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Published: Wednesday, 9/4/2013

Televised Toledo mayoral debate took occasional heated turns

Mayoral candidates Anita Lopez, Mayor Mike Bell, D. Michael Collins and Joe McNamara during debate at Channel 13 ABC News in Toledo, Ohio. Moderator is Diane Larson. Mayoral candidates Anita Lopez, Mayor Mike Bell, D. Michael Collins and Joe McNamara during debate at Channel 13 ABC News in Toledo, Ohio. Moderator is Diane Larson.
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The four main Toledo mayoral candidates battled - at times without gloves - during a live televised debate today that pitted them against each other on issues like the city budget, crime, and neighborhoods.

The hour-long, live televised debate was sponsored by The Blade and WTVG-TV, Channel 13.

The debate occasionally turned heated, with the candidates attacking each other - including when Mayor Mike Bell accused Lucas County Auditor Anita Lopez of dodging questions by answering without specifics.

The debate included the incumbent mayor and challengers Toledo Councilman D. Michael Collins, also an independent, Ms. Lopez and Councilman Joe McNamara, both Democrats.

Not included in the one-hour forum were three additional candidates whose names will also appear on the ballot, independent Alan Cox, Libertarian Michael Konwinski, and unendorsed Republican Opal Covey, and the certified write-in candidate, Donald Gozdowski.

Ms. Lopez was the target of swings from the other three candidates several times.

Midway through the hour-long debate, Ms. Lopez was asked how she would assure taxpayers that her strong support from unions would not affect how she decides issues involving unions.

Her answer included a listing of unions that support her and how she made changes in the auditor's office.

"You need your work force, you need the morale to be high and I am against right-to-work and I will do everything I can to turn the city of Toledo around, also lifting up my work force with me," Ms. Lopez said.

Mayor Bell used his rebuttal to say: "There you go Anita. They asked a pretty specific question. You never gave an answer."

The mayor pressed her to be specific on what actions she would take, which he boasted to have done when the city faced a huge deficit at the start of his term in 2010.

"It's not about talking, it's about action," Mayor Bell said.

Mr. Collins used his rebuttal to pounce on the mayor and hammer him for his stances against some city unions.

"It is about talking Mayor Bell. It is about talking civilly with the unions, something that you never had an application in your life to do," Mr. Collins said.

Mr. McNamara turned his attack back toward Ms. Lopez.

"The number of children of labor leaders in the auditor's office is staggering," he said. "What we have seen in the auditor's office under Anita Lopez is a modern day Tammany Hall where she has turned the office into a political machine, hired the children of politically-connected people, and raised money from these people and used them to work on her campaign."

Ms. Lopez drew the first question, in which she was asked about her accusation against Mayor Bell for "being out of touch." She was asked to cite specially how he is out of touch and how she would be in touch.

"As I have gone door-to-door talking to citizens and talking to them about their concerns about safety of neighborhoods and the safety of their families, we are going to create Toledo Neighborhood Teams, we are going to be in the community, and we're going to be accountable to them," Ms. Lopez said. "We are going to get out of One Government Center, we are going to stop travelling and focus on Toledo first."

She did not offer any specifics on Mayor Bell, who then said he is "the most grounded mayor" Toledo has ever had.

"As far as dealing with the neighborhoods, I think we are doing an excellent job of that," Mayor Bell said. "Our crime is down 24 percent so when [Ms. Lopez] talks about how the crime is running rampant, most cities would love to get that particular point."

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171 or on Twitter @IgnazioMessina.

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