With voters split among three Democrats, the race for the Toledo City Council at-large seat remained too close to call early today.
By then, Democrat Ben Konop had been enjoying a full hour of hugs and handshakes for handily winning the Lucas County Commissioner race, according to unofficial, incomplete results from the county board of elections.
The fate of council candidates Lourdes Santiago, Joe McNamara, and Bob Vasquez still depended on thousands of untabulated precinct votes as well as absentee votes that would be added in last.
Standing triumphantly on stage at UAW Local 12 headquarters, Mr. Konop held up the hands of current commissioners and soon-to-be-colleagues Pete Gerken and Tina Skeldon Wozniak to raucous applause from the crowd.
"I laid out my blueprint," Mr. Konop, 30, said earlier last night as he watched election returns from his home computer. "I think Tina and Pete will be willing partners for that."
"Ben gives us a different generation's voice," Mr. Gerken said at the UAW hall. "I have children older than Ben."
Envisioning a "cool county" of hybrid cars and open-source software, Mr. Konop defeated Republican George Sarantou, a Toledo city councilman.
Mr. Sarantou had campaigned on his ability to work across party lines as chairman of the Democrat-dominated council's finance committee.
"I could not have picked a worse year to run as a Republican," he said last night.
With Democratic victories statewide and nationally, the only source of anxiety at the UAW hall on Ashland Avenue was who would fill the unexpired council term of Democrat Bob McCloskey, who resigned before his conviction on state and federal bribery charges.
Lourdes Santiago, the endorsed Democrat who was appointed to replace McCloskey, waited by a TV with fellow Democratic councilman Mark Sobczak.
"It's a three-way race," Mr. Sobczak told her. "What are you going to do?"
Wait was the unspoken answer.
Ms. Santiago said the race will ultimately be about name identification. And while having months of incumbency can be helpful, she added: "A lot of it has to do with exposure and getting your message out."
Farther down Ashland Avenue, unendorsed Democrat Joe McNamara was at Wesley's Bar & Grill with supporters.
Mr. McNamara used a large campaign treasury and a fondly remembered political name to break out in a field of six candidates total.
"I ruffled many powerbrokers' feathers," Mr. McNamara said. "I was attacked by both party chairmen in one week."
Mr. McNamara entered this morning with a razor-thin lead over Ms. Santiago, according to unofficial, incomplete county results.
Democrat Bob Vasquez was third, but held a statistically significant percentage of votes that could tip the race. He was unavailable for comment.
Running behind Mr. Vasquez were Republican Dave Schulz, Democrat James Mohn, and Independent Dave Davison.
The city council's pro-Mayor Carty Finkbeiner coalition will either continue or fade once 100 percent of precincts report. Ms. Santiago is part of the six-member coalition of so-called "B-team" Democrats and Republicans who elected Republican Rob Ludeman as council president in January and who provided Mr. Finkbeiner with a supportive council.
Mr. McNamara's election could give the "A-team" Democrats on council the seventh vote they need to elect the president, which could create a more confrontational relationship with the mayor - at least until next November when the six district council seats are on the ballot.
It was the second time this year the Lucas County Democratic party had failed to elect an endorsed candidate backed by Mr. Finkbeiner. Ironically, both were for seats that had been vacated by McCloskey.
In May, endorsed Democrat Taylor Balderas, who ran with Mr. Finkbeiner's support for District 3, was defeated by unendorsed A-team Democrat Mike Craig.
Mr. McNamara ran on eliminating the brain drain. He unleashed a cascade of ideas aimed at saving the city money, attracting taxpayers back to Toledo, and, like Mr. Konop, creating hip neighborhoods and events that would make people want to move here. His ideas included tax cuts for teachers and an annual Toledo "heritage festival."
Mr. McNamara was on track to be the highest spending of all the local candidates, with $80,359 raised as of Oct. 18 - including $65,000 of his own money.
He was attacked by the chairmen of both local parties, who said he was falsely claiming both parties' backing.