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Published: Friday, 4/22/2005

Faction of Lucas County Democrats to form PAC

BY FRITZ WENZEL
BLADE POLITICAL WRITER

A faction of the Lucas County Democratic Party is expected to announce today the formation of a political action committee that will allow it to raise and spend money, formalizing what is essentially a second county party organization.

The group includes Toledo Mayor Jack Ford and many elected officials known informally as the "A team" who lost control of the official party headquarters last May to a rival faction. That faction, known as the "B team," is led by labor leaders Jack Wilson and Dennis Duffey.

Jim Ruvolo, a former chairman of both the Ohio Democratic Party and Lucas County Democratic Party, declined to comment on the new committee's formation before today's formal announcement. But Frank Szollosi, an at-large Toledo councilman who will participate in the new group, said he thinks it will help their faction.

"I believe in Democratic principles and Democratic candidates," he said. "We have to focus on winning elections."

The party split was accentuated by the 2001 Toledo mayoral campaign, which had then -county Treasurer Ray Kest from the B team running against then-state Rep. Jack Ford of the A team. Mr. Ford won easily.

Last year the B team won control of the chairmanship and other top party offices by taking control of the county central committee.

The factions battled over appointments to vacant offices on Toledo council and the Toledo Public Schools board after the November elections. The B team issued endorsements, and the A-team members who held public offices ignored those endorsements and filled the vacancies with other people.

As a result, the B-team leaders issued sanctions to those A-team members. The sanctions were explained in a letter sent Monday by party Chairman Jack Wilson. They include a ban on party headquarters and the party's bulk-rate mail permit for sending campaign materials, and on receiving campaign contributions from other Democratic candidates or the party.

Sanctioned were Toledo council President Louis Escobar; at-large councilmen Frank Szollosi and Karyn McConnell-Hancock, and district Councilmen Wilma Brown, Ellen Grachek, Mike Ashford, and Wade Kapszukiewicz.

Four Toledo school board members were sanctioned, including Peter Silverman, David Welch, Deborah Barnett, and Larry Sykes.

Mr. Wilson did not respond to calls seeking comment, but in a recent letter to the editor of The Blade, he wrote that the sanctions were not intended to harm political careers, but "were given to remind the sanctioned of the function of the party in presenting candidates to the public. Each of those sanctioned had, at some point in their political career, sought and received the endorsement of the Democratic Party."

Mr. Szollosi, one of the sanctioned, wrote back that "words cannot express how disappointed I am with you and the other current officials of the Lucas County Democratic Party."

"Setting aside the terrible impact this insult is having on traditional, local Democratic constituencies in Toledo and northwest Ohio - African-Americans, labor, seniors, young people, and women - there is no rational consistency or basis for your actions," he wrote.

Because former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, a Democrat supported by the B team, is considering a challenge to Mr. Ford, the rancor inside the party has increased recently.

Mr. Szollosi has been one of the most vocal Finkbeiner detractors, but Mr. Kapszukiewicz also criticized him during a council committee meeting Monday.

Contact Fritz Wenzel at:

fritz@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.



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