According to conventional wisdom, the mayoral primary was supposed to end with just Mike Bell and Anita Lopez standing. But that's not the race we saw Tuesday night.
Instead, we had a horse race with the top four candidates bunched together and just a few hundred votes apart.
It was like the Kentucky Derby. But as they rounded the stretch they were still bunched. No one was pulling ahead. At one point, the gap between the the second place finisher and the third place was 168 votes.
The difference between second and third, in this race, is the difference between living to fight another day and political oblivion.
Yet the pattern held all night: Mike Bell in first, Mike Collins in second, and Anita Lopez in third, followed closely by Joe McNamara.
Since the order held, it began to dawn on people that D. Michael Collins was about to pull off one of the most impressive political upsets in Toledo political history. It will take a couple days for the Toledo political community to absorb this. Mr. Collins has long been branded as a gadfly and maverick. He had, substantially, no money. Mr. Bell had a fat campaign chest and Mr. McNamara and Miss Lopez were also extremely well funded.
Yet, weeks ago Mr. Collins was telling people “I will make it out of the primary.” Some thought he was drinking home-made Irish whiskey. Apparently not.
How did he do it?
And what happens now?
Here's how he did it: Mr. Collins ran a good campaign. He went door to door. He had an army, a small one, of young volunteers. He was substantive, dignified, and himself in all the debates. His one TV commercial was positive and substantive. He is also a fine councilman. He does casework, defends the little guy, and has been the one consistent champion of the city's shelters. Mr. Collins got to the challenger position the old-fashioned way – he earned it.
What happens now? The big guns will come in. Labor will embrace Mr. Collins, a former cop and police union president. That will likely include labor nationally, for Mayor Bell will be a target. Mr. Collins will no longer be the candidate without money.
Mr. Bell will have help from the governor and the corporate world, locally and beyond. Be ready for some hard punches.
In the council races, the big stories are the return of Jack Ford, by a substantial vote, and Sandy Spang, a first-time candidate, local cafe owner, and neighborhood activist, and basically very Republican, who came out of nowhere to out-poll several old vets. She is fresh, energetic and new. Hers is a great story.
The council candidates are an impressive group as a whole, and the most hard-working and impressive candidates were generally the ones who advanced. Their race will seem tame next to the mayoral contest. This will be a tough, and very likely rough, race.
On the morning of Sept. 11, the voters gave us a runoff between a firefighter and a cop. Fasten your seat belts.
Keith C. Burris is a columnist for The Blade.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6266.