CINCINNATI — Maybe Nick Lachey should have run after all.
Even with fund-raising help from his 98 Degrees bandmates, Justin Jeffre couldn't overcome voter skepticism — and let's face it, with only 20 percent turnout, voter apathy — about his campaign for Cincinnati mayor. The singer, 32, who announced his unlikely candidacy in April at his hometown alma mater (see "Former 98 Degrees Member Running For Mayor Of Cincinnati"), came in a distant fifth place in the nonpartisan primary held on Tuesday, garnering just 2 percent of the vote.
Though his 708 votes paled in comparison to the more than 13,000 scooped up by the top two candidates who will vie for mayor on November 8, Jeffre didn't come in dead last. He beat 83-year-old retired shoemaker Sylvan Grisco (0.3 percent, with 130 votes) and security guard and three-time presidential candidate Sandra Queen Noble (0.2 percent, 121 votes), who was unable to raise any money to support her candidacy.
"I feel good," a tired Jeffre said Wednesday morning (September 14). "I think we did well given the lack of coverage that the local media gave my campaign. I was a grass-roots candidate and not one of the big-money, big-party politicians and I got some national and international attention, but the local media chose to marginalize my campaign, which I think was a great disservice to the community."
At the April 1 campaign announcement, Lachey said, "People will be quick to write him off, but he really cares about this city for the right reasons and I will help him any way I can." Jeffre's campaign was focused on education, luring young people back to the city, revitalizing downtown and improving police/community relations.
But the candidacy failed to attract much local media attention, despite some high-profile help from Lachey, who was on hand at a fund-raising party in April as well as a non-singing 98 Degrees reunion at a Cincinnati rally on September 3 aimed at raising funds and Jeffre's profile.
But Jeffre's not done. He said he's launching a local citizen and student watchdog action group to "create a network of engaged citizens to make sure that citizens have good places to get information on all candidates, not just ones that the local media decides to cover." He hopes to eventually take the group national and warns, "Don't be surprised if in 2009 Justin Jeffre is back in the ring."
In the meantime, the recent 98 Degrees reunion stoked the group's interest in getting back in the studio, which the guys plan to do soon. "Nick and Jeff [Timmons] have studios in L.A., so we're going to get together and start writing and working on our next project," Jeffre said. "Everyone is ready to come together and it's taken this long, so we're in no hurry to drop something before we feel like we have things the way we want them."