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Senator Allan Spear '58 | Janet Denison Howell '66 | Charlene Drew Jarvis '62
Todd Portune '80 | Stephanie Cole Rawlings '92


A Moral (But Still Liberal) Compass


A government major and an Oberlin Athletic Hall of Famer in track and football, Todd Portune '80 now spends his time doing a different kind of running: Elected three times to Cincinnati's City Council, he's currently the Democratic hopeful for commissioner in Hamilton County, Ohio. In this heavily Republican area, Portune is positioning himself as a social liberal and fiscal conservative.

His record is one of socially liberal causes. He pushed through the city's hate-crimes ordinance and has tried unsuccessfully to add sexual orientation to it. He's championed equal economic opportunity by directing city funds to businesses that benefit the poor regions of the city and has promoted after-school programs designed to keep kids safe and out of trouble. "As a public official, you try to establish a moral compass of the community," he says.

But isn't morality the purview of conservatives? Issues of social justice and equality, long considered liberal tenets, are fundamental to most religious traditions and deserve a prominent spot in public policy, Portune points out. "Public office is still one of the most noble callings that exists," he says. "You have such an opportunity to do good, to improve the human condition. If you have a passion for it, you actually can get things done."

Even as a social liberal in a conservative environment? Sure, he nods, even then. "As long as you stay focused on the nuts and bolts services that local governments are responsible for--sewers, streets, police and fire protection--and have a genuine interest in the well-being of the community, people will tolerate someone who may be a bit more liberal in certain social areas," he says. "People vote their pocketbooks and self-interest more than social issues. Yet it affords me a forum to speak out on things I'm passionate about. I even win a few now and then."


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