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Published: Wednesday, 11/9/2005

5 at-large incumbents, 1 newcomer hold edge

BY VANESSA WINANS
BLADE STAFF WRITER

With 26 percent of precincts reporting early this morning, the Toledo City Council race offered few surprises as five incumbents appeared to have retained their seats with one newcomer joining the group.

Familiar faces include Bob McCloskey, a Democrat who now represents District 3; at-large incumbents Phil Copeland and Frank Szollosi, also Democrats; and Republicans Betty Shultz and George Sarantou.

Just after midnight, the council's top at-large vote-getter was Bob McCloskey, who was unavailable for comment.

He was followed in second place by Mark Sobczak, a Democrat.

Meanwhile, in District 6, Republican Joe Birmingham was leading three opponents for the seat vacated Sept. 4 by Wade Kapszukiewicz, who left to become Lucas County treasurer.

George Sarantou appeared to be the top Republican vote-grabber of the three who ran.

At midnight, he was still waiting for returns with about 20 other local Republicans at the Masonic hall on Phillips Avenue, and feeling the effects of having been awake and on his feet for nearly 21 hours.

"I was at dawn patrol at 4:40 this morning," Mr. Sarantou said.

"It occurred to me I hadn't had any caffeine since 10:30 this morning. I've had two Diet Cokes tonight."

He thanked his supporters, adding: "I am very grateful to the citizens of Toledo for returning me to Toledo City Council. I love being a councilman, and I love Toledo."

His plans for today? "I'm going to sit at home and watch movies."

As for Mr. Sobczak's surge into second place, Mr. Sarantou was complimentary.

"That's a surprise because he's a first-time candidate, but he did everything right as far as I could tell," Mr. Sarantou said.

Another top vote-getter was Phil Copeland, who was appointed to council last January. As of midnight, he was in fifth place.

"It feels good, but I don't know yet - it's too early," he said, deferring comment until all results were in.

"It looks good, and you get happy, but it's awfully early. I'm still afraid to say."

If Jack Ford does not win the mayoral race, Mr. Copeland said the council's A-team, a political action committee aligned with Mr. Ford, would face an uncertain future.

Mr. Copeland is on that team, along with incumbents Frank Szollosi and Karyn McConnell Hancock, and newcomers Karen Shanahan and Bob Vasquez.

"I don't think it would be too good," Mr. Copeland said of a possible loss by Mr. Ford. "We'll have to move on if he doesn't win. I don't know where we go from there. I'm definitely behind Jack, I'm hoping he can pull this thing off."

Asked if he could work with Carty Finkbeiner, Mr. Copeland said, "I'll work with anybody. I've known Carty for years."

As for whether he would seek the presidency of council, he laughed.

"My main thing has been about winning," Mr. Copeland said.

"I'm not even sure I'm going to be that high up in the numbers. I would feel silly talking about it. This is my first time running. Nobody has said anything to me about it," he said.

Last in the early partial returns was Ernie Berry, a 21-year-old University of Toledo graduate student.

He could not be reached for comment late last night, but in an interview in October, he said he didn't expect to win. He merely hoped to get campaign experience from his run.

"This is a long-term mission," he said then. "It takes a while to establish name recognition."

In District 6, Mr. Birmingham also waited final results nervously.

"It's been a long time coming, these results," Mr. Birmingham said, a comment repeated by many early today as they awaited final unofficial results from the county board of elections.

With a third of the district precinct's reporting, his nearest competitor was David Ball, an independent and Green candidate.

"I thought as much we'd been out there in the last few months, people are going to take that we're serious about the job we're going to do," he said

And if his competitor wins?

"If Mr. Ball pulls it out, I will give him a lot of credit. He's done a great job doing his door-to-door work," Mr. Birmingham said.

Contact Vanessa Winans at:

vwinans@theblade.com

or 419-724-6168.



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