Monday, Apr 23, 2018
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Talk begins on who will lead council


Bob McCloskey, left, and Mark Sobzcak, middle, who is newly elected to City Council, appear with Carty Finkbeiner s fi nance chief Pat Nicholson on election night at Gumbo s.


Bob McCloskey, the retired glassworker who has made his own way on council for 12 years, swiveled in his chair on the 21st floor of Government Center yesterday behind a tall stack of phone messages.

Frazzled from nearly 24 hours of being awake on Election Day, he was willing to discuss any issue other than the politically thorny one of whether he would try to become council president.

"I'd rather not talk about it," he said. "I don't want to say something stupid."

Before Tuesday's election, Mr. McCloskey said if he finished first in the general election he should be seen as first choice to succeed Louis Escobar as president of the 12-member City Council. Mr. Escobar did not seek re-election.

Mr. McCloskey overcame criticism of his run for a fourth council term to finish second in Tuesday's voting with 36,421 votes, behind fellow Democrat Phil Copeland, the top vote-getter with 38,044 votes.

Mr. McCloskey ran for one of the six at-large seats in the middle of his current term as District 3 councilman. City law forbids a council member from serving more than three consecutive four-year terms.

City Law Director Barb Herring said Mr. McCloskey's current term would not count toward the term limits since he did not complete it, instead jumping to an at-large council seat.

Also elected to at-large seats on Tuesday were Democrat Mark Sobczak, Republicans George Sarantou and Betty Shultz, and Democrat Frank Szollosi, in order of their vote counts.

Council members said serious discussions are just beginning over which of them should become council's point person in dealing with Mayor-elect Carty Finkbeiner, who defeated incumbent Mayor Jack Ford.

City voters also ended the eight-member voting majority that "A-team" Democrats have enjoyed on City Council for the last four years.

The new makeup has five A-team Democrats who supported Mr. Ford, two B-team Democrats who ran on the same slate as Mr. Finkbeiner, and four Republicans - up from the current three Republicans.

One scenario under consideration is that Mr. McCloskey gets elected president with the support of Mr. Sobczak and the four Republicans.

All six are considered conservative and sympathetic to business concerns. Council Republicans and Mr. McCloskey joined forces in January in an unsuccessful effort to appoint Mr. Sobczak to a vacancy.

Those six council members would then be able to pick Mr. McCloskey's replacement in District 3, presumably a Democrat acceptable to the Finkbeiner B-team wing of the party.

The person appointed to fill Mr. McCloskey's District 3 seat will face election in May.

Councilman Frank Szollosi said Democrats should avoid making deals with Republicans. "If people are serious about unity, then it should be the seven Democrats who get together and make decisions," Mr. Szollosi said.

District 4 Councilman Michael Ashford said he intends to be a candidate for president. "I hope the Democrats can stick together, because they have a majority of votes," he said.

District 5 Councilman Ellen Grachek said the president has to be able to represent all 12 council members regardless of political leanings. "I want to know how you're going to align 12 different people so we can move forward," she said.

Contact Tom Troy at:

or 419-724-6058.

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