Cincinnati mayoral candidate David Pepper ’93 LAW ’99 earned a spot for himself in the city’s Nov. 8 general election, winning the non-partisan primary election Tuesday by capturing 31 percent of about 42,000 votes cast.
Pepper, a city councilman, and Mark Mallory, the state senator who finished second and trailed Pepper by only 215 votes, will face off in the general election for a chance to close the racial and economic rifts that made crime in Cincinnati the central issue of the mayoral race.
In a telephone interview last night, Pepper sounded ecstatic and said he was thrilled to be “out with the citizens” on Election Day. His campaign is revving up for a van tour of the city’s neighborhoods to seek input from citizens before November. Just hours after winning the primary, Pepper differentiated himself from Mallory.
“I actually don’t know what he’s going to do if he gets elected, because he hasn’t offered many details,” Pepper said. “But I know exactly what I’m going to do.”
Mallory, who has served in the Ohio state legislature for a decade, hopes that what he calls his “more comprehensive approach to dealing with the issues” will help him to make history as Cincinnati’s first elected black mayor.
“The voters have clearly said they want to talk about consensus-building and collaborative leadership, and I have the leadership, the track record and the history of bringing people together,” Mallory said in a telephone interview last night. “David has not been able to demonstrate that on a consistent basis.”
Pepper, the son of Yale Vice President of Finance John Pepper ’60 and a former managing editor of the News, has been working at a feverish pitch for the past 18 months, overseeing a grass roots outreach and fund-raising campaign, in which he out-raised his closest challenger by over $400,000.
At the same time, Pepper said, he has been using his position as a city council member to leverage changes to the city.
“I ran under the mantra of change, and I’ve been pushing for change all along,” Pepper said. “It’s kind of funny to watch people who’ve been around for, collectively, let’s say 18 years, saying that the new person, who has only been around for three, is part of the problem. Those guys have been in office since I was in Berkeley College.”
The campaign period was fierce, with the field of seven candidates vying for voters’ attention. Pepper’s opponents made campaign issues out of everything from a decade-old opinion column about flag-burning to his status as son of a former Procter & Gamble consumer products mogul.
Pepper met with mayors of major cities from Baltimore to San Francisco as he developed his vision for Cincinnati’s future.
“We need real leaders with their own progressive plan for moving the city forward if we are going to succeed,” Pepper said. “We can’t wait for state and federal governments to bail us out.”
For the November election, Pepper is focused on earning a clear mandate from voters.
“My goal is not just to win this race, but to do so in a way that can change this city,” he said.
Pepper’s advice to other Yalies looking to make a difference is to not overestimate the value of an Ivy League education.
“Don’t count on a Yale degree to take you that far,” Pepper said. “You just have to get on the ground and start working and running.”