Toledo Councilman Peter Gerken began his campaign for a seat on the Lucas County commissioners last night, meeting with supporters and saying that "we have to create jobs in Lucas County, stop population loss, and create wealth."
Gathered with about 100 supporters at the United Auto Workers Region 2-B headquarters on Woodlands Drive in Maumee, the at-large councilman said future county leaders must "be about controlling taxes and spending.
"Certainly, when we are challenged by the economic conditions like we are today, we have to have an efficient government, a government that's inventive, a government that looks at things in a new way."
In his speech, he cited "the dynamic duo of economic cruelty - rising taxes and rising util-
ity rates," and pledged that he would "control the growth of property taxes and serve as a utility watchdog."
Mr. Gerken, a Democrat, is challenging incumbent Democratic Commissioner Harry Barlos in a match-up that has been at the center of a battle for control of the county Democratic Party. Mr. Gerken wrested from Mr. Barlos a controversial endorsement from the party late last year. A split in the party grew vastly wider as a result of the controversy, and a leadership fight ensued this spring, culminating with the May 3 ouster of party Chairman Paula Ross, who supported Mr. Gerken in that endorsement contest.
Mr. Barlos, a former county clerk of courts who was appointed to the board of county commissioners in February, 1999, and won a full four-year term in 2000, did not respond to calls seeking comment. After losing the party endorsement fight, he decided to avoid a primary contest against Mr. Gerken, opting instead to run for re-election this fall as an independent candidate, when all county voters - Democrats, Republicans, and independents - will decide the race.
The Republican Party did not field a candidate for the race, conferring its endorsement instead on Mr. Barlos.
Sandy Isenberg, the new party chairman, has said she thinks party leaders should now reconsider the Gerken endorsement, perhaps conferring a dual endorsement on both candidates. But, as she promised when she took control of the party two weeks ago, Ms. Isenberg has worked to mend fences with those in the opposing faction of the party.
She made an appearance at the Gerken event last night, saying that she wants "to bring the party together."