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Executive director returns to party job

Harper, Rothenbuhler settle their differences

  • Yvonne-Harper

    The resignation of Yvonne Harper, the party’s executive director, followed the poor showing by Democrats in the Sept. 10 primary.

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The resignation of Yvonne Harper, the party’s executive director, followed the poor showing by Democrats in the Sept. 10 primary.

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A week after a management shake-up in the Lucas County Democratic Party, Yvonne Harper has returned to the job of executive director and reportedly patched up her differences with Chairman Ron Rothenbuhler.

Ms. Harper, 64, stepped down as part-time executive director Oct. 3 at Mr. Rothenbuhler’s request after they had what he said Friday was a misunderstanding.

The resignation occurred following complaints about the party’s poor showing in the Sept. 10 Toledo primary election and a perceived lack of organization and outreach by the party leadership.

But Ms. Harper’s departure, without that of the chairman, Mr. Rothenbuhler, rankled some of the party’s female members.

Alex Huguelet, a member of the Lucas County Democratic Party executive committee and the Ohio Democratic Party executive committee and central committee, chastised Mr. Rothenbuhler in an email Tuesday that urged him to resign as well.

“I understand there is a lot of pressure on you as a result of our party’s poor showing in the primary but it is inexcusable that you let Yvonne take the fall in order to save your position as chair,” Ms. Huguelet wrote.

Mr. Rothenbuhler announced the reconciliation in an email to party members Friday and reminded them of the party’s annual dinner Oct. 27 at Premier Banquet Facility in South Toledo.

As a footnote, Mr. Rothenbuhler pledged party headquarters will open any day until Election Day that party members or candidates request, as well as on a set schedule of Mondays and Thursdays.

Ms. Harper’s forced resignation last week came one day after four top party leaders met at the offices of the United Auto Workers in Maumee to discuss the situation. Attending that meeting were former Mayors Carty Finkbeiner and Jack Ford, County Commissioner Pete Gerken, party Central Committee Chairman Gary Johnson, and UAW Region 2B Director Ken Lortz.

Mr. Finkbeiner said a consensus of most of the group was that the party needed a new executive director. In retrospect Friday, he said “all of us have a responsibility to step up to the plate and be more accepting of new people coming into the party, more positive, more welcoming.”

Mr. Gerken also accepted the return to the previous status quo, saying, “I think we’re back with our primary focus, which is working to get our candidates elected. If it is worked out among those people at the top, then the rest of those in the rank and file will continue to work to get our candidates elected.”

Ms. Harper's departure also came about a week after she angered supporters of mayoral candidate D. Michael Collins by opposing a vote to endorse him for mayor in a meeting of the party’s executive committee. The union faction of the party wanted to get behind Mr. Collins, but Ms. Harper and others disagreed and prevailed in the 24-23 vote.

For the first time in modern memory, no Democrat advanced past the primary to be on Toledo’s general-election ballot for mayor. Two Democrats competed — Lucas County Auditor Anita Lopez and Toledo Councilman Joe McNamara. Neither finished as one of the top two vote-getters. Those slots went to independents Mayor Mike Bell and Councilman Collins.

The party also came up short in the contest for city council at-large. The party endorsed only three candidates for the six seats: incumbents Steve Steel, Adam Martinez, and Shaun Enright.

Mr. Rothenbuhler said he tried to get candidates to run without success, and he blamed the party’s bylaw, in place for about 10 years, that prohibits the party from endorsing a candidate in a primary when two qualified Democrats are competing.

Contact Tom Troy: or 419--724-6058 or an Twitter @TomFTroy.

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