Toledo's mayoral candidates danced an endorsement shuffle yesterday, as Carty Finkbeiner accepted backing from a former Republican rival and Jack Ford declined to seek it from the local Democratic Party.
Mr. Ford is the current mayor. Mr. Finkbeiner was mayor from 1994 to 2002. Both are Democrats. Voters will choose between them Nov. 8.
Mr. Finkbeiner, who ran as a Republican and an independent before joining the Democrats in the 1980s, won the endorsement of GOP City Councilman Rob Ludeman, who finished fourth in last week's mayoral primary.
Mr. Ludeman set aside past differences with Mr. Finkbeiner and their differing opinions on the future of Southwyck Shopping Center - which was perhaps the biggest single issue of Mr. Ludeman's campaign - to declare the former mayor "by far the better man to be mayor for the next four years."
He noted that voters in his South Toledo council district favored Mr. Finkbeiner over Mr. Ford by far. He said he and Mr. Finkbeiner agree on their opposition to Mr. Ford's proposed "point of sale" ordinance, which would require city inspections of certain homes before they are sold, and that he liked Mr. Finkbeiner's promise to run a clean campaign.
Mr. Ludeman said he hoped to broker a relationship between Mr. Finkbeiner and Larry Dillin, a developer eyeing an overhaul of the fading Southwyck mall. Mr. Ludeman has worked with Mr. Dillin; Mr. Finkbeiner has publicly criticized the developer and questioned his motives on the project.
"It would probably be prudent for Carty to meet with Mr. Dillin," Mr. Ludeman said, "see his vision, discuss some things."
Mr. Finkbeiner said he was "delighted" to have the endorsement, which he hopes will build his support in Mr. Ludeman's district and among Republicans and GOP-leaning independents, who Mr. Finkbeiner's advisers estimate will combine to form about 35 percent of the electorate in November.
The Lucas County Republican Party will not endorse a candidate in the general election, Chairman Doug Haynam said yesterday, though he said Mr. Ludeman is free to endorse whomever he pleases.
Mr. Haynam said he hopes Mr. Ludeman's Republican supporters "change their focus to where we can make a difference, which is the city council and the Toledo school board" - where GOP candidates are still in the running.
The county Democratic Party did not endorse in the primary, but party workers met last night for the first of two scheduled evenings of screening candidates for the general election.
A faction of Democrats supporting Mr. Finkbeiner controls the party after wrestling power from Mr. Ford's faction last year. The chairman of the screening committee, John Irish, is an adviser for Mr. Finkbeiner's campaign.
Mr. Ford announced yesterday afternoon that he would not seek the official party endorsement, which he called "a biased system." Neither will five city council candidates, two school board candidates, and a candidate for municipal judge.
The party's "implicit and divisive support for Mr. Finkbeiner makes their screening process a charade," the mayor said, later adding: "I refuse to be a willing participant."
Mr. Ford and other candidates on his slate peppered their comments with criticisms of Mr. Irish and other leaders of the local party and Mr. Finkbeiner's campaign, questioning their tactics, ethics, and their standing as Democrats.
The mayor touted his work for other Democratic candidates, including U.S. Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.) in his failed presidential bid.
He linked Mr. Finkbeiner to Tom Noe, the GOP fund-raiser accused of stealing millions of dollars the state gave him to invest in rare coins, saying Mr. Finkbeiner was "pooh-poohing" the allegations against Mr. Noe when he interviewed him on television last spring.
"I've never been in a race where I feel better about the fight," Mr. Ford said. "I'm eager for this race because it's clear to me which side is the side to be on, and which side is the side to be against."
Mr. Irish said he was disappointed in the mayor's decision and called it "sour grapes." When the mayor's faction ran the party, he said, members of the other faction continued to work for the party and screen for endorsements.
"That group has been in control so long," Mr. Irish said, "that they just can't stand that they don't control the chairmanship."
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