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Published: Thursday, 9/13/2007

GOP losses may weaken mayor's power

BY JOSHUA BOAK
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

By slicing the Republican presence on Toledo City Council in half, voters in Tuesday's primary election ended the loose coalition supporting many of Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's policies during the past year.

Once a four-person block on the 12-member council, Republicans lost District 2 Councilman Rob Ludeman to term limits and District 6 Councilman Joe Birmingham to the ballot box. The candidates vying to replace them in the Nov. 6 general election are Democrats or not affiliated with either party.

In cooperation with the mayor and B-team Democrats, the Republicans overcame the vocal objections of A-team Democrats on council. The coalition introduced a monthly $5.50 trash collection fee, increased assessments for landscaping and street maintenance, and approved funds for downtown beautification.

But as result of the primary, council will lack the GOP bal-ance on which Mr. Finkbeiner depended, possibly leading to more tension in city government.

"I think there will be more potential for continued head-butting between the council and the mayor," Mr. Ludeman said.

Councilman Frank Szollosi, often associated with the A-team, said the watch words will be greater respect and collaboration among the mayor and all council members, adding that there will still be "robust debate on substantial issues."

Unlike past City Council campaigns in which the mayor endorsed candidates, Mr. Finkbeiner, a Democrat, was visibly absent from the primaries in Districts 2, 4, and 6.

"The mayor has been awfully busy doing the things that mayors do, which is running the city," Finkbeiner spokesman Brian Schwartz said. "If you ever look at his schedule, his days and evenings are usually full, so there was really no time for campaigning."

What hurt GOP candidates in District 2, said Joanne Wack, executive director of the Lucas County Republican Party, was the dilution of votes by three candidates associated with the party: Jeff Simpson, a lawyer and the endorsed candidate; Joe Kidd, a former director of the Lucas County Board of Elections who ran as an independent, and Mary Ann Haupricht, an insurance agent and Republican.

Added together, these three candidates mustered 972 votes, enough to have won the primary with 29 percent of the vote.

In District 6, Mr. Birmingham said he overestimated the advantages of incumbency and that Republican voters underestimated the dominance of Democrats.

"Maybe the Republicans thought there is one Republican and he'll be there in November because they didn't really understand Toledo politics," Mr. Birmingham said.

Democrat Michael Ashford, the incumbent in District 4, is linked with the A-team and recently replaced Mr. Ludeman as council president. He will face fellow Democrat Ronnell Traynum, a nurse, on Nov. 6.

Mr. Ashford said it is too early to know if the primary will affect council, since stereotypes about partisan philosophies often get reversed once officials assume office.

"This year, you've had the Democrats who have taken a strong stand on being fiscal conservatives, while the Republicans put in new taxes," he noted.

Neither of the Democratic candidates in Districts 2 and 6 claims loyalty to the more progressive A-team or the more traditional B-team.

Emerging from the 10-person primary in District 2 were Democrat Molly McHugh Branyan, a Realtor and daughter of past mayor John McHugh, and D. Michael Collins, an unaffiliated candidate and past president of the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association. Mrs. Branyan eschewed the A-team and B-team labels, saying, in a blood-type reference, that she was an "O-positive" Democrat.

In District 6, Lindsay Webb, who works as an advocate for displaced workers, described herself as the "consensus candidate" who would be faithful to the best interests of her constituents. She faces Green Party candidate Dave Ball in November.

Councilman Mark Sobczak said the possibility of having more Democrats on council should improve unity, rather than continue the split.

"People have a tendency to pigeonhole folks," Mr. Sobczak said. "I think we can pick up some really good people that have [the] best interests of the city at heart and they're not going to let politics get in the way. I think they've purposely distanced themselves from intraparty squabbles."

Contact Joshua Boak at:

jboak@theblade.com

or 419-724-6728.



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