Toledo Municipal Court Clerk Maggie Thurber was in a good mood yesterday afternoon as she joined other local Republican candidates at a tailgate party at the University of Toledo, where the Rockets played their homecoming game last night.
The sun was shining. The weather was warm. And her opponent in the Nov. 5 election, county Commissioner Sandy Isenberg, was nowhere to be seen.
“Her time is passed,” she said of Ms. Isenberg, who has not had a close election in 27 years. “We can maintain the status quo and re-elect her, or we can move forward and elect me.”
Ms. Isenberg had skipped the tailgate party to visit her ailing mother at Toledo Hospital, but her supporters were there. She had joined Ms. Thurber in the homecoming parade earlier in the afternoon.
Toledo attorney and Isenberg supporter Christy Cole, who had tailgated next to her sign-covered SUV with 12 friends since 10 a.m., was not pleased with Ms. Thurber's comments.
“Maggie Thurber is a nice lady and she has done a good job, but I would beg to differ about her [chances to win]. Sandy has a lot of fight in her.”
And so it went on Columbus Day, the day politicians traditionally consider the home-stretch kickoff for their campaigns. Ms. Isenberg turned up at Sheet Metal Workers Union Local 33 on Lewis Avenue at 8 a.m. to encourage about 25 union members before they departed for a door-to-door literature drop. Similar Isenberg canvassing by other locals took place in Oregon, East Toledo, and elsewhere.
At Local 33, Ms. Isenberg, in her ninth campaign, acknowledged that Ms. Thurber, who entered the race Aug. 19, is a formidable opponent.
“This time it's going to be a little bit tight,” she said. “But I'm working hard, and I hope the community remembers everything I've done in the past.”
Meanwhile, nearly all the Republican candidates but no Democratic candidates joined the Libbey High School homecoming parade in South Toledo.
Ms. Thurber rode with her husband, Sam Thurber, in his red MG convertible. Tim Kuhlman, running for Lucas County Probate Court judge against incumbent Jack Puffenburger, drove his own vehicle, too - the one with the oversized pencil sticking out of the roof. [“To remind people I'm a write-in candidate,” he said.”] Allen Roy, Toledo City Council President Peter's Ujvagi's opponent in the 47th Ohio House District race, had the most unique vantage point - inside a U.S. Army Humvee.
“That was by far the highlight of my campaign, so far,” he said.
At UT, Republican candidates gathered around a recreational vehicle driven by Phillip Barbosa, running against Teresa Fedor for the 11th Ohio Senate District seat. All the Republicans were stoked about the pending appearance of Gov. Bob Taft at last night's game.
Across the way from Mr. Barbosa's RV, Judge Puffenberger, the lone Democratic candidate in attendance, exchanged friendly banter with his opponent, Mr. Kuhlman. Although he's in his fifth race for a judgeship and has never seriously been threatened, Judge Puffenberger remains focused on his quest.
“There are only two ways to run, unopposed and scared, and I'm not unopposed,” he said, admittedly stealing a line from former local GOP chairman James Brennan.
Although politicking was the first order of business yesterday, the candidates had to deal with other, normal matters as well.
Judge Puffenberger attended the annual UT law school reunion. Mr. Roy took his wife and daughter to the airport, where they departed for Connecticut. Mr. Ujvagi, whose volunteers passed out literature at UT and around District 47 yesterday, delivered the eulogy at the funeral of his friend, Emil Gavris, in Napoleon. And Mr. Barbosa visited his sister, who had just become engaged.
The candidates also had to be flexible and prepared. All of those at the UT tailgate party, dressed in casual attire, turned up in more formal dress at the annual banquet of the Greater Toledo Association of Arab Americans at SeaGate Centre within an hour of leaving UT. Mr. Ujvagi and Ms. Isenberg were there, too. Most of them returned to the game after the banquet.
Their presence at the banquet, attended by about 500 Arab Americans, made an impression on the participants; some wondered if such a turnout would have been possible 10 years earlier.
Reflecting on the community's apparent newly found influence, activist John Shousher said, “The community has grown in numbers, and our educated people are becoming involved on a higher level.”
For the first time all day, many of the Democratic candidates were together, sitting at a table paid for by the local party. Chairman Paula Ross bristled at the suggestion that her party's candidates were not as visible yesterday as the Republican candidates.
“I can tell you there was a lot going on today. I'm confident our candidates were working hard,” she said.