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Petitions are filed as Kest, Ford make battle official

State Rep. Jack Ford and Lucas County Treasurer Ray Kest officially began their campaigns for mayor of Toledo yesterday by filing their nominating petitions with the county board of elections.

While Mr. Ford went to the elections board office in Government Center amid a sea of Democratic Party candidates and supporters, Mr. Kest arrived with only his petitions and left the office alone. The treasurer said he considered the petition filing “a perfunctory thing,” adding: “I've been campaigning for awhile now.”

Mr. Ford said of the campaign: “I'm excited. I think when people start making the decision who they will vote for for mayor, it will be a far more personal choice” than choosing people for state or national offices.”

Mr. Kest, an unendorsed Democrat, filed 1,473 signatures. Mr. Ford, the endorsed Democrat, submitted 1,328.

Toledo's charter requires mayoral candidates to submit 750 valid signatures from voters in the city to qualify for the ballot, and elections board officials will examine the petitions to determine their validity.

“People who file that many signatures usually get certified to the ballot,” Charles Larkins, an elections board supervisor, said.

Mr. Ford and Mr. Kest are the only candidates in the race with experience in elective office and bring to five the number of candidates who have filed petitions to run for mayor. The others are:

  • Opal Covey, a former thrift shop owner who sought but did not obtain the Democratic Party endorsement and will run as an independent.

  • Bar owner Rick Grafing, a registered Republican running as an independent.

  • James Harmon, a mathematics teacher at Amazing Grace Academy who is running as an independent.

    Armiya Muhammed, owner of a small security company who is running as an independent with the Green Party's endorsement, said he plans to file before the deadline at 4 p.m. today.

    Mr. Kest, Mr. Ford, and their supporters have been sweeping across the city, attending summer festivals and community meetings to shake hands and collect support.

    “I've been talking about police and fire [staffing] and basic city services,” said Mr. Kest, whose emphasis is on economic development, particularly of the downtown area, and attracting “market-rate housing” to the city's core.

    “I think Toledo is more than ready for that, particularly on some tracts” along the Maumee River, he said.

    Mr. Kest said he would release a plan to counter what he said “might be a crisis in city finances. Income tax receipts are down considerably.”

    He said he believes city maintenance of streets, alleys, and cemeteries has suffered as municipal manpower has declined to save money.

    Mr. Kest said he would rely on his experience as a certified public accountant to find ways to fine-tune the city budget so important services can be provided, even during tough economic times.

    Mr. Kest and Mr. Ford said they look forward to debates before the Sept. 11 primary election and agreed that all candidates who qualify for the ballot should be included in those debates.

    Mr. Ford said he is continuing to focus his campaign on public safety and education, and is doing a lot of it on doorsteps around the city. He said he knocked on doors for five hours Wednesday night.

    “My sense is there is a certain part of the electorate that is excited about me as a candidate, not because I am an African-American, but because of some of the programs I've initiated.”

    Mr. Ford was a founder of Substance Abuse Services, Inc., a drug treatment program, and had a hand in the beginnings of the Adelante Program on Broadway, which, among other services, also offers treatment for drug addicts.

    “A lot of people want to talk about education,” he said, adding that some have asked about his plans for city involvement in local schools. “I am going to do everything I can to be a partner with public schools,” he said.

    Mr. Ford said he would stress other programs for children in his campaign and, if elected, to make sure they grow up to become productive members of the community, not troublemakers.

    Voters granted Toledo's mayor sweeping powers in a 1992 rewriting of the city charter. The holder of the office is now arguably the most powerful political player in northwest Ohio. The next mayor will be paid $136,000 per year.

    The candidates are running to succeed Carty Finkbeiner, a Democrat restricted by term limits from seeking re-election.

    Several candidates for other Toledo offices filed petitions yesterday. Most of the Democratic Party slate filed for their Toledo offices, including at-large council incumbents Peter Gerken, Art Jones, Betty Shultz, and Peter Ujvagi. Endorsed Democrat Perlean Griffin, also seeking an at-large seat, filed too.

    Raymond Johnston, a letter carrier running as an independent, filed for an at-large seat yesterday, as did TARTA bus driver Carol Buno, an unendorsed Democrat.

    District 1 Councilwoman Wilma Brown, District 3 Councilman Bob McCloskey, District 4 Councilwoman Edna Brown, District 5 Councilwoman Tina Wozniak, and District 6 Councilman Wade Kapszukiewicz have filed. All are Democrats.

    District 2 Councilman Rob Ludeman, a Republican, also filed yesterday.

    Candidates for Toledo's district seats must submit 50 valid signatures of registered voters who live in their district.

    At-large candidates must submit 250 voters' signatures.

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