Tom Uhler, left, former Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, and Charlie Chambers chat at yesterday's Jiggs Dinner, held by the Democratic Party at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral.
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A day after the new chairman of the Lucas County Democratic Party declared that "hate's a good thing" and that he was uninterested in healing the rift between two warring factions of the party, its loyalists were working to get past his statements.
Supporters of Chairman Jack Wilson said the comments reflect his direct approach that has made him an effective campaign organizer over the years. Others said they found his comments to the central committee Wednesday night to be exactly what the party doesn't need.
"He's being a realist. He's being matter-of-fact," said Paula Hicks-Hudson, a former director of the county elections board who now works for Toledo City Council. "I don't know that, if you get outside of the family so to speak, if that [bluntness] is going to turn off voters. Voters, I think, are smart enough to look at candidates and look at issues and make their decisions accordingly."
She was one of the hundreds of Democrats who stopped in at the party's traditional "Jiggs Dinner" of corned beef and cabbage to mark St. Patrick's Day. A fund-raising staple for the party, the event was held at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in downtown Toledo.
Mr. Wilson, director of special projects for the Northwestern Ohio Building and Construction Trades Council, said Wednesday night that he believes the two wings of the party are most effective when they are battling one another because the ongoing conflict keeps people energized and active.
He becomes the second chairman since the so-called B-team faction wrested control of party headquarters from the A team in May. He replaced Sandy Isenberg, who gave up the chairmanship last month because of frustration that she could not mend the party's divisions.
"At all our events, both sides get together. It never actually affects how the party does things I don't think that intramural fighting actually affects anything," Mr. Wilson said.
But Toledo Councilman Frank Szollosi said he was passing up the annual St. Patrick's Day fund-raiser dinner because of Mr. Wilson's remarks.
"I had a pretty bad reaction to the 'hate's a good thing' comment," he said. "Are they trying to lead the Democratic Party, or are they trying to destroy it?"
"In whatever context it was said, the idea that hate is good is disgusting," said Mr. Szollosi, an A-team member.
Mr. Szollosi has said he believes the deep split in the party is the result of an effort by B-team leaders to create an atmosphere favorable to Carty Finkbeiner, the former Toledo mayor who is mulling a comeback challenge against fellow Democrat Jack Ford, who is supported by the A team.
Mr. Finkbeiner denied that charge Wednesday night, adding he has not decided whether to enter the race.
Mayor Ford said the party will be more effective if the factions overcome their differences, and that Mr. Wilson should work to get that done.
"I think when you have everyone working together you are always stronger," Mr. Ford said.
He added that hate "is never a good thing," and that a continuing fight among party factions will drive new people away, perhaps into the Republican Party.
Two officeholders who haven't been identified with either faction of the party, Toledo Councilman Bob McCloskey and Bernie Quilter, Lucas County clerk of courts, said they are optimistic the party will get past its bickering.
"I didn't hear his statements [Wednesday] night, but I have known him for many, many years. I think he is a very fair, hard-working, dedicated person to the Lucas County Democratic Party," Mr. McCloskey said yesterday. "He has been for a number of years. I think he will give it everything that he has - his heart and his soul - to bring this party back together.
"He will do it behind the scenes. It's not going to be his priority, but he will do it."
"We've got to unify the party," Mr. Quilter said. "There's no such word as 'hate' in the Democratic Party, not in my vocabulary, anyway. I can disagree with you, but that doesn't mean I have to hate you. Even though you and I might disagree right now, two weeks down the road, I may need you again, and this time we will agree.
"I think we've aired our laundry in the public, and the public is tired of it," Mr. Quilter said.
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