Pictures of candidates

The fact that two Columbus City Hall insiders, Nick Bankston and Lourdes Barroso de Padilla, pulled petitions to run against three incumbent City Council members, immediately drew a red flag that some type of fix was in the works.

Anyone who follows city politics in Columbus knows that City Hall insiders do not run against City Council incumbents.

Instead, City Council has replaced members who vacate their term early by appointing fellow establishment Dems who, as they did, toe the Columbus Partnership and pro-developer line. A blatant un-democratic and underhanded strategy I have called out since I began running for local office in the 1990s.

Councilmembers Priscilla Tyson and Mitchell Brown, two Democratic incumbents, will be serving out their full term until the end of this year. Council President Shannon Hardin, another City Hall insider who was groomed by former-Mayor Coleman, is seeking re-election. That makes three open seats for City Council and four candidates – besides Hardin, Bankston, and Barroso de Padilla, there’s also Tom Sussi. So only one candidate will lose.

Nick Bankston was Mayor Ginther’s former director of community affairs and resigned from the City early this year, and in January was, appointed as CEO & President of the Gladden Community House, a non-profit in the Franklinton area.

Bankston’s appointment to a non-profit fit right into City Council’s musical chairs playbook. Michelle Mills, Priscilla Tyson, Matt Habash and Andy Ginther all worked for non-profits before they were ushered into leadership.

Bankston’s appointment to the Gladden House was pre-arranged to help beef up his resume, enhance his public image and cushion his $58,000 part-time City Council salary once he is likely elected to City Council. And right on cue, his CEO position with the Gladden Community House is the very first thing announced when he was is introduced in Team Hardin’s political television adds.

Priscilla Tyson and Mitch Browns’ retirement announcements, after the fact their Declaration of Candidacy petitions were certified by the Board of Elections, was a premeditated ploy to avoid the decades of criticism which accuses City Council of selecting “one of their own” through City Council’s legal appointment process. 

Priscilla Tyson and Mitch Brown intentionally deceived those who signed their petitions, knowing all along they would be withdrawing their names from this Tuesday’s ballot.

While basically serving as “placeholder candidates” without letting those know who signed their petitions and all Columbus voters they had no intention of running, Tyson and Brown most likely persuaded other potential candidates from running against lesser-known challengers (Bankston and Barroso de Padilla), rather than going up against the three incumbents – Hardin, Mitch Brown and Priscilla Tyson.

Nick Bankston never publicly expressed any genuine heartache over the fact he did not get enough signatures to get on the ballot knowing full well that his fate was secure with the announcement of Mitch Brown’s request on April 2, 2021, that his name not appear on the November 2, 2021 ballot. He only turned in just over 1,100 signatures, but only 727 were valid while needing 1,000 valid signatures.

Anyone who runs for office knows the rule of thumb is to turn in no less than 50% more signatures than what is required so to meet the requirement of valid signatures. Bankston appears to have given a half-ass effort knowing good and well it really didn’t matter if he earned the required signatures or not.       

On Sunday April 18, 2021, Mr. Bankston was selected by the Hardin, Tyson, Brown nominating committee to replace Mitchell Brown on the ballot. He accepted the nomination that same day.

The following day, Monday April 19, 2021, the vacancy selection, and acceptance of nomination paper worked, was filed with the Franklin County Board of Elections, and later that same day, City Council President and incumbent candidate Shannon Hardin made a “bombshell announcement” to the media that he, Mr. Bankston and Lourdes Barroso de Padilla would be running as a team. What a big surprise.

The two new candidates along with City Council President Shannon Hardin will run as a team while benefitting from Hardin’s financing of the campaign and the cherished sample ballot endorsement of the Franklin County Democratic Party.

According to Hardin’s latest campaign finance report, he has provided a total of no less than $118,938 of in-kind contributions towards the combined campaigns of Bankston and Barroso de Padilla. And Bankston and Barroso de Padilla have received campaign contributions from developers, zoning attorneys and their law firms. For example, Thrive (previously Wagenbrenner), Kaufmann, Casto, David Hodge & Crabbe, Brown & James to name a few. What’s more, Columbus’s major outdoor media player Orange Barrell Media’s CEO Pete Scantland donated $13,700 to Bankston.

Campaign contributions from such players who financially profit from our city tax dollars is a clear signal that Bankston and Barroso de Padilla will be trusted foot soldiers who won’t rock the boat. It should also be noted the Dispatch recently reported that Team Hardin has raised $712,300 since this past spring.       

All the while, Hardin, Brown, Tyson, Barroso de Padilla and Nick Bankston deceived the public and especially those that signed their petitions who were not aware of the behind-the-scenes alleged scheming that had been decided on months ago that would create the Hardin, Bankston and Barroso campaign team. Bankston even turned in petition signatures for Barroso de Padilla to help her get on the ballot.

Bankston and Barroso de Padilla were in fact a party to a pre-conceived scheme knowing good and well they would both be running as part of team Hardin. They were both eager and willing participants in this scheme.

The fact that both Bankston and Barroso de Padilla took part in this unethical and deceiving plot says much about how they will likely handle their duties as elected officials.

How can they be trusted?

Just two more puppets that will rubber stamp and follow orders in order to maintain control and power of City Council.

A sidenote from the Free Press: The Free Press did reach out to Bankston and try to speak with him before this Tuesday, as well as Barroso de Padilla.

We were able to reach Tom Sussi, without question a city hall outsider. He candidacy web site can be viewed here.

His candidacy page states: “While there are many issues that need addressed in the city, Tom is focused on four issues he feels are critical to the success or demise of our city: Abandoned Neighborhoods, Law Enforcement (Reducing Crime), Transparency, and Accountability.”

Sussi, as many know, is also former investigative reporter for WSYX (channel 6) and WCMH (channel 4). Besides his candidacy, he runs his own news site. It is “raw and relevant”, as he touts, but arguably it’s also a reflection of what’s wrong with our local broadcast news. Too much attention for drug-related crime news that antagonizes too many who live outside the community, and in many ways aggravates stereotypical thinking.

This is especially relevant considering two Columbus Division of Police narcotics were recently arrested for pushing huge amounts of “fenty” and cocaine into the community their sworn to protect.

Drug-related crime in “Killumbus” – as Sussi and others like to call the community – is not to be downplayed. But, as the arrest of two narcotics officers tells us, the issue is far more nuanced than Sussi and many others may wish to process. They believe drug-related violence is mainly driven by Black or Latino youths, but fail to acknowledge many of their customers are white people who most likely come from privilege.

Sussi, like the Free Press and Joe Motil, agree City Council is controlled by sold-out establishment Dems. Sussi states on his candidacy web site he is seeking “equity” for residents of Franklinton and the Hilltop.

The similarities probably end there, though. His criticisms against Lt. Melissa McFadden, author of “Walking The Thin Black Line: Confronting Racism in the Columbus Division of Police”, seem to suggest the Division should never be disparaged. Keep in the mind this book recounts an incident where a Black officer was tricked into showing up to a local cemetery only to be greeted by fellow officers in KKK outfits.

When we asked him Sussi what policies he would seek to create equity for the Hilltop and Franklinton if he were to win on Tuesday, he did not offer any. 

“Print what u wish. Bye,” wrote Sussi in an email.