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Published: Sunday, 3/29/2009

Commissioner Konop to kick off mayoral bid

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

The field of candidates for mayor of Toledo will get a little more crowded this week as Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop launches his campaign Monday with a series of events.

Mr. Konop, 33, will start his campaign kickoff with an appearance on the Andrew "Z" radio program, WVKS-FM (92.5) KISS-FM, at 7 a.m.

He joins Democratic lawyer Keith Wilkowski, who is a former Lucas County commissioner; independent Mike Bell, a former city fire chief and now the state fire marshal, and Republican real estate businessman Jim Moody in the quest to replace incumbent Democrat Carty Finkbeiner, who hasn't said whether he'll seek a fourth term.

In a speech he plans to give on the University of Toledo campus at 9:30 a.m., Mr. Konop is expected to lay out why he believes his qualifications are the best for Toledo at this time.

"There's no one running that represents the kind of change that this community needs," Mr. Konop said in an interview with The Blade on Friday.

"I have a track record that shows I'm willing to aggressively challenge the status quo. I'm the only candidate who can deliver that."

He said other candidates represent a "good ol' boy" way of doing business through a "web" of campaign contributions, government contracts, and board appointments.

He said those arrangements have contributed to the city's rates of unemployment, foreclosure, and population loss being among the highest in the country.

"I don't think that bargain's working out well for the people of this community," he said. "That's my track record, and I don't think anybody else has that track record."

A resident of downtown Toledo's Warehouse District, Mr. Konop graduated from Ottawa Hills High School and Emory University in Atlanta and received a law degree from the University of Michigan.

He worked as a page in Congress in 1993 and in the office of U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) in 1995. He ran unsuccessfully for the 4th Congressional District seat in 2004 of then-U.S. Rep. Mike Oxley (R., Ohio).

In 2006, he won a three-way Democratic primary and went on to defeat Republican George Sarantou for the commission seat he now holds.

A pledge Mr. Konop made in that race - that he would serve the full four-year term - has been brought up against him already, and he said he is prepared to address it.

He said the city's circumstances have changed unexpectedly for the worse since he made that pledge.

And he said his main pledge was to "provide change to the community and challenge the status quo," something he said he has done.

"That type of change is desperately needed at the city level," he said.

Mr. Konop indeed has clashed repeatedly with fellow Democrats on the board of commissioners.

He attacked the Lucas County Improvement Corp., a project of Commissioner Pete Gerken, as an ineffective entity, forcing the resignation of its director.

He opposed the county's spending $450,000 on new windows for its office building at 701 Adams St., saying the money could be better used to help unemployed people.

More recently, he voted against renewing two appointments to the county's planning commission, saying the board doesn't reflect the county's population.

Recently, Mr. Konop went on a series of visits, many of them taking place outside the city, to explore running for mayor.

Mr. Konop plans to argue that he has executive experience, having served on the three-person commissioner board for more than two years.

"You're managing budgets and personnel - two big aspects of being mayor," he said.

He said the county's $22 million rainy day fund shows that the commissioners downsized more prudently than the city did.

"The county in these tough times is quite a bit more stable [than the city], and I had a hand in that," Mr. Konop said.

He said he plans to seek the Lucas County Democratic Party's endorsement. The party is expected to endorse after the Sept. 15 primary.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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