As a member of 98 Degrees, Justin Jeffre sold nearly 10 million albums. As a candidate for mayor of Cincinnati, he got 708 votes.
The 32-year-old boy-band crooner placed a distant fifth Tuesday in the Queen City's non-partisan primary election.
The finish eliminates Jeffre from November's runoff, and, for now, preserves Jerry Springer's title as the most notable show-business personality to ever serve as Cincinnati mayor. (The talk-show host held the post from 1977-78, when he wasn't yet a notable show-business personality.)
"I wasn't under any illusion," Jeffre said Wednesday. "I was a long shot."
Garnering just 1.66 percent of all ballots cast, Jeffre outpolled only two candidates, Sylvan Grisco (130 votes) and Sandra Queen Noble (121 votes). Grisco is a World War II veteran; Noble, a self-described presidential candidate and "fashion designer/law enforcement" who didn't raise any money. Together with Jeffre, the three were "little more than political footnotes," the Cincinnati Post offered.
Jeffre only raised about $10,000, he estimated. By comparison, city councilman David Pepper, Tuesday's top vote-getter, raised more than $550,000, according to the Post.
Jeffre complained he was fighting an uphill battle against "big-money politicians who had name recognition" and a local press that ignored his campaign.
Others, however, placed the Jeffre campaign's lack of traction squarely on its star.
"He didn't put together a campaign," Tim Burke, chair of Ohio's Hamilton County Democratic Party, said Wednesday. "I think he assumed he was far better known than he was."
To Burke's eye, Jeffre's get-out-the-vote effort consisted of "huge--and I mean huge--yard signs."
According to one Cincinnati reporter, Jeffre courted the local press, the same local press the singer charged with ignoring him, with as much vigor, or lack thereof. "Justin was just aloof from the start," Gregory Korte, who covered the election for the Cincinnati Enquirer, said in an email interview. "I guess he expected us to cover him just because he was a celebrity."
And then there was the matter of Jeffre's civic involvement, according to Korte: "He had never voted in a city election before in his life." (Jeffre said he did, however, vote on Tuesday.)
All that said, Burke noted that the other major candidates thought the singer handled himself well during debates. And Korte said he spoke on election day with two Jeffre voters who said they thought the entertainer "had some interesting ideas."
Said Korte: "I don't think his campaign was a complete waste."
In the wake of the loss, Jeffre, who vowed constancy in hits such as "I Do (Cherish You)," promised that Cincinnati politics would "continue to be a hobby of mine."
During the primary race, Jeffre billed himself as a "proven visionary with global perspective."
"His vison [sic] for a Greater Cincinnati includes a cultural revival, economic stimulation package, small business initiative and a neighborhood rescue plan," his official campaign bio said.
To Cincinnati residents, Jeffre's presence in the race meant face time with Jessica Simpson's husband. Nick Lachey, the biggest solo name to emerge from 98 Degrees, reteamed with the other members for a Sept. 3 downtown rally for Jeffre. Burke said the event was sparsely attended. And according to the Associated Press, it was Lachey, not Jeffre, who was the focal point of attention.
"Don't take it lightly," Lachey urged the gawkers and potential voters, per the wire service. "This [election] is a big deal, and this guy [Jeffre] knows what he's talking about."
Lachey, who grew up in Ohio, as did Jeffre, has talked about running for mayor of Cincinnati himself, confessing to People magazine that the office "would be an interesting role to play."
The 98 Degrees member who did run, and lost, said he presently was bound for a two-week vacation. After, he said, "I'll go out to L.A., do some writing, and get in the studio with the guys." Jeffre and "the guys," his three bandmates, haven't released a new CD since 2000's Revelation.
Boy-band reunions aside, Jeffre's future still lies in the Midwest. "I'm staying here," he said. "I love Cincinnati."