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Published: Wednesday, 4/17/2013

Mayoral field grows

Lopez Lopez

Toledo's mayoral campaign grew more intriguing this week with the addition of Lucas County Auditor Anita Lopez to the field of candidates. Ms. Lopez brings valuable gender and ethnic diversity to the race. The strong backing she enjoys among local union leaders is likely to pay off in campaign contributions and organizational support, making her a formidable contender.

Bell Bell

Still, Ms. Lopez and all other challengers who would thwart Mayor Mike Bell’s re-election bid — and Mr. Bell himself — need to acknowledge that the mayor represents all Toledoans, not merely one segment of them, however politically influential. The candidate who best demonstrates a capacity for leadership that can unite, rather than divide, the city’s residents will deserve to win the office.

That means Ms. Lopez will need to show that she is not only the candidate of organized labor. She legitimately assails Mayor Bell’s support of the bad state law, repealed by Ohio voters two years ago, that would have gutted the collective-bargaining rights of public employees.

But she may have a tougher time persuading voters that the mayor’s willingness to take on intransigent municipal union leaders to resolve the city’s budget crisis three years ago, and his advocacy of regional initiatives to deliver public services such as trash collection more efficiently, have worked against their economic interests.

Similarly, it’s valid for Ms. Lopez to note the lack of development of the Marina District site since the Bell administration sold the property to Chinese investors two years ago. But her suggestion that the mayor’s economic-development strategy has done less to help Toledoans than “people far away in places like China” carries an unbecoming whiff of nativism.

Ms. Lopez will have ample opportunity during the campaign to offer voters her better plan to create jobs and bring business and investment to Toledo. Now that she has criticized, at least by inference, Mayor Bell’s plan to increase water rates to fix the city’s water system, she also can explain how she will do a more cost-effective job than the incumbent of repairing and maintaining the city’s infrastructure.

Her detailed proposals to improve public safety, enhance neighborhoods, help local businesses, fight urban poverty, and make city government more efficient will be equally welcome. Ms. Lopez, a Democrat, also can tell voters how her experience as county auditor and recorder, Toledo school board member, and city affirmative-action director has prepared her to serve as the city’s chief executive.

Ms. Lopez’s presence in the race is likely to give it greater focus, and enliven what has been an uninspired campaign so far. Other candidates may join as well. But all of the contenders who would unseat Mr. Bell have an obligation to tell voters not merely what they think the mayor has done wrong, but also how they will do things better.

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