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Published: 9/27/2013 - Updated: 6 months ago

Commentary

Defining Mike Collins

BY KEITH BURRIS
BLADE COLUMNIST

Councilman D. Michael Collins has received the endorsement of the Ohio Democratic Party. This comes on the heels of endorsements by the AFL-CIO and the UAW.

The Lucas County Democratic Party came close but could not quite pull the trigger. The Teamsters are mostly for Collins but have not yet recovered from backing Anita Lopez. Does the state Democratic backing represent a turning point in the campaign?

Maybe. In a Democratic union town, it’s better to have those assists than not have them. They made Lopez, who was otherwise weightless. Imagine if Mike Bell had them.

It could be a turning point — if.

If this leads the Lucas County Dems to reconsider.

If it brings Mr. Collins endorsements from specific, prominent Toledoans (Marcy Kaptur and Carty Finkbeiner come to mind).

If it brings the mother’s milk of politics — money — to Mr. Collins campaign.

Every “if” is predicated upon two things: How badly the Democrats want to defeat Mike Bell and Mike Collins — how Mike Collins defines himself.

Well the Democrats want to beat Mr. Bell. They will not forgive him for his support for Senate Bill 5. They fear that the governor will seek to make Ohio a right-to-work state in his second term and that Mr. Bell, who has, incredibly, said in this campaign that he is open to right-to-work, will be at his side.

But, so far, they don’t want to beat Mr. Bell badly enough to go all-in for Mr. Collins. Why? They are not sure Mr. Collins is one of their own. And there is a good reason for that. He isn’t, quite. One former City Council colleague calls Mr. Collins “as Republican as they come.”

On the other hand, Collins would have fit in well with the Democratic Party of Scoop Jackson. He’s not a guy you are going to find at the head of a gay pride parade or an abortion rights march. But his affinity for working class blue-collar folks is real. And many Toledoans of that demographic have a story to tell about Mr. Collins that ends with, “he is the only guy who would help me.”

A former union president, Mr. Collins’ union roots are heartfelt. And he has another side that makes him very un-Republican: He is a progressive Roman Catholic. He believes in social justice.

But not many people know that. Mr. Collins has not conveyed it.

In fact, since the Blade/​Channel 13 debate he has mostly conveyed that he and his campaign are overwhelmed. If that debate is not going to be the high water mark of Mr. Collins political life, he will have to more clearly define himself. He will have to be more than “not Mike Bell.” He will have to talk about jobs, poverty, and housing in the next 40 days. He must reach out to the black community

So, will Democratic and union support define Mike Collins as the Democratic alternative to Mike Bell? It’s up to Mike Collins.

Keith Burris is a columnist for The Blade.

Contact him at: kburris@theblade.com or 419-724-6266.



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