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Published: Tuesday, 8/28/2007

Local Democrats pledge unity

BY JOSHUA BOAK
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

Elected Lucas County Democrats yesterday vowed to overcome past disagreements and uphold a united front.

Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner was absent from the equivalent of a political group hug, but that failed to dampen the enthusiasm and optimism of Ron Rothenbuhler, who recently became chairman of the Lucas County Democratic Party. "Through cooperation, coordination, and communication, we're going to renew this effort," declared Mr. Rothenbuhler, also the executive regional director of the Ohio and Vicinity Regional Council of Carpenters.

The mayor is on vacation, Toledo Councilmen Mark Sobczak and Mike Craig said. Brian Schwartz, Mr. Finkbeiner's spokesman, was unavailable for comment about the event.

The vast group of elected Democrats met in the parking lot of the party's headquarters at 1817 Madison Ave., where they marked the start of Mr. Rothenbuhler's tenure by promising an inclusive Democratic Party without any of the long-term feuding between a progressive A-team and a traditional B-team.

"Boy, what a breath of fresh air to be standing in this parking lot with all my Democratic friends," county Commissioner Pete Gerken said.

Mr. Gerken said all elected Democrats now would debate party decisions inside the headquarters' boardroom rather than outside it.

Mr. Finkbeiner, a B-teamer, has clashed with several Democratic council members over the city budget, the size of council, and which Democratic candidates to support in local elections.

State Senate Minority Leader Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo) said those differences cannot interfere with the party's ability to rally support next year for the Democratic presidential nominee.

State Rep. Matt Szollosi (D., Oregon) said acceptance of Mr. Rothenbuhler's leadership will be key to the party's success.

"He's going to be very demanding, very demanding of all of us," Mr. Szollosi said. "But we have too much at stake."

Mr. Rothenbuhler succeeded John Irish, who resigned after strippers worked at a party golf fund-raiser in June.

Democrats yesterday emphasized the importance of bringing jobs to the community and making housing affordable.



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