Mayor Mike Bell won the Lucas County Republican Party Executive Committee’s endorsement in his bid for re-election on Wednesday evening, and promptly rejected it.
The committee, meeting at the party’s new headquarters at 323 N. Huron St., gave a nearly unanimous vote in favor of endorsing Mr. Bell, who did not seek the endorsement and was participating in The Blade and media partner WTVG-TV, Channel 13’s mayoral debate at the time.
Mr. Bell is a political independent and essentially said thanks, but no thanks soon after the debate ended.
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“I appreciate the support of all Toledoans, but I will not accept the endorsement of any political parties because I am responsible to the citizens of the city,” he said in a statement through a spokesman. “It is my choice to remain a political independent.”
An endorsement for Mr. Bell was not on the committee’s agenda, but was brought forward by a motion from the floor. Party Chairman Jon Stainbrook called the committee’s action the result of a “groundswell” of support for Mr. Bell, and shrugged off the mayor’s rejection of the endorsement.
“Mike Bell has another feather in his cap of independents, Democrats, and Republicans that he enjoys the support from,” Mr. Stainbrook said.
Committee members questioned at the meeting whether the party’s endorsement would help or hurt the mayor and whether the party should endorse candidates who don’t run as Republicans.
“I think a lot of us here are supporting Mike Bell,” former Mayor Donna Owens said. “My issue is, will we help him or hurt him by giving him the recommendation?”
But many members said Mr. Bell’s actions and policies have closely aligned with the party’s values, and that he has stood with Gov. John Kasich on some issues, including the controversial union-related Senate Bill 5. Several also foreshadowed Mr. Bell’s reaction, suggesting that Mr. Bell was free to reject the endorsement.
While conversations centered on Mr. Bell’s stated independent status, one said that it was time the Republican Party “step up its game” and be open about its support.
Mr. Stainbrook said there were more than 50 people in attendance at the committee meeting. The committee took a voice vote on Mr. Bell’s endorsement, and it appeared only one member voted against the endorsement.
The executive committee also voted to endorse a slate of City Council, township, and school board candidates, and voted to submit support for attorney Josh Lanzinger to Mr. Kasich for a vacant Toledo Municipal Court judgeship.
The vacancy was created when the governor appointed Judge Michael Goulding to the Lucas County Common Pleas Court.