Since I had done so with Mayor Mike Bell, I thought I should spend some extended time with his challenger, Mike Collins. I accompanied Mr. Collins recently on three campaign stops. His campaign manager was with us, as was his grandson, Mickey.
First stop on the tour: a teachers’ tailgate picnic. Mr. Collins gave a union speech. And he’s a union guy, for sure. A former police union president, Mr. Collins went to Columbus to testify against Senate Bill 5. But he’s hardly a firebrand. He was the unions’ second choice after all. Too much his own person.
Some people tell me Mr. Collins is a conservative Republican. But how many conservative Republicans read Thomas Merton and encourage the local Green Party Council candidate? (Sean Nestor.) Yet, I don’t think anyone who spends five minutes with him would call Mr. Collins a person of the left. One of his supporters, who is, told me last week, “Mike is no progressive, he’s just fair.”
What came across at the tailgate party is that Mr. Collins is proud of being working class and working hard, including to educate himself beyond high school and college. He is also extremely proud of being a registered independent all his life. He mentions it in every speech.
Next stop: Door-to-door campaigning in the Wildwood neighborhood of South Toledo, which Mr. Collins and his campaign staff consider to be an Anita Lopez stronghold.
Mr. Collins is extremely effective at this kind of politics. He is reserved, but he is not shy. He knows what he thinks, and he knows what he wants to do as mayor. It comes out much more clearly in this venue than in formal speeches or news conferences. As we walk along, he tells me he knew he would do well in the primary — because of the door-to-door response he was getting. He tells me if he is elected mayor, he would like to occasionally go door to door in neighborhoods — just to see what people are thinking. That’s a refreshing, almost touching, idea. He ought to talk it up. I have no doubt that if he could win the mayor’s office strictly by going door to door, he would.
Third stop was the Young Democrats at the University of Toledo. We were all getting tired. Mickey, who is in high school, was getting hungry.
It turned out that Mr. Collins got an endorsement here. He also got endorsements that day from the roofers union and the longshoremen. Presumably there are more of them than Young Dems at UT. For there were about eight people in the room. Mr. Collins gave them an hour anyway. He rambled and was dreadfully pedantic. But the kids liked his tales about being a beat cop. “I have seen the whole human story,” he said. They liked his old school style.
“Can this guy really be the Dudley Do-Right he seems to be?” a friend asked. Yep. Mr. Collins can be a bore. He holds a grudge. He usually thinks he is right. He can lose sight of the forest entirely, in favor of the bark on the trees. He often mangles his words and ideas. But he is a straight arrow — as straight as they come.
Keith C. Burris is a columnist for The Blade.
Contact him at: email@example.com or 419-724-6266.