Sally Perz, a former state representative who has been mulling a run for Toledo mayor, told Republican Party leaders yesterday she has decided not to enter the race as the filing deadline for candidates looms Friday.
The GOP has no other candidate in the wings, and will not seek one, Patrick Kriner, Lucas County Republican chairman, said last night.
Ms. Perz' decision to stay on the sidelines leaves Lucas County Treasurer Ray Kest and State Rep. Jack Ford, both Democrats, as the only candidates with experience in elected office in the field.
Several other candidates are circulating nominating petitions for supporters to sign.
Citing concerns her family harbored about the stress such a campaign might put on them, and concerns about her future as a lobbyist at the University of Toledo, Ms. Perz said she prefers to continue her work for the school.
“My family, which spans four generations, is and always will be my top priority,” Ms. Perz wrote in a letter hand-delivered last night to Mr. Kriner.
Ms. Perz did not respond to calls seeking comment on her decision.
In her letter, Ms. Perz, 59, said she believed private poll results that show she could win a three-way primary contest between Mr. Ford, the Ohio House minority leader, and Mr. Kest. The poll, which Ms. Perz touted but never released, was used as fuel for her possible campaign.
In addition to her family, she wrote that she felt a responsibility to the university and Dr. Dan Johnson, who just started as UT's first permanent president since Vik Kapoor's tumultous tenure ended in June, 2000.
“The University of Toledo community is entering a new era with the appointment [of the president], a position he has had for less than a week,” she wrote. “With all the trials and tribulations affecting UT over the last two years, I am confident that as part of the administrative team, my support and leadership can make a positive difference for the entire university and our larger community.”
In her letter, Ms. Perz indicated concern that the race for mayor could become a political bloodbath, and warned of the harm such bare-fisted tactics might do to the city.
“History shows that blatant personal attacks and political mudslinging are ineffective and divisive within a community,” she wrote. “Such actions only weaken the image of greater Toledo and lower the status of northwest Ohio among political leaders throughout the Midwest.”
Both Mr. Ford and Mr. Kest have said recently that a run by Ms. Perz would not have altered the manner in which they run their campaigns. The two have split union endorsements, and are battling for support from various segments of the Toledo electorate.
Ms. Perz asked in her letter that Mr. Kriner thank those who, in the last week, had gathered signatures on Perz petitions for her mayoral candidacy, and pledged to return any campaign contributions she had received. The GOP had tried to collect 1,200 petition signatures for Ms. Perz by Friday, but Mr. Kriner said he did not know how many had been collected.
Toledo's city charter requires mayoral candidates to gather signatures of support from 750 registered voters who live in the city to qualify for the ballot.
“Clearly, I am disappointed,” Mr. Kriner said last night. “I believed then and I believe now that Sally Perz would have run a good campaign and would have made a great mayor.”
Mr. Kriner had courted Ms. Perz for months. He said he has run out of time, and will not seek to recruit another candidate. “I wasn't really talking with anybody else,” he said, adding that he does not want to coerce a political novice into the race because money and volunteers that would be consumed by such a candidate could better be put to use helping city council and school board candidates.
The party chairman said he is somewhat concerned that not having Ms. Perz in the race could cause problems for other Republican candidates, but that he would work to mitigate the trouble.
“I've said all along we needed someone strong at the top of the ticket. On the other hand, we've put together some pretty strong council candidates, and I think they will run well.”
The Republican Party has fielded six candidates so far for Toledo council, including incumbent at-large Councilman Gene Zmuda and at-large challengers George Sarantou, Dennis Lange, and Matt Zaleski. Incumbent Republican Rob Ludeman is seking re-election in South Toledo's District 2, while David Dmytryka will challenge Democrat Tina Skeldon Wozniak in West Toledo's District 5.
The nonpartisan primary is Sept. 11, and the general election is Nov. 6.