Staff writers George J. Tanber and Fritz Wenzel are following mayoral candidates Jack Ford and Ray Kest, filing daily reports through Election Day.
The Kest mayoral campaign fought its political war on two fronts yesterday, going hand-to-hand with voters in local bowling alleys last night after waging an air war on Toledo radio waves yesterday morning.
Getting an hour of air time on the morning drive-time Jeff and Mark show on WXKR 94.5 FM, Mr. Kest laid out key platform planks: more police and economic development.
“We've got to bring up our safety forces to the level where we feel secure, and they feel secure protecting us,” Mr. Kest said, explaining he wants to take $5 million from the city's $14 million reserve fund to pay for the hiring of 40 new police officers and more fire equipment.
Mr. Kest hedged when identifying where money would come from to pay for the second year's salary for those officers, saying he hopes the local economy grows and city tax revenue rises enough to cover the cost.
A certified public accountant, Mr. Kest is the Lucas County treasurer. His opponent in the race for mayor is state Rep. Jack Ford. Both are Democrats.
Mr. Kest told his morning radio audience he wants to improve the image of Toledo in the minds of businesses nationwide.
“We have sent an anti-business message at times,” he said of the Finkbeiner administration. “We have to send a message that we want them in Toledo.”
He said he wanted to make sure other basic services were improved, including tree trimming, alley cleaning, and street repair.
Moving down the hall to WWWM Star 105 FM, another Cumulus Broadcasting Corp. station housed in the same South Toledo building off Arlington Avenue, Mr. Kest settled in behind a microphone for a fast-paced interview with host Brian Casey, Lyn Casye, and another sidekick named Neuter, who asked off the air whether Mr. Kest would support nude volleyball at International Park.
“I don't think I'm the one to propose it,” Mr. Kest said. “I'll just support it behind the scenes.”
Once microphones were turned on, he downplayed the recent release of his credit report, which showed substantial credit-card debt.
“I don't really think it was a big deal. You can second-guess people all day long,” he said. He said he did not believe management of his personal budget is an indication of how he'd manage the city budget.
Responding to a question from Brian Casey, Mr. Kest urged younger voters to go to the polls.
“If you want a future, if you want a growing city, I think you should vote for me,” he said.
Mr. Kest met Mr. Ford for a more in-depth discussion of issues on WGTE 91.3 FM, where they taped a 30-minute program broadcast yesterday afternoon.
That discussion spanned such topics as property taxes, education, and statewide politics, and ended with a lighthearted moment where both candidates joked about their physical condition.
After turning down an offer to get down on the studio floor to see which man could do the most push-ups, Mr. Kest said both candidates are in good shape: “I don't think the public has to worry about our energy level.”
Mr. Ford joked that he has lost weight working to be elected mayor: “Maybe we should just expand the campaign season to go the year round,” he said.
Mr. Kest ended his campaign day last night with a sweep of area bowling alleys, where he worked lane to lane striking up conversations. While the morning encounters with reporters seemed to leave him drained, the candidate appeared more energized with every handshake last night.
At Southwyck Lanes on Heatherdowns Boulevard, Mr. Kest, who had until recently run a mortgage company, bumped into several old friends bowling in a league comprised of mortgage brokers and lenders. Getting hugs and warm greetings, his spirits seemed to soar.
“I don't want no damn handshake. I want a hug!” proclaimed Tami Straub as she grabbed him. As Mr. Kest and his wife, Sherry, left, she told them to save her a spot at their victory party.
At Ottawa Lanes on Talmadge Road, Mr. Kest again worked the room, mostly just asking for votes. But Laurie Dazley of West Toledo wanted to talk about the specifics of his police staffing proposal.
While people nearby were throwing strikes and picking up spares, she asked him how he would pay the ongoing salaries of the officers he has said he wants to hire, if elected.
He hedged on the answer, and moved on. She was not satisfied. “He had no firm answer,” she said. “I'm sticking with Ford. I just don't feel comfortable about taking $5 million out of the rainy-day fund when we don't know how we're going to keep paying the police.”
Yesterday afternoon, Mr. Kest rallied with supporters in the parking lot in front of his headquarters off Heatherdowns in South Toledo.
Tom Noe, former Lucas County Republican chairman, conferred his endorsement on Mr. Kest, saying he is the best candidate for business development in the city.
“As far as I am concerned, I can't figure out what's wrong with the business community and the development community supporting this guy,” Mr. Noe said of Mr. Kest. “It means more jobs. It means people have more money to spend. It means they are going to buy more cars. They are going to buy more things at the mall. They are going to buy all the perishable goods. What is wrong with that?”
Mr. Noe said he was pleased that Mr. Kest helped other GOP candidates gain access to union leaders this year on their way to winning endorsements from some of those unions.
Mr. Kest said he can work across party lines to back the best candidate, regardless of their political affiliation. “When I see a candidate from the Republican Party, who I think will serve the public better than a Democratic rival, I am not afraid to support that Republican candidate. I think that is refreshing,” he said.
The two candidates headed into the last weekend of campaigning before the election with schedules packed with events. The election is Tuesday.