The Blade/Jetta Fraser
Toledo Councilman Jack Ford acknowledged today that he has been contacted by Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune as a possible lieutenant governor running mate.
Mr. Ford, 66, said he would consider making the run if Mr. Portune asks him.
Mr. Portune is considering challenging Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald for the Democratic nomination for governor to run against likely Republican nominee Gov. John Kasich. The filing deadline is Feb. 5, and Mr. Portune needs a running mate before he can begin gathering signatures.
“He just called me and said I’d like to talk to you. I’ll talk to anybody about politics. We’re going to meet and explore what he’s trying to do,” Mr. Ford said.
Mr. Ford was Toledo's first African-American mayor and is former member of the state House of Representatives, including service as the minority leader.
“I think Portune might just be interested in a Hamilton County-Lucas County tandem and is interested in someone with a mixture of local government and state government,” Mr. Ford said.
Mr. Ford, a native of Springfield, Ohio, worked 12 years for the state's departments of youth services and mental health before he was hired by the Lucas County Mental Health Board as director of substance abuse planning in 1980.
Mr. Ford said he believes his health would not prohibit a statewide run. He undergoes dialysis three times a week, but said his health and energy level is better now than it was since the became seriously ill three years ago. He said he lectured for three hours this morning at the University of Toledo and has meetings planned for the afternoon.
He said his main interest in running would be to gain attention for some of the things that have been done in Toledo that could be replicated elsewhere in Ohio, including CareNet, the health care program for uninsured people that he pioneered as mayor from 2002 to 2006.
He said a run against Mr. FitzGerald would be a David-versus-Goliath challenge, but said he was not concerned about going up against the party’s endorsed candidate.
When he sought re-election in 2005, the Lucas County Democratic Party had undergone a leadership change and refused to endorse Mr. Ford for re-election. He lost that election to fellow Democrat Carty Finkbeiner. Mr. Ford has been cool to the Democratic Party ever since, and ran for his current term of city council in November without seeking or accepting the party’s endorsement.