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3-way Ohio Senate race raises hopes, fears

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The three-way contest for the traditionally Democratic Senate District 11 seat is giving Republicans a rare hope of succeeding and a possible change of candidates.

Toledo Councilman and former Mayor Jack Ford, who is also a former state representative, is running as an independent for the state Senate seat now held by fellow Democrat Sen. Edna Brown of Toledo.

The Republican nominee is Ernest McCarthy of East Toledo.

Some have speculated that Mr. McCarthy might step aside in favor of City Councilman Tom Waniewski, who ran unsuccessfully for the seat four years ago but is more widely known and more politically experienced than Mr. McCarthy.

Mr. Waniewski has already had meetings with his own campaign committee, with other supporters and with union bargaining units, he said.

“I’ve not spoken to Mr. McCarthy. I’ve not made any decisions because I haven’t talked to him,” Mr. Waniewski said. “I admire him for running and I hope to help him if he wants to stay in.”

Mr. McCarthy said he hasn’t been asked to resign the nomination and has no plans to do so.

“As of right now I’m the candidate. I got into the race knowing it would be difficult and planned to run on all that I could,” he said.

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Mr. McCarthy, 72, of East Toledo, a retired small business owner and construction supervisor, ran unsuccessfully last year for city council.

Both Ms. Brown and Mr. Ford said they were staying in the race.

“There are things I want to fight for in the Legislature,” Mr. Ford said while filing a campaign finance report Friday at the Lucas County Board of Elections. Those things include reducing wealth inequality, access to voting rights, clean air, and making sure Toledo’s interests are defended in Columbus “in a robust way.”

Ms. Brown said, “my intent is to win the race, whether it’s Tom Waniewski or Jack Ford or whoever.” Asked if she was considering abandoning the race, she said, “not in this life. It would be smart of Jack if he would not split up the Democratic vote.”

Newly elected county Democratic Chairman Steven Steel, a colleague on Toledo City Council of Mr. Ford and Mr. Waniewski, said the Senate District 11 situation is one of his biggest concerns. He noted that Ms. Brown got 60 percent of the vote to Mr. Waniewski’s 40 percent in 2010.

“If two people split 60 percent of the vote, 40 percent wins,” Mr. Steel said. “I’m very concerned about the potential for the Democratic vote splitting. I would hope we can avoid that potential outcome. Jack is already putting signs out so I’m going to have to have this conversation pretty quickly.”

If Mr. McCarthy resigned the nomination, the Republican Party would have until Aug. 11 to submit the name of a replacement candidate.

Mr. McCarthy did not seek the nomination as a “place-holder” candidate, someone who knows he’s going to step aside when the party’‍s preferred candidate steps up, as sometimes happens. Lucas County Republican Chairman Jon Stainbrook said there is no plan to push Mr. McCarthy off the ballot.

“Ernie McCarthy is a hard-working campaigner. He’s been going out and doing the door-to-doors. He’s planning a fund-raiser right now. He knocks on doors and does all the grassroots stuff to win this election so I wholeheartedly and fully support Ernie McCarthy,” Mr. Stainbrook said.

Senate District 11 is made up of three House districts representing Toledo, Maumee, and Oregon, and Washington, Springfield, and Jerusalem townships.

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

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