Former Mayor Jack Ford on Saturday endorsed Joe McNamara as his candidate for mayor in the primary election Tuesday, citing the Democratic city councilman’s big ideas and progressive bona fides.
“At this point in Toledo’s history, we need a mayor who is going to take big ideas and try to solve some of our problems that have been with us for years,” Mr. Ford said. “Only a progressive mayor is best suited for that.”
Mr. Ford explained why he plans to vote for Mr. McNamara as the men sat side by side — the only patrons in jacket and tie — at Tony Packo’s at the Park downtown, a quiet moment away from the bustle of last-minute campaigning. Mr. Ford, who besides being mayor from 2002 through 2005, is a former Toledo councilman and state representative and is running for an at-large Toledo City Council seat.
Mr. Ford said that he appreciated Mr. McNamara’s support earlier this year when the former mayor sought appointment to a vacancy on council but emphasized that his endorsement is not related to that controversial stance.
The Lucas County Democratic Party endorsed Shaun Enright, who ended up taking the seat. Some members of the party’s executive committee called for sanctions against Mr. McNamara and Councilman Mike Craig, who also supported Mr. Ford. Mr. McNamara later agreed to resign two party leadership posts, and both councilmen agreed to support party-endorsed candidates.
“The mayor’s race is bigger than some political infighting,” Mr. Ford said.
Mr. Ford commended Mr. McNamara for introducing legislation, which City Council approved unanimously in July, to ensure that no senior citizens lose the homestead-exemption discount on water, sewer, and trash collection fees even though Ohio reinstated income limits for the property-tax exemption.
He said Mr. McNamara is the mayoral candidate who will best address such issues as sustainability; the condition of the city’s housing stock; blight in the inner city, and youth crime and unemployment.
“I don’t care who the other candidate is in the runoff,” Mr. Ford said. “I just want to make sure Joe McNamara is one of them. When I exercise my franchise, I’m going to vote for McNamara.”
Mr. Ford said Tuesday’s mayoral primary is one of those rare races in which “the numbers turn and tumble literally the weekend before the election."
“I think Joe has closed on this race,” Mr. Ford said. “It almost strikes me as when the horses turn at the Kentucky Derby, and they’ve been strung out, and then suddenly they’re four across. I think that’s what this race is turning into, and so I couldn’t stay silent.”
Mr. McNamara commended Mr. Ford’s decades-long service to the community.
“This is a huge honor,” Mr. McNamara said. “His judgment carries a lot of sway in the community, and he’s going to be an excellent councilman and partner for moving the city forward and tackling the growing problem of poverty, declining home ownership rates, and blight.”
Mayor Mike Bell said Mr. Ford’s endorsement of his opponent was not a surprise.
“Joe stuck his neck out for him, and they’re both Democrats. I think that’s sort of a natural fit,” Mr. Bell said. “He’s a Democrat and I’m an independent.”
As for the loss of Mr. Ford’s support from four years ago, Mr. Bell said, “everything has changed with some of the decisions I had to make.”
Democrat Anita Lopez said that she valued Mr. Ford’s support in prior elections, but she knows the rules are different in a nonpartisan primary race like this one.
“I think at the end of the day, before the primary this is nothing unusual,” she said. “At the presidential level we had Hillary [Clinton] and [Barack] Obama running against each other, so after the primary everyone comes together and we move and focus on what we said we were going to do, which is our No. 1 opponent and the only opponent I have is Mike Bell."
Blade politics writer Tom Troy and Blade staff writer Jennifer Feehan contributed to this report.
Contact Mark Zaborney at: email@example.com or 419-724-6182.