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Toledo's mayoral candidates visited polling locations around the city to make the last possible positive impression on voters today, as Toledo voting appeared to be on track for around a quarter of eligible voters showing up.
Councilman D. Michael Collins, a former police officer running as an independent challenger for mayor, greeted voters arriving late today at Elmhurst School in West Toledo. He said he had been up since 3:30 a.m. and visited five polling places during the day in West Toledo, Old Orchard, and South Toledo.
Several voters let him know they were going to support him against incumbent Mayor Mike Bell, also an independent.
As Mr. Collins introduced himself, a voter walking into the school told him with a smile, "It's not going to be Bell."
Another voter, Mauro DeSantis, 58, a toolmaker and member of the United Auto Workers that was backing Mr. Collins, said, "Mr. Collins, I think, has a better vision to take us in a positive direction." He also said Mr. Collins' focus on the crime rate struck a chord with him. Living near Westfield Franklin Park, he said the mall can't afford to get a reputation for being an unsafe place.
"We have been hit pretty hard in West Toledo. We cannot afford to let that happen," Mr. DeSantis said.
Mayor Mike Bell also toured several voting precincts, but was facing more open opposition among voters, largely because of the strong union backing of Mr. Collins.
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At Our Lady of Perpetual Church in South Toledo where Mr. Bell arrived about 5:15 p.m., he met two Toledo firefighters who were there to campaign for Mr. Collins. The meeting was cordial, as Mr. Bell shook the hands of both men, and gave them a brief hug.
"TFD? You guys are looking good," said the mayor, a former firefighter who served nearly 17 years as the city's fire chief.
"I feel great," the mayor said. He admitted he encountered some people who didn't seem too friendly to him.
"Some people just don't want to be talked to. But the majority of the people are pretty friendly," he said.
Two voters coming out of the school, Lisa and Bryan O'Neill, said they supported Mr. Bell because they saw him as the more conservative of the two, though not conservative enough for their liking.
"I guess I am more comfortable with him than the other guy, but I'm not thrilled," said Mrs. O'Neill, 49, a marketing researcher.
Mr. O'Neill, 47, said Mr. Bell was doing "a decent job with the [Toledo-Lucas County] Port Authority, and getting some business here and standing up to council a little bit."
Another South Toledo voter, Jeff Hohl, 67, said he supported Mr. Collins because Mr. Collins fought for the improvement of street and sewers in his neighborhood and because of the help he gave to Mr. Hohl's neighbor who had been bit by a dog and had to go to court multiple times.
"He supported the neighborhood. It's kind of a no-brainer," Mr. Hohl said.
The mayor's high-profile support of issue 2/Senate Bill 5 in 2011, a statewide referendum aimed at weakening the power of public employee unions, is clearly a factor with voters in this election, as several voters expressed their irritation with the mayor's stand, which he reinforced more recently by declining to take a stand against a right-to-work law.
"He turned his back on those who put him in office," said Martin Pedro, 54, of West Toledo, an Elmhurst School voter, and a union cement mason. "We voted for him and then he turned his back on us - the working man. We're the backbone of the city."
Voter turnout in Lucas County rose to 20.5 percent as of 5 p.m., the Lucas County Board of Elections reported. That number lags behind 2009, which was 26.5 percent, according to Lucas County.
Voters have not topped their 2009 numbers thus far and failed to surpass the 2009 records for 9 a.m. and 1 p.m, which are 6.5 percent and 15.5 percent, respectively. Only 3.7 percent of voters turned out by 9 a.m. and 11.9 percent cast ballots by 1 p.m.
At total of 37.5 percent of voters turned out in the 2009 election.
Lucas County polls close at 7:30 p.m.
Few problems were reported throughout the day, said Noel Hahn, a supervisor at the Lucas County Board of Elections.
Wood, Ottawa, and Fulton Counties are not reporting voting data until after the polls close at 7:30 p.m. Few problems also were reported in those counties, election officials said.
Blade Staff Writer Kris Turner contributed to this report.
From an earlier story.
Several precinct workers said they'd hoped to see more people voting during the morning hours and hoped turnout would pick up in the afternoon and as people were getting off of work.
At Raymer Elementary School in East Toledo, the parking lot was full, but the gymnasium was almost entirely empty at about 10 a.m.
Vickie Wohlgamuth was there to vote today.
For her, the Toledo Public Schools renewal levy was a primary issue – her daughter, Emily Wohlgamuth, who she took with her, is a third-grade student at the school.
“I want to make sure she has what she needs to succeed in life,” said Ms. Wohlgamuth, who voted “yes” on the TPS levy.
The schools, she said, are “not where I want them to be, but they're getting better. Every vote helps.”
At Our Lady of Perpetual Help, 2255 Central Grove Ave., in South Toledo, volunteers were told not to campaign on the property, said Stephanie Eichenberg, the treasurer for Toledo Board of Education candidate Chris Varwig.
Mrs. Eichenberg said the Rev. David Ritchie told her, “This is private property and we want you to leave,” at about 8:40 a.m.
Mrs. Eichenberg, who had been outside the church since 6:30 a.m. and beyond 100 feet of the door – which is in compliance with Ohio law – said she decided to stay.
“I don't want to be a bad neighbor, but legally I'm allowed,” she said.
Mr. DeAngelis said he'd not heard about campaign staff being asked to leave the church, but said, “It's Election Day. If they're outside that 100 foot [range] as the statute requires, we would hope they would be allowed to campaign since it's a polling location.”
When asked about campaigners, the Rev. Ritchie said, “I have an ongoing issue. I don't want to comment.”