Joe McNamara, right, attends a mayoral candidate forum at The United Way of Greater Toledo with Mayor Mike Bell, D. Michael Collins, Opal Covey, Alan Cox, Michael Konwinski, and Anita Lopez.
THE BLADE/ANDY MORRISON
Republican Opal Covey drew groans during a mayoral forum Thursday when she said domestic violence victims are “causing it themselves” by choosing bad mates and not leaving abusive mates.
“People who receive domestic violence, a lot of cases, except the children, is [sic] causing it themselves because they are not keeping control of their lives, watching out, suppressing their feeling, which you should do — not every feeling that you have is going to work for you,” Ms. Covey, making her fourth bid for mayor, said. “It is going to have consequences and you will reap your consequences.”
Ms. Covey’s statements gave an unexpected twist to the forum, organized by the United Way of Greater Toledo for mayoral candidates to appear before leaders of the city’s social service agencies, such as homeless shelters and community development corporations.
PHOTO GALLERY: United Way of Greater Toledo mayoral candidate forum
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They were asked for their views on domestic violence.
Ms. Covey went on to say she has “worked with domestic violence for probably 35 years and I counsel women and here is what I come up with: I am not going to go out there and marry someone that I know has a record and is an abuser and things like this."
“They should not be with that mate. ... They’ve been told get rid of him. Now, you know you should wait,” Ms. Covey said. “One of the biggest problems is sex. People, when they get up to adulthood, of course they have the sexual feelings, all right. And so, therefore, they are going to go out and they are going to try it, but they are not realizing they are putting their lives at stake.”
Ms. Covey also was asked to explain her comments after the forum.
“These young women who are in domestic violence [situations] are very promiscuous,” she said.
A former pet shop owner, Ms. Covey is a self-proclaimed “prophetess” and evangelist who claims to be on a mission from God to put an amusement park downtown.
She said after the forum she believes she can win despite garnering less than 1 percent of the vote in the September, 2009, mayoral primary.
Her comments were unilaterally condemned by other candidates.
Mayor Mike Bell, an independent, said Ms. Covey “was so out there, it was embarrassing.”
Another candidate, Toledo City Councilman Joe McNamara, called Ms. Covey's comments “disgusting” and said they show “her ignorance about the plight of the victims of domestic violence.”
Toledo City Councilman Mike Collins, who also is running for mayor, said Ms. Covey’s comments were “uncalled for and inaccurate.”
Said another mayoral hopeful, Lucas County Auditor Anita Lopez: “Ms. Covey’s comment on domestic violence was reprehensible. Violence against women is never the fault of the victim, and it is irresponsible and repugnant to say otherwise.”
Each of the other candidates said the city needs to do a better job helping victims of domestic violence.
Also running are Alan Cox, a city neighborhood development specialist and president of the city’s supervisory and technical union, AFSCME Local 2058; and Libertarian Michael Konwinski, a retired city worker from the water distribution and finance departments.
An eighth mayoral candidate, Don Gozdowski, registered as a write-in, said in a statement he was unable to attend because of academic obligations at Owens Community College.
The two candidates who win the most votes in the nonpartisan, Sept. 10 primary will face off in the Nov. 5 general election.
Mayor Bell said Toledo recently stepped up its efforts to help victims and prosecute offenders by creating a domestic-violence docket at Toledo Municipal Court and adding a dedicated prosecutor for those crimes.
“Obviously, it is a problem for the city of Toledo, and we are putting funds to it, we are putting people to it, we are putting action to it, we are working together to try and alleviate this particular issue,” the mayor said.
Ms. Lopez said she agreed with earlier statements by Mr. McNamara that victims don’t leave abusers because of their “lack of income and ability to support themselves.”
Mr. Konwinski told the group of about 70 people that his sister was a domestic-violence victim. He said first responders need better training to help the victims.
“A lot of time when her husband would hit her, as soon as she called the police, he fled, so a lot of times when the police arrived he was no longer there,” he said. “Even on those occasions when he was there, all they would do was tell them [that] one of them had to leave the house.”
The seven mayoral hopefuls who attended the forum also voiced support for nonprofit agencies and organizations that help the less fortunate.
Mayor Bell said he would continue to be a partner for nonprofits, but stressed the “bottom line is money” and there is no “money tree” from which to pluck funding.
The key is to provide the appropriate publicity and education to people to be able to have them give to your organization, Mr. Bell said.