Ohio state Sen. Mark Mallory defeated Councilman David Pepper ’93 LAW ’99 in the Cincinnati mayoral race Tuesday night.
Though Pepper, the son of Vice President for Finance and Administration John Pepper, appeared set to win with an early lead peaking at 4,000 votes, Mallory made a late comeback to secure 51 percent of the vote. Both sides had expected a close race after Pepper won the primary elections on Sept. 13 ahead of Mallory by a slim margin of 215 votes.
Josh Galper ’94 LAW ’99, a spokesman for the Pepper campaign, said members of the campaign were disappointed by the election outcome, but they are hopeful for the city’s future.
“Cincinnati voters made a decision today, and we obviously wish the outcome were different, but we respect their decision and wish the new mayor a success because there are a lot of important issues that need to be addressed to move the city forward,” he said.
State Congressman Tyrone Yates, who endorsed Mallory, said he thinks the senator’s experiences made him the more desirable mayoral candidate.
“My sense of what separates Senator Mallory and Councilman Pepper is an advantage by Senator Mallory in terms of his real world experience and his rather savvy political judgment and the capacity to be a concessive donor,” he said.
But Alex Laskey, chairman of the board of the Campaign for a National Majority, which endorsed Pepper, said he thinks Pepper is a hard-working and talented man who has shown great devotion to his hometown of Cincinnati. The CNM, which seeks to promote rising star candidates in the Democratic Party, looked at 493 races this year and endorsed candidates in only eight, Laskey said.
The campaign was marked by racial tensions, following claims by former mayoral candidate Alicia Reece that David Pepper would ignore the black community if elected, Cincinnati resident Joe Fahrendorf ’06 said. But he said before the election that he thought skin color would have little impact on the outcome.
“Whoever wins this election is going to be elected not because of their color but for what they stand for,” he said.
Laskey said he thinks the reference to race by some candidates during the campaign was tasteless.
“As a professional campaign consultant, it upsets me to see something like that,” he said. “Race ought not to have anything to do with this campaign. It is an unfortunate fact of municipal politics that race is used as a divisive tool.”
Yale students who followed the mayoral race tended to favor the Yale alumnus, but said they were not overly disappointed by their candidate’s defeat.
Alex Maggio ’07, who voted for Pepper, said he thought Pepper was the more qualified candidate with the most experience in economic development. But Mallory is a competent leader, Maggio said, and he likes the idea of having more racial diversity in municipal politics.
“I’m not very disappointed,” he said. “I would have preferred Pepper but I think Mallory will do fine.”
Fahrendorf, who also voted for Pepper, said he thinks the position of mayor requires business skills that made Pepper more suitable for the job.
“David Pepper knows how to generate money and bring it back into the city,” he said. “I feel Senator Mallory is more of a politician, and maybe a politician mayor won’t do as well as a businessman.”
But Yates said he thinks Pepper’s knowledge of economics is less important than Mallory’s ability to make good judgements that would resonate with the public.
“I think that any technical advantages of understanding economics or natural economics that David Pepper might have doesn’t outweigh Senator Mallory’s ability to understand and absorb the issues for the best interest of people,” he said.
Mallory is set to be the first Cincinnati mayor in over 70 years who did not first serve on the city council. Pepper and Mallory could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.