Toledo mayoral hopeful Anita Lopez finally released personal financial information late last week — three days after two other mayoral candidates, City Councilman D. Michael Collins and incumbent Mike Bell, and a day after another candidate, Councilman Joe McNamara, made public their recent credit scores, credit reports, and tax returns.
Financial reports provided by Ms. Lopez, showing “fair” credit scores and significant debt, certainly haven’t boosted her campaign. But the real damage to her credibility has come from her foot-dragging and evasions.
It’s clear she would not have divulged personal financial information if she had not practically been forced to do so — chiefly by her opponents, especially Mr. Collins and Mr. Bell, who released the documents without delay. Mr. Collins released his information without being asked by The Blade.
Ms. Lopez’s record on handling her personal finances isn’t horrible, but it doesn’t inspire confidence, either. She appears to carry roughly $10,000 in credit-card debt. Her credit score, though considered fair, is still shaky enough to cause potential problems in qualifying for conventional loans and credit cards.
Ms. Lopez, the Lucas County auditor, also owes roughly $116,000 to $118,000 for her home mortgage, according to her credit report. Mortgage payments were reported 30 days past due three times since December, 2010.
She has an open loan with Toledo Metro Federal Credit Union for her vehicle, on which she owes about $34,000, and has a $831 monthly payment for a Jeep Commander. A vehicle repossession did not affect her credit report because it occurred more than seven years ago. Ms. Lopez also owes about $100,000 for student loans; payments on those were past due nine times.
By contrast, Mr. Collins and Mr. Bell have excellent credit ratings; Mr. McNamara’s credit score is “very good.”
Personal finances are relevant to a campaign. Most voters want to know how candidates who make good incomes handle their own money before entrusting them to manage tax dollars.
That said, Ms. Lopez’s personal financial history is not necessarily damning, especially in the absence of full details about her life circumstances. Ms. Lopez said Monday she incurred much of her debt caring for her parents in her home.
Many people with good incomes struggle because of needy family members or other legitimate demands. Voters will determine how much such information will influence their decisions at the polls.
But Ms. Lopez’s lack of openness and accountability is another matter. It’s irrational to believe that she would become more transparent as Toledo’s mayor than she has been as a candidate. If anything, the trappings of power could aggravate her penchant for secrecy.
Ms. Lopez can mitigate further damage by dealing with voters and news media in a forthright, less scripted, manner. Asking journalists to submit questions in advance, and at other times refusing to talk to reporters, harms her credibility.
Her efforts to control media coverage suggest a lack of confidence and competence, as well as a penchant for secrecy and evasion. Whether she is acting on a strategy of her own, or taking bad advice from inept handlers, Ms. Lopez needs to conduct a more-transparent campaign if she wants to remain a credible contender for the city’s highest office.