Democratic Party Chairman Ron Rothenbuhler says that endorsing one out of two Democrats is more divisive than helpful.
The Lucas County Democratic Party, which was expected by some to make endorsements in two hotly contested Toledo City Council races after the nonpartisan primary election of Sept. 13, has decided to sit on the sidelines instead.
Democratic candidates are facing each other in Council Districts 1 and 3 in the Nov. 8 election and appear to have the party evenly split.
Party Chairman Ron Rothenbuhler said last week that most of the party’s executive committee agreed it wouldn’t be good for the party to endorse one Democrat over another in the two races.
“The vast majority of people, including myself, felt it was more divisive than it was a solution. I didn’t think it was going to be a good thing to do,” Mr. Rothenbuhler said. He said the close election and low turnout were factors in encouraging the party to stay out of the contest.
In District 3, incumbent Councilman Mike Craig and challenger Shaun Enright, an electrician with backing from construction-trades unions, were the top two vote-getters in the Sept. 13 primary.
Mr. Enright led 383-367, or 40 percent for Mr. Enright and 38 percent for Mr. Craig. The remaining 22 percent went to Republicans Ernie Berry and Hans Schnapp. Only 3.2 percent of the registered voters in the district participated.
The district is made up of East Toledo and the old south end.
Both candidates agreed with the party’s hands-off stance but for different reasons.
“You’ve got two Democrats against each other. Instead of pulling people apart within the party it’s the proper thing,” Mr. Enright said. “I think in the past there was the A-B thing, and I don’t know if that’s what they were thinking about. I think it’s healthy not to endorse.”
Mr. Craig said it’s too late in the campaign for an endorsement to make a difference.
“I would say that if they waited this long and they hadn’t endorsed, they’re probably doing the right thing. If an endorsement’s going to do you any good, it would have done good in the primary. Today we have six weeks, a little less, until the election, and most literature and stuff is already printed,” he said. He said he would urge the party in the future to endorse before the primary.
The party has stayed out of endorsing before primaries since the intraparty fight between the so-called A-team and B-team factions of the party ended in 2007.
In District 1, Democrats Tyrone Riley and Aji Green emerged as the two biggest vote-getters out of seven candidates to succeed Democratic incumbent Wilma Brown, who is barred by term limits from seeking re-election. Mr. Riley had the edge with 33 percent of the vote, and Mr. Green got 28 percent in low-turnout voting. Just more than 5 percent of registered voters in District 1 voted.
Mr. Green said the party didn’t endorse because its bylaws don’t address the possibility of an endorsement after the primary when “two qualified Democrats” are on the ballot.
He said he would have liked the endorsement, but “you hate for a situation to happen where they endorsed one person and the other person wins, and then they have to go back and work with the person they didn’t endorse.”
Mr. Riley said, “I was under the impression that they were going to endorse. I respect the decision that they are not.”
Labor opposition to Mayor Mike Bell is a factor in both races. The Northwestern Ohio Building and Construction Trades Council is supporting Mr. Enright and Mr. Green in the Nov. 8 election.
Mayor Bell drew union opposition for his exigent-circumstances legislation in 2010 allowing him to impose unilateral cuts in union wages and benefits to stave off a $48 million deficit. He also ran into labor opposition with legislation to sell a 69-acre parcel of the Marina District to China-based investors without requiring a commitment from the buyers to use local, union labor.
Mr. Craig, along with a majority of council, supported the mayor on exigent circumstances and the Marina District. Mr. Riley is not on council, but is backed by Ms. Brown, who also supported the mayor on those two issues.
Although Mr. Green has been outspoken in calling on Mayor Bell to negotiate with city unions rather than impose terms, Mr. Riley had not previously announced a position. He told The Blade last week he believes the mayor and the union should go back to the bargaining table.
Contact Tom Troy at email@example.com or 419-724-6058.