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Monday, December 22, 2014
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Published: Thursday, 8/21/2014

COMMENTARY

Let Ford run, and let the voters decide

BY KEITH C. BURRIS
COLUMNIST FOR THE BLADE

The Lucas County Board of Elections meets today to decide whether Toledo City Councilman Jack Ford will be allowed to run for the Ohio Senate. They must hear a challenge brought by Lucas County Democratic Chairman Steve Steel on behalf of the Democratic Party. They say Mr. Ford is unqualified for the ballot and should be removed from it because he is not a true “independent.” It’s a ludicrous, self-serving, and cynical complaint and, ultimately, embarrassing.

It is embarrassing that the Democrats would deny the first black mayor of Toledo the right even to run for office. It would be embarrassing if the Board of Elections denied Mr. Ford access to the ballot.

We have had enough embarrassment of the city of late. I hope and trust the elections board won’t add to the mix.

And for what? To please a bunch of corrupt party hacks who apparently feel they can’t beat Mr. Ford fair and square? So they have to try to muscle him off the ballot? The law here is fairly clear. Ohio law says: protect maximum voter choice.

It says nothing about protecting a partisan cabal.

The law also details what it takes to qualify as an independent candidate for the state Senate: You identify yourself as an independent candidate; you gather your petitions; you get your petitions certified. Mr. Ford did all of the above, gathering three times the number of petitions he needed. He never sought the support of the Democratic Party for this job and has consistently run as an independent for roughly the last 10 years — in races for mayor, school board, and Council.

The cynical claim is that Mr. Ford is no true independent. The claim is made by Democrats who want him off the ballot precisely because he is. They fear him — for his legendary independence of mind and action.

He’s not their man.

The proof is not only in his past races and affiliations but, in the pudding. If he was truly a loyal Democrat and not an independent there would be no reason to fear or oppose him.

But blocking Mr. Ford’s very right to run is pretty low.

It is thuggery. Let the Democrats make the case that their candidate will better represent District 11 in the Ohio Senate. Let them, and the manifestly independent Mr. Ford, compete. That’s what free politics is.

I like Mr. Ford. I don’t agree with everything he says or does, but I like that he puts something on the table. I like that about John Kasich, too. Most politicians blend in with the wall paper and hum along with the great om of the silent majority. But you don’t have to be Barry Goldwater or Ralph Nader to earn the right to run, it’s your right as an American. I would defend Opal Covey’s right to access to the ballot.

Don’t embarrass the region. Let the voters decide.

Keith C. Burris is a columnist for The Blade.

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



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