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Published: Saturday, 12/13/2003

Candidates find brass ring gold-plated

BY FRITZ WENZEL
BLADE POLITICAL WRITER

Campaign finance reports filed yesterday with the Lucas County Board of Elections showed that the golden rule applied in the election just passed.

Those with the gold ruled at the polls.

The reports show that in every race, with one exception, the campaigns with the most money in their campaign coffers won their respective contests.

The most dramatic example was in the campaign to pass a 6.5-mill, five-year renewal levy for the Toledo Public School District. In that race, the pro-levy Committee for Schools had $213,436 available for the closing weeks of the campaign that ended in a resounding victory.

The measure won by a 60 percent to 40 percent margin.

The pro-levy campaign actually spent $171,061 down the stretch - 170 times more than the amount spent by the opponents.

Dr. Eugene Sanders, superintendent of Toledo Public Schools, said he thinks the district was successful in raising so much money “due to the fact that we really diversified our campaign leadership this time. We had seven or eight co-chairs representing everybody from the police chief to the fire chief, parents, union leadership.”

He said the campaign tried to convey a sense of urgency.

“It was such a do-or-die situation. I think ultimately contributors wanted to see us be successful and knew if they would contribute that it would be helpful to our cause.”

Steven Flagg, a leader of the anti-levy Committee to Take Back Our Schools, said his group never could compete against the school district, given the amount of money it raises. But, he said, his group is intent on forcing the district to be accountable.

“We have our work cut out for us, but we are not going to stop,” Mr. Flagg said.

In the race for two at-large seats on Toledo council, incumbent Democrat Karyn McConnell spent $28,974 down the stretch, much on television commercials to seal her victory.

Democrat Frank Szollosi, who won the other at-large seat, had compiled a war chest of $11,611, and spent all but $57.51. However, Mr. Szollosi ended the campaign with a $1,400 debt.

Republican David Dmytryka represented the lone exception to the political golden rule, raising $15,132 and spending $15,031 - $3,477 more than Mr. Szollosi - but lost his bid for an at-large seat.

In every one of the six races for Toledo district council seats, the candidates who had the most money available to them down the stretch won their races. All six were incumbents - five of them Democrats.

Among them, District 6 Councilman Wade Kapszukiewicz, a Democrat, raised the most - $42,938 - and ended the race with the most - more than $36,000.

That leftover money can be used in Mr. Kapszukiewicz s campaign next year for county treasurer. Thursday, he won his party s endorsement for the race.

Many of the council candidates spent thousands on local television advertisements, a relatively new development for district council candidates.

Paula Hicks-Hudson, deputy director of the county board of elections, said that is one development that will affect the coffers of local candidates.

“I think it s expensive, and it s going to become more and more expensive for candidates to be successful.”

But, she said, the increasing cost of local campaigns should not be considered a negative development.

“What it shows is just the opposite, that local folks see a closer connection to local offices and candidates, and that they contribute to those who share their ideals,” she said.



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