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Published: Monday, 10/29/2001

Clerk challenger, municipal judge lead in court races

BY FRITZ WENZEL
BLADE POLITICAL WRITER

Toledo Municipal Judge Amy Berling holds a large lead over her opponent in her effort to win re-election to a second six-year term on the bench, but another incumbent at the court - clerk Maggie Thurber - is trailing her challenger with just over one week left before Election Day, a new poll shows.

Judge Berling, a Republican, who won an open seat on the court in 1995 by defeating court magistrate Joyce Ann Woods, holds a 43 percent to 15 percent lead over lawyer John Mattimoe, a Democrat who is making his first run for the bench.

Democrat Linda Furney leads incumbent Republican Maggie Thurber in the race for Toledo clerk, 39 percent to 28 percent, a poll commissioned by The Blade and WTVG-TV Channel 13 and conducted by Zogby International shows.

But both races are marked by the number of voters who have yet to make up their minds. In the race for judge, 41 percent have not decided, while 1 in 3 voters has yet to make a choice in the court clerk's race.

The poll included 606 interviews with likely Toledo voters Oct. 25-27, and carries a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

“I am pleased. I have worked very hard to do what's right, and I hope to serve them for another six years,” Judge Berling said. “I treat the attorneys, the police, the defendants and the civil litigants with respect. I am compassionate and strong as the need arises.”

Mr. Mattimoe said he is “planning an awful lot of campaigning between now and Election Day. In judicial races, a lot of people don't make up their mind until the end.”

In the race for court clerk, Ms. Thurber, an eight-year incumbent, said she is optimistic that she can make up ground.

“What I am hearing out on the campaign trail doesn't reflect” that she is trailing, Ms. Thurber said.

“It is definitely a game of name recognition,” Ms. Thurber said. Ms. Furney, a former city councilwoman and state senator since 1987, “is obviously capitalizing very well on her name. But we have a full week of campaign activities.”

She first won the office in a race against well-known Democrat James Holzemer in 1993, and won a full six-year term over Ken Perry in 1995. She said she is working to woo voters of all persuasions regardless of party affiliation.

The office is officially nonpartisan.

“I think a lot more people tend to be independent” when voting for an administrative office like that of clerk, Ms. Thurber said. “Both sides are going to be doing a big get-out-the-vote effort.”

Ms. Furney, who can't run for another four-year stint as a state senator from Toledo because of term limits, said she has been concerned about clerical problems she perceives in Ms. Thurber's office.

“People recognize there are problems in the clerk's office, and that a change needs to be made,” Ms. Furney said. The poll numbers “tell me that there is a lot going on. People are starting to look at the race very carefully,” Ms. Furney said. “In the end, I think they will believe my message.”

When pressed, Ms. Furney acknowledged that paperwork glitches in the clerk's office on which she bases her campaign are several years old and may have been solved. Ms. Thurber insists they have been.

Ms. Thurber has presided over an office that has moved from paper documentation into the computer age. In the process of updating court records, Ms. Thurber acknowledged that an occasional mistake has been made. She said they are detected quickly and corrected.

Police officers in the field can access the clerk's records electronically, speeding their work to serve warrants and apprehend criminals. Local police unions have endorsed Ms. Thurber's re-election bid, citing the modernization of record-keeping in her office.

The clerk of court is charged with maintaining the official records of the court. She is paid $82,660 per year.



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