Democrat Zach Klein and Republican Don Kline are both vying for the city attorney's office
There are lots of Kleins and Klines around town.
The Franklin County Board of Elections lists 140 registered voters named Klein, and 96 named Kline. Two of them – a Klein and a Kline – are running for Columbus city attorney, assuring voters will be tested sorting one from the other.
Democrat Zach Klein and Republican Don Kline not only share a nearly identical German surname. They're both tall, 225 pounds and spent 2016 running losing campaigns for countywide office.
Like so many, both came to Columbus from other parts of Ohio. Klein grew up in Belpre, near Marietta; Kline grew up in Pepper Pike, near Cleveland. And both say their campaigns for city attorney will highlight their abilities to promote collaboration and partnerships.
Zach Klein, 37, is president of Columbus City Council and legal counsel for the Mid-Ohio Foodbank. He lost a race last year for Franklin County prosecutor against incumbent Republican Ron O'Brien.
Don Kline, 41, has run a law office for 13 years and practices in all courts, from federal to domestic relations. He lost a race last year for Common Pleas judge against incumbent Democrat Richard A. Frye.
Local voters haven't faced such potential for confusion since 1988, when Sheriff Earl Smith, a Republican, defeated Democratic challenger Bo Smith.
In separate interviews, Klein and Kline downplayed concerns over voter confusion.
“My focus will be on the work I've done on City Council, with City Attorney Rick Pfeiffer and others to build and maintain safe neighborhoods in Columbus,” Klein said.
Collaborations between the city and county, law enforcement and the courts are the key to improving public safety, strengthening neighborhoods and reducing drug addiction, Klein said.
For example, such cooperation between the city attorney's office, police and the hotel industry has resulted in great progress in shutting down motels operating as criminal enterprises, Klein said.
Given the political atmosphere created by President Trump, Klein said he also wants to work “to make sure people know Columbus is an open and welcoming city.”
Kline emphasizes having extensive knowledge “of all the components of the legal system,” built on his 13 years of representing clients at all levels.
“I know the county prosecutors and the municipal prosecutors. I know how the drug courts run. I know the juvenile system. I know all of the components,” Kline said.
Making progress against the drug epidemic and domestic violence will require better collaboration among the courts, city and county prosecutors, community control officers and others, he said.
As an example, Kline points to his work with Municipal Judge Paul Herbert's award-winning CATCH Court program, which helps drug-dependent prostitutes break the cycle of abuse.
Unlike most city attorneys, solicitors or law directors in Ohio, the Columbus city attorney is independently elected. That's a good thing, says Pfeiffer, who will leave the office after 14 years.
“Your job security is not dependent on who the mayor is. You can say, ‘No,'” he said.
The office employs 125 people, including 62 lawyers. None is named Klein or Kline.
Curtin, a formerDispatchreporter and editor, recently finished a four-year tenure in the Ohio House of Representatives.