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Published: Sunday, 9/12/2010

Departures would tilt Toledo City Council more to Democrats

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

With three Toledo councilmen looking for bigger political offices, their departures - if that happens in November - almost certainly would mean an even greater shift toward Democratic dominance on the 12-person council.

Three Republicans and one independent on council stand in the minority against eight Democrats. Two of those Republicans and one of the Democrats are hoping voters will give them new jobs starting in 2011.

Longtime Councilman George Sarantou, a Republican, is running for Lucas County commissioner against Democrat Carol Contrada, a Sylvania Township trustee.

Tom Waniewski, also a Republican, is hoping to beat Democratic state Rep. Edna Brown for the 11th state Senate District.

And Democrat Michael Ashford is running against Republican Carolyn J. Eyre and independent Schylar Meadows in the 48th House District.

The possibility of all three winning their races has some worried about the makeup of council. The vacated seats would not be filled until January, 2011, when council could be down to nine members - seven Democrats, one Republican, and one independent.

Council President Wilma Brown, a longtime Democrat, said the new council appointees probably would be Democrats.

"Usually the ruling party with most members makes that selection," Ms. Brown said. "I think it might stand a pretty good chance, but the only reason we would vote against someone from the party is if there was a conflict of interest, like with Mark Sobczak because he worked for the Teamsters, but then he came back later and won the election."

Mr. Sobczak, vice president of Teamsters Local 20, was passed over for appointment after he was recommended by the Democratic Party in January, 2005, but won election that November. He resigned from council in 2009.

Ms. Brown and others on council said they were aware of only one person so far interested in a council appointment - Williann Moore, president of the Toledo branch of the NAACP, who lives in Mr. Ashford's District 4.

Ms. Moore did not return repeated telephone calls seeking comment.

Mr. Sarantou's post on council is at-large, meaning anyone in the city could fill the seat. Mr. Waniewski represents District 5 in West Toledo, so his replacement would have to live in that district.

Ron Rothenbuhler, head of the Lucas County Democratic Party, confirmed Ms. Moore's interest but declined to identify any other possible appointees.

"We have had a couple people talking to me about potential openings," Mr. Rothenbuhler said. "We will submit those names if and when we have any vacancies."

Councilman D. Michael Collins, the sole independent, said he's worried about the possible shift toward more Democrats.

"At that point, it would be just me and the one Republican," he said.

Jon Stainbrook, Lucas County Republican chairman, said the writing is on the wall for council appointments.

"The problem we have right now in Lucas County, which is a mirror of what you see in the city of Toledo, is this area from the city to the county has been run by the Democrats too long," Mr. Stainbrook said. "One-party rule does not work."

He said council "should abide by what the voters decided and keep those seats to the respective parties."

Mr. Stainbrook said the fact that two Republicans - Mr. Sarantou and Rob Ludeman - were among the top vote-getters in the 2009 at-large council election proves his point.

Toledo Board of Education President Bob Vasquez, also a Democrat, is rumored to be interested in a council seat but declined to confirm that Friday.

"I really haven't had any time to think about it because of how busy I have been at the school board," Mr. Vasquez said. "My aspirations are to help this community anyway I can, whether that be school board or council or some other office."

TPS board member Lisa Sobecki also said she has people ask her about council.

"I have heard from many rumors of what my political career is going to be, which includes running for Congress one day to City Council, but my response is while I am flattered, I am staying focused on Toledo Public Schools," she said. "I don't have a crystal ball, so I have no idea what will happen in the election in November and there may be no one leaving City Council."

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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