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Published: 10/30/2013 - Updated: 5 months ago

COMMENTARY

Thinking small could produce big election win

'The race had found a shape, and this debate reinforced it.'

BY KEITH C. BURRIS
COLUMNIST FOR THE BLADE

The last Blade/​Channel 13 mayoral debate, before the primary, changed the course of the election. I wondered if this debate would matter as much. I think it did.

It might be that TV ads change this race, yet. Mayor Mike Bell could bury Michael Collins in commercials. He has at least four times as much money.

But I don’t think so.

The race had found a shape, and this debate reinforced it. The campaign everyone thought would be about Michael Bell going to China versus the will of the unions (represented by candidate Anita Lopez) has turned out to be something totally different. The challenger turned out to be D. Michael Collins — “a ward politician,” as one person scornfully dubbed him. Turns out a lot of people like his attention to the small stuff.

Second, a sliver of voters took hold of this campaign several weeks ago. They began to hold neighborhood forums. In the end, there were dozens.

To his credit, Mayor Bell attended most of these forums, which were really about city administration — housing, blight, neighborhood pride, Government Center arrogance, crime, streets, litter, parks, and street lights.

Mr. Collins was able to shine in most of those forums. Mr. Bell, a big picture guy, was mismatched.

The whole thing was repeated in the Tuesday night debate. Mayor Bell said Mr. Collins “can’t do ‘big picture.’ ” But what came across was that Mr. Bell can’t do small picture, which Toledoans want in a mayor.

Mr. Collins had a detailed and thought-out answer to every question. He didn’t know what the questions would be. But he had thought about all of them.

Two of the questioners pointed out that Mr. Collins has a fairly detailed plan for his mayoralty.

Mr. Bell said: He can’t actually do all that stuff.

Mr. Collins said he would certainly try.

Mr. Bell seemed at a loss to give any vision or any plan for the future.

And while you have to give him credit for righting the city’s fiscal ship, he seems not to be able to move on from that. He said, “more of the same,” and “now we’ll have money.”

That was pretty much it.

Mr. Bell tried to be Ronald Reagan with a grand sweep and a couple “there you go again” lines. But he just came across as incredibly vague and as disrespectful of his opponent. He was un-mayoral.

And his big picture take thus far? The result of all the salesmanship, hype, and international hustle? Two companies did not move away and Hickory Farms moved downtown. Even Mr. Reagan would have to put something on the table if he ran for mayor of Toledo.

Mr. Collins was very much on his game Tuesday night. He is known for sometimes talking too much. But he was precise and on target this night.

Indeed he was as precise as Sugar Ray Leonard — a little guy, jabbing, jabbing, jabbing at every opening. He should be careful not to do much more. People might think he is engaged in a blood sport.

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



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