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Published: Wednesday, 6/16/2004

Barlos dismisses movement to reconsider Gerken endorsement

BY FRITZ WENZEL
BLADE POLITICAL WRITER

For Harry Barlos, it was "thanks, but no thanks."

Two days before the Lucas County Democratic Party's executive committee was to meet to discuss giving him the party's endorsement in his re-election bid as county commissioner, he said he wasn't interested.

His announcement yesterday ends what has been a thorny question for local Democrats, who have been badly split since December, when party leaders gave their endorsement to Democrat Peter Gerken, a member of Toledo City Council who is challenging Mr. Barlos.

The Gerken endorsement triggered a backlash from a faction of the party that had been upset with decisions at headquarters, and it culminated with the ouster last month of Democratic Party Chairman Paula Ross - a Gerken supporter.

Sandy Isenberg, a Barlos supporter, replaced Ms. Ross, signaling a sea change in the party's management team and leading to a reopening of deliberations about the endorsement in the Barlos-Gerken race.

Gerken Gerken
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With Ms. Isenberg in charge, the executive committee was set to meet tomorrow night to reconsider the endorsement. Now the point is moot, she said.

In a letter delivered yesterday to party headquarters, Mr. Barlos thanked Ms. Isenberg and other party leaders for recently voicing support for him, but added that, "having experienced the pain and disappointment of losing my party's support, I would not wish it upon another, not even a competitor.

"To dilute that support [with a joint endorsement for both Mr. Gerken and Mr. Barlos] or [for the party] to abandon his candidacy to exclusively endorse mine would place that individual in the same situation. This would not be good for party unity, and it would not be good for my self-respect," Mr. Barlos wrote. "Be assured, I am a Democrat in my heart and in my soul. I did not choose to walk away from the party. Sadly, the party under its former leadership walked away from me last December," he stated in the letter.

His warm sentiments for the party were lost on its leaders, including Ms. Isenberg.

"I thought we would try to right what we felt was a very

significant wrong on the part of the past leadership of the party. Evidently, he's not interested," she said. "I think it's tough to turn your back, you know, the 'Thank you but no thank you' sort of thing."

"Pete Gerken is our candidate, and we will work with that," she added.

Ms. Isenberg, herself a former county commissioner, had said Mr. Barlos deserved the endorsement because he was an incumbent Democrat. She said she wished him well.

Jerry Chabler, chairman of the party finance committee, said he believes the letter will disappoint all Democrats.

"I don't think it was a very astute political move on Harry Barlos' part. Essentially, he is telling Democrats from both factions that he doesn't need our help."

After being spurned by Democrats in December, Mr. Barlos won the endorsement of the county Republican Party, though he is running for re-election as an Independent.

"I noticed he attended the George Bush function here, and has been seen regularly in the company of [Republican state Rep.] Lynn Olman, and has not been overly supportive of Democrats," said Mr. Gerken. "He is finding himself more comfortable outside the party." Mr. Bush campaigned last month in Maumee, Mr. Barlos' hometown.

Mr. Gerken reiterated that he had "received the endorsement of the Democratic Party through a fair process."

A Toledo councilman, Mr. Gerken ran uncontested for the Democratic Party nomination for commissioner in March. He will appear on the November ballot as the Democratic candidate. Mr. Barlos will have an "I" by his name.

Bernadette Noe, chairman of the county GOP, said this latest twist indicates local Democrats are "a party out of control." She said, "I'm not crying about it."

Contact Fritz Wenzel at:

fritz@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.



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