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Published: 10/17/2005

Finkbeiner's associates may gain political clout

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A wing of the Lucas County Democratic Party that has been closely associated with county government in the past could become more involved in city politics if Democratic challenger Carty Finkbeiner defeats incumbent Mayor Jack Ford.

Mr. Finkbeiner's "kitchen cabinet" includes some of the so-called "B-team" political operatives who have taken over the Lucas County Democratic Party.

They won't necessarily hold city jobs, but their political power will put them in a position to endorse appointees to Toledo City Council - even if the "A-teamers" who have a majority on council continue to reject those endorsements.

Politicos John Irish and Domenic Montalto, who worked for former Lucas County Treasurer Ray Kest, have been key strategists in the B-team's rise to leadership of the local party.

As the "grass-roots director" of Mr. Finkbeiner's campaign, Mr. Irish might expect to be rewarded with a commissioner's or director's position, or a 22nd-floor job, such as chief of staff or executive assistant.

But Mr. Irish said that he doesn't see himself in such a role.

"I'm not sure, now that I'm retired, that I'd be interested in going back to public employment," Mr. Irish said, adding that he wouldn't want to put in the kind of schedule that Mr. Finkbeiner tends to demand of his administrators.

He said that he expects he would become more active in the party.

Mr. Montalto, 76, a veteran of Democratic organizing, also sees local party politics as his future activity.

"I've talked to [Mr. Finkbeiner], but I'm not intimately involved in that campaign. I'm working hard for the Democratic slate, and he's part of it," Mr. Montalto said.

"I have no ambition to take a job with the city administration," he said. "I like political activity, mentoring candidates, winning elections."

Mr. Montalto and Mr. Irish were part of a group of Democrats aligned with Mr. Finkbeiner and Mr. Kest who swept the party's central committee elections last year and ousted Paula Ross as party chairman.

But if Mr. Irish and Mr. Montalto choose to stay on the purely political side, others working in the Finkbeiner campaign could end up on the city payroll.

They include people who worked for him in his previous administration, among them Robert Reinbolt, former director of public service; Perlean Griffin, former director of affirmative action; and Theresa Gabriel, who was director of parks, recreation, and forestry.

Another Finkbeiner partisan who could see his political star rise is Pat Nicholson, who is Mr. Finkbeiner's finance chairman.

Mr. Nicholson lost his seat on the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority when Mayor Ford replaced him with Kenneth Dobson in November, 2002.

Another longtime Finkbeiner friend, former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Andy Douglas, has been in contact with Mr. Finkbeiner but apparently is not interested in giving up his job in Columbus as executive director of the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association.

"I talked to him recently. He seems to be very happy doing what he's doing," Mr. Finkbeiner said.

On Mr. Ford's side of the political ledger, some of the veteran Lucas County Democrats who helped him get elected four years ago have bowed out of his political kitchen cabinet.

Those names include the former chairman Ms. Ross, party insider Keith Wilkowski, who ran against Mr. Ford in the Sept. 13 primary, and Mike Beazley, former clerk of City Council and now the county administrator.

All three have cut the close political ties they once had with Mr. Ford.

Despite that, Mr. Ford maintains alliances with other top elected Democrats in Lucas County, including a majority of the Toledo City Council, the two Democrats who make up a majority of the Lucas County Board of Commissioners, and Lucas County Treasurer Wade Kapszukiewicz.

Outside his mayoral cabinet, Mr. Ford's closest political advisers are his paid political consultant, James Ruvolo; paid campaign consultant Theodore Mastroianni, and Megan Vahey, his executive assistant who is on a leave of absence to manage the re-election campaign for Mr. Ford.

Contact Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.



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