COLUMBUS — Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman defeated a former police sergeant to win his fourth term Tuesday, paving the way for the Democrat to become the city's longest continuously serving mayor.
Coleman would earn that distinction if he serves out his full term in Ohio's largest city, and he has said he will.
Coleman beat out Republican political newcomer Earl Smith, getting 70 percent of the vote with 98 percent of precincts reporting. The 56-year-old Coleman, a former city councilman, also easily won his second and third terms as mayor in 2003 and 2007.
"In my fourth term, my goal is to make Columbus the very best city in the nation to live, work and raise a family," he said.
Coleman said the city has a strong record on safety, jobs and credit rating.
"We just have a strong city and we want to make it stronger," he said. "We have a great quality of life, and it's a good environment for people to live, raise family and to do business."
The race was one between two men passionate about preventing violence and crime in a city that has grown in size and saw its population increase to about 787,000 in 2010, a 10.6 percent increase from 2000.
Smith on Tuesday said he felt he ran his campaign ethically, honestly and courteously but that it was difficult to run against a 19-year politician with deeper pockets.
He wished Coleman great success in caring for the city and called for more attention to older neighborhoods and their residents.
"As a resident of Columbus, I want good things to happen here regardless of who's sitting in the mayor's chair," he said."
Coleman had said the city needs to address the problem of vacant and abandoned housing and do more to improve neighborhood safety. He dubbed last summer the "summer of intervention" as he called for an end to violence against police and gun violence in general, touting city programs that targeted youth and aimed to stop crime before it happened.
He said Tuesday that crime prevention efforts will be further expanded, with authorities focusing on intervention.
A review in August by The Columbus Dispatch showed police had been involved in 13 shootings since the start of the year, including three in one week, a spike that prompted the mayor to say "if you're going to shoot at police or anybody else, you're writing your own death sentence."
Both Coleman and Smith had said they wanted to create and maintain local jobs, but they disagreed on a plan that would use casino tax revenue to help buy Nationwide Arena and retain the city's professional hockey team, the Blue Jackets. Coleman supported the plan, but Smith had said he believes it goes against voters' wishes and that the money should instead help fund safety services and neighborhood revitalization efforts.