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Published: Thursday, 9/13/2007

Primary poop-out

ELECTIONS are supposed to represent the will of the people, but Toledoans who didn't bother to make it to the polls in Tuesday's municipal primary delivered a will of the moribund sort. They bequeathed their responsibility to choose City Council candidates to a shamefully tiny minority of voters.

Believe it or not, the 7.3 percent average turnout in unofficial returns from three City Council districts was not the low ebb for voting in this city. That unfortunate distinction still rests with those who didn't vote in the 2003 primary, when turnout was only 6.5 percent.

Still, such a pathetic display of civic participation is an embarrassment, even for a local election that did not involve a mayoral race. Tuesday's stay-at-homes totaled 92.7 percent of the voters registered in Districts 2, 4, and 6, which had some reasonably spirited primary contests.

The standout candidate on the lackluster electoral day was energetic community activist Lindsay Webb, whose winning tally in District 6 came startlingly close to the total number of votes cast for all four candidates in District 4.

Ms. Webb, a Democrat, will face Green Party candidate Dave Ball, another busy door-to-door campaigner, in the Nov. 6 election for the District 6 seat. The incumbent, Republican Joe Birmingham, was knocked out of the running by a large margin after putting up what can only be described as a feeble fight.

The top vote-getter in District 4 was incumbent Democratic Council President Michael Ashford. His margin over his Nov. 6 opponent, B-Team Democrat Ronnell Traynum, indicated that his huge advantage in campaign cash overshadowed dissatisfaction over the ham-handed manner in which majority Democrats on City Council recently wrested the council presidency from Republican Rob Ludeman.

In District 2, the 10-way primary to replace the term-limited Mr. Ludeman apparently turned, as election free-for-alls often do, on name recognition.

The most votes were won by Molly McHugh Branyan, who made residents well aware that she's the daughter of a former Toledo mayor, John McHugh. Mr. McHugh, a veteran of local Democratic politics, managed the campaign, and it showed.

The District 2 candidate who reportedly had the most money, Karen Shanahan, finished no better than sixth. Only one slot above her, in fifth, was independent Joe Kidd, who ran an aggressive, idea-filled campaign but won just 374 votes.

Ms. Branyan's opponent on Nov. 6 will be independent D. Michael Collins, former head of the Toledo police union, whose low-key campaign seems to have been offset by his long-time high profile in the community.

In short, the real winner in Tuesday's primary was apathy, and the rarest of all keepsakes from this best-forgotten election will be a lapel sticker that brags, "I voted."



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