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Published: Saturday, 11/5/2005

Confidence replaces caution in final days

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Carty Finkbeiner has already decided who his chief of staff is going to be.

And in a debate last week, Mr. Finkbeiner spoke as if the election between Mayor Jack Ford and him were already decided.

"I would hope that during the course of the next few weeks as I select leaders to be with me for the next four years that the experience of the last four years would help me in making those choices," Mr. Finkbeiner said.

Two weeks ago he told journalists, "When this campaign is over and we have won, the Ruvolo-Ford muckraking campaign politics will be packed away exactly where they belong, in the pigpen," Mr. Finkbeiner said, referring to Mr. Ford's paid campaign consultant, James Ruvolo.

Is that confidence, or overconfidence?

If polls and conventional wisdom are correct, Mr. Finkbeiner is headed for an impressive victory.

A Zogby Blade/WTVG-TV Channel 13 poll last week showed Mr. Finkbeiner favored by likely voters 58-32, with fewer than 10 percent undecided.

"He's going to get elected, there's no doubt about it," said Jack Wilson, chairman of the Lucas County Democratic Party, which has endorsed Mr. Finkbeiner.

"I don't think Ford can do anything to change it," Mr. Wilson said.

Mr. Finkbeiner's two previous elections were won with barely a majority - 50.3 percent in

1993 against former City Councilman Mike Ferner and 51 percent in 1997 against previously unknown Republican Nick Wichowski.

By comparison, Mr. Ford, who is now thought to be on the ropes politically, clobbered Lucas County Treasurer Ray Kest in 2001 with 60.6 percent of the vote.

Bob Reinbolt, Mr. Finkbeiner's public information officer, said he personally is "100 percent certain" of victory, but emphasized that he wasn't speaking for Mr. Finkbeiner.

"Carty is more cautiously optimistic. You never know until the voters get out who's going to vote that day," he said.

Mr. Reinbolt told The Blade that the Finkbeiner campaign interpreted several Blade stories this week as anti-Finkbeiner stories aimed at narrowing Mr. Finkbeiner's victory margin, perhaps to deny Mr. Finkbeiner the satisfaction of a strong mandate.

A story on Thursday recounted some of Mr. Finkbeiner's well-known gaffes and tirades from his 1994-2002 tenure.

A story yesterday reported that Mr. Finkbeiner used his weekly appearances on a local TV news broadcast to criticize Mr. Ford starting only six months after Mr. Finkbeiner left office.

Both topics were brought up in the Tuesday live televised mayoral debate.

Mr. Finkbeiner has told The Blade's editorial board that he will likely appoint Mr. Reinbolt his chief of staff, the No. 2 position in his administration.

Mr. Reinbolt, who was director of public service during Mr. Finkbeiner's entire term and for the first year of Mr. Ford's tenure, acknowledged he and Mr. Finkbeiner have discussed the appointment, but it's still up in the air.

"First we have to win and then we'll worry about the staff," Mr. Reinbolt said.

Despite indications of a campaign already in victory mode, Finkbeiner campaign strategist John Irish said overconfidence would be a big mistake at this point.

"I have been around elections enough - maybe Bob hasn't - to know that anything can happen in the last three to four days before an election," said Mr. Irish, the grass-roots coordinator in the Finkbeiner campaign.

"The team that isn't out there and hustling till the end is going to slide in the end," Mr. Irish said.

He denied there's been any talk about who's going to make up the administration of Mr. Finkbeiner, if there is one.

Indeed, both candidates have busy schedules for the weekend, and likely will continue their politicking through the end of voting on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.

Local political observers say that the Ford campaign's goal was to trash Mr. Finkbeiner enough to depress the Finkbeiner voter turnout.

Mr. Ruvolo said he does not detect overconfidence on the part of Mr. Finkbeiner, but wouldn't be surprised.

"The voters are going to make this decision and we're going to work hard to get ours out," Mr. Ruvolo said.

Theodore "Teddy" Mastroianni, one of Mr. Ford's consultants, said he believes the electorate is making a late-campaign turn toward Mr. Ford.

"At the debate, I think [Mr. Finkbeiner] clearly said, 'When I'm mayor.' I think there was some assumption on his part that he has it in the bag," Mr. Mastroianni said.

He said voters would see it as arrogance.

"A shift is occurring and I think people are finally looking at the candidates very, very closely. I don't think the choice has been made," Mr. Mastroianni said.

It's normal for candidates to talk with confidence, even in the face of overwhelming odds.

Mr. Ford, too, has referred to his second term as a fact.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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