Why the mayor won’t endorse a 3rd Ward candidate

By Patrick Keck - pkeck@aimmediamidwest.com

PORTSMOUTH — In politics, it all comes down to who has your back. Having someone’s back can mean anything from a vote to also publicly proclaiming support through front-yard signs or Facebook posts.

Endorsements of candidates are commonplace during any political season, regardless of what level. While the Scioto County Republican and Democrat parties backed the Trump-Pence or Biden-Harris ticket respectively last fall, they also pledged support to state and county candidates.

The 2021 elections will not have the draw of a presidential or even a congressional vote, a hyper-focused local attention instead of the case. The game for these local candidates- races in Portsmouth and New Boston city councils- however remains the same: winning votes.

With that in mind, the Portsmouth Daily Times reached out to Mayor Kevin Johnson to see if he was planning on identifying who he wants to see lead his ward.

Even if he wanted to, Johnson replied that in his interpretation that the city charter prevents him from endorsing any candidate.

“I feel this would not be proper or ethical as current Mayor/Councilman, to endorse any of the candidates,” he said in a provided statement. “I also believe there could be City Charter issues pertaining to my endorsement of any Council position.”

The legislation he cited predates Pearl Harbor by a little over one month, its 80th anniversary coming this December. Violators of this “Political Assessments Prohibited” section and others that refer to political practice and activity could be fined anywhere from $25 to $500 by the Municipal Court of Portsmouth or see a prison term of six months while losing their position as a city employee.

As it reads from the city charter:

“No person receiving remuneration from the City holding an appointive office or place in the service of the City shall directly or indirectly give, solicit or receive, or be in any manner concerned in giving, soliciting or receiving, any assessment, subscription or contribution for any political party or political purpose whatever. Nor shall such person orally or by letter solicit or be in any manner concerned in soliciting any assessment, subscription or contribution for any political party or political purpose from any person holding a position in the administrative service. Nor shall such person use or promise to use his influence or official authority to secure any appointment or prospective appointment, to any position in the service of the City as a reward or return for personal or partisan political service.”

An endorsement from the mayor, not seeking re-election after a near-decade with the city, could have been a helping aid for the next 3rd Ward councilperson, a race where three candidates will be vying for the spot.

Other prominent locals however have indicated publicly who they are backing. Commissioner Cathy Coleman did just that with Gary Jenkins, a Portsmouth West High School senior 3rd Ward candidate.

“Gary is a strong leader and a tireless advocate for the community,” she is quoted on Jenkins’ official Facebook page. “I’m confident that he will serve the City of Portsmouth with distinction.”

Portsmouth City Junior High School teacher Jessica Pacula had enough signatures for her 3rd Ward candidacy petition to be considered in the May 4 primary but has since withdrawn from the race. Her name will still appear on the ballot, but she urges those that supported her earlier to join her in a vote for Andy Cole.

“I’ve gotten to know Andy as well as his vision for Portsmouth, and it’s very aligned with mine,” she said in a provided statement. “He not only has worthy goals for our city, but he also has well-laid out plans for achieving them. For instance, Andy sees the need for bringing jobs to Portsmouth, but he also knows the layers involved in realizing this goal.”

While the mayor would not share who he plans on giving his vote, he did share with the Times the characteristics needed to serve the role.

“I’m very thankful for these individuals that have stepped up with a desire to serve our City,” he said, knowing three of the four candidates and a former student of Jerry Skiver, also running for the 3rd Ward. “Having spent nearly a decade serving our City, I can say without hesitation it’s a labor of love to serve and I would highly recommend the job to an individual with that desire.”



By Patrick Keck


Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3101 ext. 1931, by email at pkeck@aimmediamidwest.com, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.

© 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.

Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3101 ext. 1931, by email at pkeck@aimmediamidwest.com, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.

© 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.