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Published: 9/19/2009

Then there were 12

THE Sept. 15 vote reduced the always crowded primary field for Toledo City Council from 23 to 12. If history is any guide, the four highest vote-getters ought to feel pretty good about their chances in the general election, but the race for the fifth and sixth at-large seats on council could prove interesting.

Republicans Rob Ludeman and George Sarantou led the field on Tuesday. Let us repeat that: Republicans Rob Ludeman and George Sarantou led the field on Tuesday. A third Republican, Costantine Stamos, finished ninth; a fourth, Tricia Lyons, came in 11th, and Mark Clark barely missed the cut, putting five members of the Grand Old Party in the top 13.

That's a pretty good showing for a party trying to regain relevance in a heavily Democratic city. And who knows? If Mr. Ludeman, a former council member, and Mr. Sarantou, who is seeking re-election, campaigned as a team with fellow party members lower on the primary list, Republicans might even increase their voice on council from its current three to four, or maybe even five.

But that would take a lot of work on Mr. Stamos' part, and a Herculean effort from Ms. Lyons or Mr. Clark. The more likely outcome is that the top four finishers from the primary, including current council President Joe McNamara and incumbent Phil Copeland are probably safe, although they shouldn't take anything for granted. The real race will be for the fifth and sixth places.

Steven Steel's incumbency - he was appointed in July to Mark Sobczak's council seat - and name recognition from his years on the Toledo Board of Education were not enough to pull him away from the rest of the field. He ended up well behind the top four and less than 500 votes ahead of sixth-place finisher Polly Taylor-Gerken, wife of Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken.

Democrat Adam Martinez and independent Kevin Milliken (founder of a coalition of candidates, including Ms. Lyons, calling themselves Teamwork Toledo) would seem to have the best chance of cracking the top six on Nov. 3, but if someone stumbles or Mr. Stamos, Democrat Terry Shankland, Ms. Lyons, or Democrat Terry Biel are able to strike a chord with voters, anything is possible.

Still, the story of the primary was the Republican Party, which put forth a full slate of candidates and made a strong showing, not only in the City Council race but in the mayoral contest, where first-time candidate Jim Moody placed a strong third in a six-person race.

Voters are hesitant to put their faith in unknown candidates. Because of that, these fresh-faced Republicans may find the road to November's general election leads to a dead end. They shouldn't be discouraged. They should stay in the public eye, build on what they have begun, and seek public office again.

That will strengthen the Republican Party, and a stronger local GOP is good for everyone in Toledo.



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