree in journalism from Indiana University and a bachelor's degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Becca's dog Cincy (named for the city they once again call home) is even more anxious than she is.