Total recall: The campaign to replace Mayor Andrew Ginther nears a key deadline

Andy Downing
Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther in 2019

For a politician who most recently ran for office unopposed, Mayor Andrew Ginther is certainly feeling the heat from all sides these days.

On one end, leadership with the Fraternal Order of Police Capital City Lodge No. 9 has been lambasting the mayor in the press, with Executive Vice President Jeff Simpson dismissing Ginther as “a failed manager” amid the mayor's push for modest police reforms.

On the other, Ginther is being met with the potential of a recall election spurred on largely by citizens who have criticized the mayor's proposed police reforms for not going far enough, with theRecall Mayor Ginther Campaign currently nearing the 15,000 signatures required to trigger a ballot initiative. Prior to the Fourth of July weekend, the petition had amassed nearly 10,000 signatures, despite the difficulties of running a campaign amid a pandemic. The deadline for the group to submit valid signatures to the city clerk is Thursday, July 9, and the campaign hopes to collect submissions by noon tomorrow (Tuesday, July 7).

“I have been very much organized in the community and advocating for Black Lives Matter, going to recent protests and expressing anger and frustration with Black people being systematically murdered [by police],” said Marques Jones, part of a group of eight to 10 individuals more intimately involved in organizing the campaign, which kicked off in early June. “And these instances aren’t just happening in other states. They’re happening here in Columbus, Ohio, too. Look at what happened to Henry Green. And Ty’re King. And we feel like not enough has been done to hold the police here accountable.”

Get news and entertainment delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our daily newsletter

Jones said the idea of a recall picked up steam in the early days of these Black Lives Matter protests, as activists watched Ginther attempt to play both sides, attending marches and expressing solidarity with protesters while also working to appease CPD leadership. “And the way we see it, it’s like, OK, Mayor Ginther, you need to decide who you’re fighting for,” Jones said. “Are you going to be fighting to hold the Columbus police accountable? Are you going to be fighting against systemic and institutional racism and fighting to dismantle white supremacy? Or are you going to be complicit in maintaining these racist systems? The way we see it, there is no middle ground. You’re either fighting for the dignity of Black and brown people, along with other marginalized communities in Columbus, or you’re not.”

Organizers said the campaign has also drawn signatures from individuals whose desire to see Ginther recalled has little to do with current unrest, with signees citing everything from the mayor’s embrace of tax abatements for developers and a dearth of affordable housing in the city to the hazy math deployed by Ginther in initial discussions about public funding for the Crew’s new Arena District soccer stadium. “There are so many issues motivating people to sign this petition,” Jones said. “It definitely gives us hope we can succeed in trying to hold Mayor Ginther accountable.”

In a statement previously issued to the Dispatch, Ginther’s office said of the recall campaign: “We hear the anger of our residents and share their frustrations. Criticism is the price of leadership, and the mayor fully accepts the challenges at hand.”

If the campaign is successful in collecting the needed signatures, Jones said, the recall would appear on a ballot around the time of the 2020 presidential election, at which point voters would vote either yes or no on a recall. If voters do opt to recall Ginther, a new mayoral election would then be held at a later date, likely in 2021. Though working against steep odds, Jones said even a defeat at the ballot box would constitute a win for the campaign, since more voters are now paying attention to the mayor and the various decisions emanating from his office.

“There are a lot of people who were just not aware of Mayor Ginther and the neo-liberal policies that have been embraced by City Council,” Jones said. “Even in recent weeks … we think that people are finally starting to open their eyes to the problems and injustices that have persisted in the city for far too long.”