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Published: Monday, 11/5/2001

Ford thanks churchgoers, asks for help

BY FRITZ WENZEL
BLADE POLITICAL WRITER
Jack Ford is surrounded by backers as he answers media questions at St. Stephen's Church on Genesee Street, where Democrats ate a chicken paprikas dinner that has become a tradition. Jack Ford is surrounded by backers as he answers media questions at St. Stephen's Church on Genesee Street, where Democrats ate a chicken paprikas dinner that has become a tradition.
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Toledo mayoral candidate Jack Ford went looking yesterday for inspiration enough to last him through Election Day, visiting a half-dozen central city churches in the morning and communing with influential Democrats at a traditional pre-election chicken paprikas dinner in East Toledo.

The dinner, hosted by city council President Peter Ujvagi, an unabashed Ford supporter, was geared to boost the spirits of party insiders heading into the last 48 hours before polls close. For 28 years county Democrats have gathered at St. Stephen's Church on Genesee Street the Sunday night before the election to share a meal and hear speeches.

“We, in the next 48 hours, have an obligation to make a statement about what you believe, and what you believe about yourself,” said Tim Hagan, a Cleveland resident and Democratic candidate for governor in 2002, who delivered the keynote message at the dinner.

“I am here tonight not to talk about the race for governor,” said Mr. Hagan. “There will be plenty of time for that. I am here tonight to talk about why Jack Ford is the best man to be mayor of the city of Toledo.”

He touted Mr. Ford's work ethic and what he called his fairness to those with whom he dealt in the Ohio General Assembly. Mr. Ford recently stepped down as the Democratic leader in the Ohio House to concentrate on his mayoral race. Mr. Hagan worked with Mr. Ford in Columbus.

Mr. Ford is running against Lucas County Treasurer Ray Kest in the race to replace outgoing Mayor Carty Finkbeiner. Both men are Democrats, though Mr. Ford has won the endorsement from the party's county organization and was featured last night.

Mr. Kest had dinner elsewhere.

Yesterday morning Mr. Ford and at-large councilmen Art Jones and Louis Escobar criss-crossed the central city, stepping into a half-dozen pulpits to “beg” for help from the congregations.

Mr. Ford's message to church goers: Get out to vote on Tuesday and “tell 10 of your friends to vote for me too.”

At the Southern Missionary Baptist Church on Indiana Avenue, he roundly criticized The Blade editorial in yesterday's editions endorsing Mr. Kest in the race.

“I'm real angry, but I'm just gonna keep working,” he told the worshippers, adding that the newspaper touted all his political successes and highlighted Mr. Kest's problems and mistakes, somehow concluding Mr. Kest was the better man to lead the city.

“My grandmother always said that, when you are in the arena, [as a black man] you always got to be twice as good. They always told us that you don't get out there and start thinking you're going to compete if you're just as good as the others. You have to be twice as good.

“We are going to compete, and we can win this, but everybody has got to keep pulling up the hill,” he told the believers.

“Folks are going to be empowered in this town who have never been empowered before. That's part of the reason they don't want me in,” he told them.

At his home church, the Church of the New Covenant, on Jackman Road, he urged fellow members to “get a little ticked off” if that helps motivate them to get him elected.

He also praised those in Toledo's African-American community for “stepping up” in the race for mayor like never before, contributing what he said was more than $125,000 to his mayoral campaign.

That, he said, has never happened before.

“That's not the way politics has been played in Toledo,” he told the worshippers, adding that, if they work, there can be a new political game in town.



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