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Toledo Councilman Steven Steel was elected Lucas County Democratic Party chairman Monday as part of a slate aiming to create a competitive edge for the county’s dominant political party.
Mr. Steel, 51, a part-time instructor at Bowling Green State University who is so environmentally conscious that he has no refrigerator in his family’s Old West End kitchen, received a unanimous voice vote.
His only opposition, former Firefighters Local 92 President Jim Martin, withdrew earlier in the day and endorsed Mr. Steel.
Mr. Steel promised to work for an organized, activist, and diverse party that makes the party endorsement something that Democratic candidates want — and will think twice about running against.
“Our endorsement has to mean something,” Mr. Steel said, promising “resources,” including volunteers and a five-days-a-week headquarters, to candidates who seek the endorsement. “And if you’re not endorsed and choose to run anyway, here’s what you lose,” he said, referring to those “resources.”
He called the central committee members “ground troops for our most fundamental mission — to elect people who share our values, people values, not money values.”
“Our goal is to make sure the central committee becomes a well-oiled, well-trained machine like this county hasn’t seen in years and years and years,” Mr. Steel said.
Mr. Steel’s name was put in nomination by state Sen. Edna Brown (D., Toledo) who is in a re-election battle against fellow Democrat Jack Ford who will be on the ballot as an independent, potentially splitting the important black vote at a time when Democrats are hoping to win statewide races in November.
“I don’t think he’s going to stand for a lot of the shenanigans that have taken place,” Ms. Brown said of Mr. Steel.
The biennial reorganization of the Lucas County Democratic Party Central Committee was held at the Teamsters Local 20 headquarters on the Anthony Wayne Trail near downtown. About 105 of the recently elected 135 central committee members were present.
Elected as part of the Steel slate were former Lucas County Commissioner Sandy Isenberg and Laborers Local 500 organizer Al Jones as the vice chairmen; David Mann, president of the Lucas County Land Bank, as secretary, and Toledo Board of Education member Brenda Hill as treasurer.
Elected to central committee leadership were Oregon councilman and lawyer Joshua Hughes; Toledo Clerk of Courts Vallie Bowman-English as vice chairman; Mr. Mann as secretary, and Bryan Latta, a recent graduate of the University of Toledo law school, as treasurer. Outgoing central committee chairman Gary Johnson chose not to run for re-election.
Mr. Steel, a former school board member now in his last permitted term as a councilman, said he doesn’t plan to seek new political offices in the future. He is enrolled at UT’s law school.
Mr. Steel complimented the man he is replacing, Ron Rothenbuhler, 66, of Oregon, who has headed the party since 2007. It was a harmonious outcome, though Mr. Steel was prepared to challenge Mr. Rothenbuhler if he had not chosen two weeks ago to step down.
Many local Democrats were frustrated that Mr. Rothenbuhler allowed the Democratic vote to be split during the 2013 Toledo mayoral primary, resulting in no Democrat on the general election ballot for the first time in modern memory.
In addition, there were unfilled slots on the party’s slate for city council and school board last year.
The Republican County Central Committee is set to meet 7 p.m. Wednesday. Chairman Jon Stainbrook, who was first elected in 2008, is seeking to hold his position against challenger Bill Delaney.