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Indian-Tibetan Aftab Pureval Elected Cincinnati’s First Asian American Mayor

Indian-Tibetan Aftab Pureval Elected Cincinnati’s First Asian American Mayor

  • “Words can’t express how honored and excited I am to be the next Mayor of Cincinnati,” the 39-year-old Democrat tweeted after his historic win.

Indian-Tibetan American Aftab Pureval, 39, has defeated longtime city council member and two-time mayor David Mann in his first run for the Cincinnati, Ohio’s highest office. The 39-year-old lawyer is the first Asian American elected mayor. According to CBS affiliate WLWT5, Pureval received 33,124 or 65.8 percent votes, compared to Mann’s 17,207 or 34.2 percent. Most recently, the Hamilton County clerk of courts, Pureval campaigned on the idea that he would bring fresh ideas to City Hall.  

“Words can’t express how honored and excited I am to be the next Mayor of Cincinnati,” Pureval tweeted on Nov. 2. “Tonight, we made history! Let’s get to work!”

Pureval announced his mayoral bid on Jan. 14. “It’s been a challenging week after a very difficult year. Our country is at a critical moment, and our city is too,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “We have to come out of the gates swinging after COVID by creating jobs and getting our economy moving again to get back some of what we lost. And the lessons of this past year about systemic racism and inequality must be our guiding light. That’s why I’m announcing my candidacy to be Cincinnati’s next mayor! Let’s get to work,” he told his supporters.

“I’m running for Mayor of Cincinnati to bring executive experience and a record of improving government services to the table so that we can lead our city into a new decade: starting with an economic COVID recovery that benefits every neighborhood in our city and a plan to restore the public’s trust in City Hall,” his Facebook post said. 

When Pureval was elected in 2016 as the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts, he became the first Democrat elected to this position in more than a century. He won a second term as clerk of courts in November.

In previous interviews, the Dayton, Ohio native has said that his name “reflects my multicultural upbringing” and jokes that he has “this kind of amorphous ethnicity.” He is both Indian-American and Tibetan-American: his late father was from India and his mother from Tibet. In 2018, Pureval ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Congress against entrenched GOP incumbent Rep. Steve Chabot in Ohio’s 1st Congressional District. He was endorsed by former President Barack Obama as well as by the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Victory Fund and the Indian American Impact Fund. 

Pureval told the Cincinnati Business Courier that his family and “the desire for Cincinnati to be the best it can be for his son” played a major role in his decision to run. His wife, Whitney Whitis, is a doctor and has been on the front lines fighting the pandemic. “We’ve seen firsthand the tragedy of Covid,” Pureval said. “When thinking about why I am running — they had a huge impact on me.”

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He has worked in both the private and public sector, first at Procter & Gamble as its global brand attorney for Olay, before becoming a special assistant federal prosecutor where he worked in concert with the FBI to prosecute crimes against children. At Ohio State University, he was student body president and at UC, he was an editor of the Law Review and worked in the Domestic Violence Clinic representing women who were victims of violence.

Following law school, Pureval moved to Washington, D.C., to join White & Case LLP, one of the largest law firms in the country. He was an antitrust litigator, but then, wanting “to come home and serve his community,” he returned to Hamilton County where he worked as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Department of Justice. As a federal prosecutor, Pureval worked with the FBI, Secret Service, and other law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute felonies involving guns, crimes against children, and white-collar crimes. Before he was elected clerk of courts, he had a stint as in-house counsel at Procter & Gamble.

He serves on the boards of various community organizations, including Cincinnati Union Bethel and the Women’s Fund, and his experience in business and management has earned him numerous honors and awards, including recognition in the Cincinnati Business Courier’s ’40 Under 40.’

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