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Published: Tuesday, 6/26/2007

Campaign season here for Toledo council candidates

BY JOSHUA BOAK
BLADE POLITICS WRITER
Marty Skeldon, a Democrat seeking the nomination as a candidate for city council from District 5, is out meeting and greeting his constituents on Grantley Avenue accompanied by, from left at rear, staffer Allison Dow, and volunteers Audrey Skeldon, his daughter-in-law, and George Young. Many other candidates have joined him in early campaigning.
Marty Skeldon, a Democrat seeking the nomination as a candidate for city council from District 5, is out meeting and greeting his constituents on Grantley Avenue accompanied by, from left at rear, staffer Allison Dow, and volunteers Audrey Skeldon, his daughter-in-law, and George Young. Many other candidates have joined him in early campaigning.
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The e-mails to city of Toledo administrators began arriving earlier this month. They pointed out cracked driveways, untamed lawns, overgrown trees, any shred of blight.

City employees responded by mowing grass, filing the necessary paperwork, and thanking Mr. Skeldon for the heads up.

But Marty Skeldon is more than a concerned citizen. The retired postal worker is running for the council District 5 seat.

Local political campaigns once gained momentum in the fall. They heat up before the summer solstice, with candidates launching fully formed Web sites, canvassing door-to-door, and even performing some of the tasks of a sitting councilman. It is a grueling months-long interview for a $27,500-a year-job.

At a campaign event last week, Mr. Skeldon answered questions from prospective voters about flood insurance, road repairs, and the city budget. Only one question stumped the Democrat: the name of his opponent.

I can t remember, he joked.

That would be the equally active Tom Waniewski, a registered Republican who founded Access Toledo, an Internet service provider.

Mr. Waniewski employs a marketing strategy in his campaign.

Internet message boards lit up recently because of a campaign fund-raiser he held outside the district in Sylvania, but Mr. Waniewski said the ensuing debate brought his candidacy to the attention of more voters.

He keeps a blog at blog.waniewskiforcouncil.com. It includes entries about planting flowers along Central Avenue, his policy stances, and a YouTube video.

My goal come November is for the community, District 5, to think I am the incumbent, Mr. Waniewski said.

The extended campaign season lets candidates establish their identity with voters. It also gives them enough time to convince supporters to donate the $25,000 to $40,000 required for a successful run, said Mark Luetke, president of Funk Luetke Skunda Marketing in Toledo.

They need to demonstrate that they deserve to have those kinds of contributions, Mr. Luetke said.

Others simply want to break out of the pack.

In District 2, nine candidates are vying to replace term-limited Republican Rob Ludeman, the current council president.

Republican Jeff Simpson, a criminal defense lawyer, promotes himself as an advocate for businesses in the South Toledo district, where the renovation of the Southwyck Shopping Center is among the prime issues.

Mr. Simpson said he already is busy with community festivals and knocking on strangers doors to overcome his relative anonymity.

No one knows who I am, he said. I ve got to compete with [my opponents ] past campaigns.

Democrat Ed Cichy, a customer service representative for Kroger, ran for the seat in 2001. And Democrat Karen Shanahan, a transportation consultant, ran for an at-large seat in 2005.

Mrs. Shanahan has said she intends to have contact with each voter three times before the election. She already hosted an event to protect a city-owned strip of land Mayor Carty Finkbeiner wants to sell in an effort to bolster municipal finances.

Mr. Cichy chose to post the 2007 Toledo budget on his Web site, edforcouncil.com. The city government followed him and put the 322-page document on its own site.

With a $17 million deficit projected for next year s budget, Mr. Cichy attributed the early campaigning to immense public interest. I think the citizens have a lot of concerns about the city, he said. I ve found that as I go door-to-door. The conversations are a lot longer.

Contact Joshua Boak at: jboak@theblade.com or 419-724-6728.



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