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Published: Sunday, 10/2/2005

Ford eases attacks on foe's ethics; Finkbeiner sticks to grass roots

BY JIM TANKERSLEY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

Toledo Mayor Jack Ford eased off his attacks on challenger Carty Finkbeiner's ethics last week, but his war on Mr. Finkbeiner's record is just beginning, advisers say.

Mr. Finkbeiner, the city's mayor from 1994 to 2002, is sticking with a grass-roots campaign that is expanding from door to door to include lane to lane - and his campaign team continues to question the cleanliness of Mr. Ford's tactics.

The candidates, both Democrats, will compete in the Nov. 8 mayoral election.

Mr. Ford has criticized Mr. Finkbeiner sharply since the Sept. 13 primary.

Last week, he accused Mr. Finkbeiner of costing the city hundreds of thousands of dollars by mismanaging a federal grant.

Mr. Finkbeiner said the mayor was nitpicking his successes "because he doesn't have any economic success stories of his own."

Advisers hint that the mayor will continue a line of attack riffing on Mr. Finkbeiner's campaign slogan - "Carty Gets Results" - by suggesting that Mr. Finkbeiner's "results" hurt Toledo.

"What everybody talks about is Carty the 'Good Carty' or the 'Bad Carty,'‚óŹ" said Jim Ruvolo, Mr. Ford's media consultant. "We're going to talk about the real Carty."

Mr. Ruvolo and Megan Vahey, Mr. Ford's campaign manager, declined to say what parts of Mr. Finkbeiner's record they planned to question.

"Our job is to talk about Carty Finkbeiner's record," Ms. Vahey said. "It's very colorful."

Wade Kapszukiewicz, the Lucas County treasurer and an ally of the mayor, said the campaign plans to contrast "what candidate Carty says and what Mayor Carty did."

Mr. Ruvolo confirmed that the campaign did test messages - and any possible weaknesses for Mr. Finkbeiner - in a recent poll.

Mr. Finkbeiner's campaign questioned whether the poll, which included questions about Mr. Finkbeiner's record, was a so-called "push-poll" that was designed to sour their candidate in the minds of poll respondents.

Bob Reinbolt, who is Mr. Finkbeiner's spokesman, said the campaign was considering complaining about the poll to Toledo's Clean Campaign Commission.

The commission enforces a Clean Campaign Pledge that both candidates signed, which explicitly outlaws push-polls.

Mr. Finkbeiner already has complained to the commission that assaults on his ethics by Mr. Ford and his allies - including one linking him to embattled former GOP power broker Tom Noe - violate the pledge's prohibition on personal attacks.

Mr. Ruvolo denied the charges.

He said "push-polls" involve calling thousands of potential voters; this poll did not.

Mr. Ruvolo also defended the campaign's attacks so far.

"We have a right to have an opinion about Carty Finkbeiner, and we will continue to say whatever we want about Carty Finkbeiner," he said.

In accepting the local Democratic Party's endorsement last week, Mr. Finkbeiner pledged to continue a positive, issue-focused campaign, which relies heavily on person-to-person campaigning.

"Turning this campaign away from the issues will only ensure a turn in the wrong direction, a turn toward apathy and failure," he said.

The former mayor turned his sights on education last week, blasting Toledo Public School District officials during a news conference.

Mr. Ford, meanwhile, proposed placing video cameras downtown to deter crime, and unveiled a $1 million, privately funded plan to keep top students in Toledo for college.

Mr. Reinbolt said Mr. Finkbeiner would stick to a grassroots campaign strategy this week, with a small change: As daylight grows shorter in the fall, he said, Mr. Finkbeiner will spend less time stumping through neighborhoods and more in local bowling alleys.

Contact Jim Tankersley at: jtankersley@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.



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