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The surprise winner of last week’s primary election for one of two nominations to run for mayor of Toledo, Councilman D. Michael Collins, has begun ramping up his campaign from the shoestring operation that won him the primary.
Mr. Collins, a retired police officer and former police union president, finished second, after incumbent Mayor Mike Bell, in a field of eight. Mr. Collins said he spent about $27,000.
By comparison, Mayor Bell had spent $72,962 as of Aug. 21, while Democratic Lucas County Auditor Anita Lopez, who finished third, spent $145,472, and Democratic City Councilman Joe McNamara, the fourth-place finisher, spent $153,339. Those amounts will likely rise by thousands of dollars after the money spent on television time in the final three weeks of the campaign is reported.
Now, Mr. Collins is beginning to haul in the labor-union endorsements that will help him fill out his campaign war chest leading up to the Nov. 5 general election. He was to meet Wednesday night with committees for Teamsters Local 20 and the Toledo Police Command Officers Association. He’s already backed by the Toledo Police Patrolman’s Association and Firefighters Local 92. Mr. Bell has the backing of the Toledo Fire Chiefs Association.
Several area labor union leaders said they expect their executive committees and general memberships to get behind the Collins campaign since the candidate they originally backed, Ms. Lopez, was knocked out of the running. Ms. Lopez endorsed Mr. Collins in her concession speech.
Bill Lichtenwald, president of Teamsters Local 20, said Mr. Collins would need between $200,000 and $300,000 to run a competitive campaign.
“Mike certainly shares a lot of our views,” Mr. Lichtenwald said, such as opposition to a right-to-work law. “At this point, we’re not sure whether we’re going to endorse or not. It’s likely we would.”
Joe Cousino, business manager for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 8 in Rossford, predicted the IBEW would likely get behind Mr. Collins, but it could take a couple of weeks for the union’s executive committee and general membership to make a decision.
“Mike Collins has been good for us. He’s a good man. He’s been a union president. He stood up for us against Senate Bill 5,” Mr. Cousino said.
Ken Lortz, director of the United Auto Workers union’s Region 2B, which covers Ohio and Indiana, said the union will not be neutral in the campaign and made clear it wants Mayor Bell defeated, but he refused to announce an endorsement yet for Mr. Collins.
“We will be fully engaged, without question,” Mr. Lortz said.
Unions see Mayor Bell as an enemy because he supported the ill-fated Senate Bill 5/Issue 2 in 2011, a bill that would have undermined public employee union bargaining leverage, and because of his refusal more recently to take a stand against a possible right-to-work law in Ohio.
George Tucker, executive secretary of the Greater Northwest Ohio AFL-CIO, said the endorsement recommendation could be voted on in a delegate meeting Monday, when it is to meet with Mr. Collins.
“I think people would recognize that he’s a candidate who’s got a very, very good chance of winning, and there’s no doubt that he knows what’s going on in the city. He’s been the watchdog on city council,” Mr. Tucker said.
He said the campaign will cost at least $250,000.
Mr. Collins said the campaign was not as much of a kitchen-counter operation as rumors suggested, but it was done at a low cost. He had no paid staffers, and his campaign manager, Stephen Leggett, was an unpaid volunteer, though he’s going to get a salary now.
“We’re not going to change anything. The campaign is going to be run the way it’s been run. Steve is still in charge,” Mr. Collins said.
“We have not seen any campaign monies at this point in time, but it is our hope that we will see a cash infusion from labor,” Mr. Collins said. “My conversations with the labor leaders of this community have been very upbeat and positive.”
He said he has made only one commitment to labor leaders, that he will oppose any effort to implement a right-to-work law in Ohio.
B.J. Fischer, a spokesman for Mr. Bell’s campaign, agreed that $250,000 to $300,000 is “not an unreasonable expectation” for the cost of the general election campaign.
“It’s a big challenge. There’s not a lot of time between the elections. You have to be able to find a way to tell your story,” Mr. Fischer said.
Referring to the employee unions lining up behind Mr. Collins, he said, “We’re not surprised. These are folks who want to get Mike [Bell] out of office. We believe we’ve kept employment up. Those folks are working. Mike has made difficult decisions that have moved the city forward.”
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