Thursday, Dec 08, 2016
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Kest lobbies at church, harvest fest in Oregon

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Ray Kest talks to Joyce Mathis before services at the Indiana Avenue Missionary Baptist Church in Toledo. Kest officials believe the African-American vote will be a key to the mayoral contest.

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Ray Kest 2, Jack Ford 0.

That's the vote count in the Toledo mayor's race according to Ray Sommer's calculation, because he and his wife, Grace, have voted for Mr. Kest by absentee ballot.

The Sommers made this observation at the 117th annual Harvest Festival at the German-American Festival's Oakshade Grove in Oregon, where Mr. Kest campaigned yesterday.

He had begun his second-to-last day of campaigning with his wife, Sherry, at the Indiana Avenue Missionary Baptist Church, where member and supporter Yvonne Harper introduced him to a mostly African-American congregation.

Although Mr. Ford, a state representative, is bidding to become the city's first African-American mayor, Mr. Kest has gained a measure of support in the black community. Kest campaign officials believe if they can win 20 percent of the city's African-American vote they will have a good chance of winning a contest in which they were 14 points behind two weeks ago, according to a poll commissioned by The Blade and WTVG-TV Channel 13.

Ms. Harper, a member of the executive committee of the local Democratic party, which has endorsed Mr. Ford, told the church members it hasn't been easy backing Mr. Kest.

“You would think I was running with all the hits I've been taking,” she said. “Don't hate me for who I support. This is America. You have a choice. Just listen. I'm not asking you to support him.”

Mr. Kest spoke briefly, during which he said, “If I'm elected mayor, I will be fair. I will be color blind. I will be race blind.”

After the service, Ms. Harper voiced additional frustration at the criticism she has received in the black community for being pro-Kest.

“They think if I'm black I should be supporting a black. But it's not a black-and-white issue. It's about electing the most capable man. Ray Kest is the Lucas County treasurer, and I think he can put us back on the right economic track,” she said.

At the German-American festival, the Kests dined on pork and sauerkraut while chatting up voters, a number of whom said they back Mr. Kest.

Said Mr. Sommer, who knew Mr. Kest when he worked as a real estate appraiser at the Lucas County Courthouse, “I've never heard anybody say Ray doesn't do a good job as treasurer. He has a proven record, and that's what we need right now.”

There, organizer Sue Duckworth directed volunteers dressed in blue and white Kest shirts on campaign literature drop routes. More than 50 of the campaign's 300-plus volunteers turned up yesterday morning to participate, she said.

The literature drop, the third of the campaign, was targeted in areas “where Ray has the greatest voter pool to draw from,” said Domenic Montalto, another campaign organizer.

Mr. Montalto reaffirmed Mr. Kest's opinion about the significance of the Republican vote for Mr. Kest, in a contest pitting two Democrats against one another.

“I think we can get 75 percent,” Mr. Montalto said of a group of registered voters he said totals 17 percent of the electorate.

Ms. Duckworth said volunteers will be busy telephoning voters with pro-Kest messages through Election Day eve.

Mr. Kest was more upbeat yesterday than on Saturday, when he complained about what he believed was unfair criticism in the media. He said polls conducted by his campaign show the race to be closer than the Blade-commissioned poll, though he would not disclose his poll numbers.

“I feel good,” he said. “I still think that it's going to be very close.”

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