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Cincinnati elects its first Asian American mayor, Aftab Pureval

Pureval, the Hamilton County clerk of courts, defeated fellow Democrat David Mann and will succeed term-limited Mayor John Cranley.
Aftab Pureval
Aftab Pureval on Nov. 6, 2018, in Cincinnati.Aaron Doster / AP file

Aftab Pureval won Cincinnati’s race for mayor on Tuesday, according to unofficial results, making the 39-year-old lawyer the first Asian American elected to lead the city.

Pureval defeated David Mann, a city councilor and fellow Democrat who previously served as mayor and in Congress, 66 percent to 34 percent with all precincts counted, according to unofficial results from the Hamilton County Board of Elections. Pureval will succeed term-limited Mayor John Cranley, who is seeking Ohio’s Democratic nomination for governor in 2022.

"Words can’t express how honored and excited I am to be the next Mayor of Cincinnati," Pureval said in a tweet late Tuesday. "Tonight, we made history! Let’s get to work!"

A son of immigrants, the half-Indian, half-Tibetan Pureval is viewed as a rising political star in the state. He was elected clerk of courts in 2016 after running ads with a stuffed duck quacking his name — “Aftab!” — in a campaign reminiscent of the old Aflac insurance commercials.

Pureval, a former federal prosecutor and in-house attorney for Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble, was a prized recruit for a competitive House seat in 2018 but lost to Rep. Steve Chabot, a long-entrenched Republican. Before launching his mayoral campaign, he expressed interest in running for the seat that Republican Sen. Rob Portman is giving up next year. During their final debate last month, Pureval pledged to serve a full four-year term as mayor.

Tuesday’s election followed a nonpartisan September primary in which Pureval and Mann were the top two finishers, setting up a stark generational clash in the runoff. Although they are both Democrats, the 82-year-old Mann ran to Pureval’s right on public safety issues, airing ads that accused his rival of "siding with activists who want to defund the police."

Pureval, in an interview with and The Plain Dealer, decried the spot as a false, Republican-style attack. Pureval's plan, the news outlet noted, calls for funding several public safety programs. The Cincinnati Enquirer also found factual problems with Mann’s ad.

"Congratulations to Aftab on his well-deserved victory," Mann tweeted late Tuesday. "I have spoken with him and wish him nothing but the best, and it has been the honor of my lifetime to serve this community as a councilman, mayor, and member of congress throughout my career. Thank you, Cincinnati!"