The Lucas County Democratic Party is in for a change of leadership.
Chairman Ron Rothenbuhler announced Thursday he will not seek re-election when the party’s central committee convenes June 9, and Toledo City Councilman Steven Steel said Thursday that he will run for the post.
Mr. Rothenbuhler leaves the party’s top position after almost seven years at the helm, and after the May 6 election of central committee members who appear to favor Mr. Steel, who has been quietly rounding up support for a challenge for months.
“I have decided that I’m not going to run for another term. I’m going to retire and relax and, hopefully, I don’t have to fix whatever is going on,” said Mr. Rothenbuhler, 66, of Oregon.
One of the challenges now facing the party is a state Senate race between two stalwart Democrats — incumbent state Sen. Edna Brown and challenger City Councilman Jack Ford, who filed to run in the Nov. 5 election as an independent. Also running is Republican Ernest McCarthy.
Mr. Steel, 51, said he believes he has the support of a majority of the county central committee, as well as major interest groups within the party following the central committee election. He said he was troubled that some candidates were not bothering to seek the party’s endorsement because they believed it had no value.
“A lot of people have been a little disappointed at the performance of Democrats in the last election cycle when it comes to not having a candidate for mayor and people choosing not to seek the Democratic Party’s endorsement,” Mr. Steel said.
He said the party needs to provide candidates with supportive volunteers, along with financial and logistical support.
“There were several groups that put together some kind of effort to build support on the central committee,” Mr. Steel said. “I think the majority of those groups support my candidacy.”
The party’s troubles were evident during the 2013 Toledo mayor’s race — the first election anyone can remember in which a Democrat was not on the ballot. Political independent D. Michael Collins faced incumbent independent Mayor Mike Bell after two Democratic candidates, Auditor Anita Lopez and Councilman Joe McNamara, lost in the primary.
Mr. Steel noted that only one endorsed Democrat was elected to city council out of six races. The other winners were Republican Rob Ludeman, Republican-leaning independents Sandy Spang and Theresa Gabriel and Democratic-leaning independents Jack Ford and Larry Sykes.
Mr. Steel is a former Toledo school board member and a part-time professor of critical thinking at Bowling Green State University.
A retired director of the Ohio Vicinity Regional Council of Carpenters, Mr. Rothenbuhler took over as chairman in 2007 when the party was split between the so-called A and B teams, the bitter divide between those who supported Mr. Ford for re-election as mayor in 2005 and those who backed the successful challenge by Carty Finkbeiner.
On the Republican side, former Toledo tavern owner Bill Delaney is expected to mount a challenge to Lucas County Republican Chairman Jon Stainbrook for the chairmanship when the GOP central committee meets.
A date has not been set for the Republican central committee meeting. State law requires the meeting to be held between six and 15 days after the primary election vote has been certified.
The Lucas County Board of Elections certified the May 6 election on Tuesday. However, one Republican central committee race, Oregon 4, was tied and is set for a recount Tuesday, delaying the start of the six-to-15 day window for the GOP.