The Lucas County Democratic Party executive committee didn’t take steps Thursday night that could lead to sanctions against Toledo Council President Joe McNamara and Councilman Mike Craig, and instead decided to have a committee focus on the two party members.
Party Chairman Ron Rothenbuhler said the executive committee authorized him to put together a committee to review the actions of Mr. McNamara and Mr. Craig in refusing to vote for fellow Democrat Shaun Enright to fill a vacancy on city council earlier this month.
Mr. Rothenbuhler said the six-member group is expected to bring a recommendation to the executive committee meeting on Feb. 21.
“I am setting up a commitee to discuss the issue internally and come back with a decision to give to the executive committee,” he said after a 45-minute meeting at party headquarters.
Mr. McNamara and Mr. Craig, who are on the executive committee, attended the meeting.
“I think it was a good meeting... I think this party has come a long way,” said Mr. McNamara, deferring additional questions to Mr. Rothenbuhler.
Mr. Craig would not provide any comment after the meeting.
Mr. Rothenbuhler and five others, who will be chosen by him, will be on the committee. He said they likely will get input from Mr. McNamara and Mr. Craig.
Party bylaws require executive committee members to support the party’s candidates. Mr. Enright, 33, of East Toledo is an electricians’ union organizer and was backed by area construction trade unions who wanted their own representative on the 12-member city council. Mr. Enright will run in elections this fall to try to win the seat for a full four-year term.
Mr. McNamara and Mr. Craig said they supported another candidate, former Mayor Jack Ford, who is African-American, to fulfill another requirement of the party’s bylaws: to fight against social injustice.
Dennis Duffey, an official with the Ohio Building and Construction Trades Council and a ward leader from Monclova Township, has called for action against Mr. McNamara because he allegedly violated his oath to the executive committee.
In the past, Council Democrats have sometimes been sanctioned and sometimes not for voting for someone other than the party’s nominee. In 1995, five Democrats on City Council rejected the party’s recommendation, Wade Kapszukiewicz, and voted for Democrat Bill Boyle instead. No sanctions were imposed.
Ten years later, a split in the party was aggravated when seven Democrats on council refused to support the party’s nominee, Mark Sobczak. They voted instead to appoint Phil Copeland. All seven were sanctioned by being denied party endorsements or other help the next time they ran for office. The sanctions proved not to be politically fatal as many of those individuals were re-elected or went on to other offices.
Mr. Kapszukiewicz, who was re-elected Lucas County treasurer in November, is a member of the executive committee but is attending President Obama’s inauguration and was not at the meeting. If he had been, he said he would oppose sanctions.
“I was mad, hurt, angry. But I had smart, sage, wise people advising me. The smart politics was just to let it pass,” Mr. Kapszukiewicz said. “Whether Joe McNamara is sanctioned doesn’t help one bit in electing Democrats and defeating Mike Bell.”
Joe Cousino, business manager for Mr. Enright’s union, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 8, said he’d like to let bygones be bygones and have the party focus on electing Democrats, especially since Mr. Enright got on council.
“I’m hoping that nothing too drastic comes of this. I don’t think it’s in our interests to have a split in the party,” Mr. Cousino said.
Staff writer Mark Reiter contributed to this report.
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