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Toledo Councilman Betty Shultz, the longtime officeholder who switched to the Republican Party last week after nearly three decades as a Democrat, said during a taping of The Editors television show that she did so because she felt she was being punished for exercising her independence.
It started years ago, she told Thomas Walton, vice president-editor of The Blade and host of the program, after she refused to support Democrat Peter Ujvagi for the post of president of council. Mr. Ujvagi, supported by his party leaders and other Democrats, won the position anyway, and then took action to isolate her, Ms. Shultz said.
The council president makes committee assignments and plays a major role in setting council's agenda. The 12 members of council elect their leader.
“The decision had been made to cut me out of the flow of information,” Ms. Shultz said. “I couldn't make informed decisions.”
Ms. Shultz acknowledged that her support for Democrat Ray Kest - who ran against endorsed Democrat Jack Ford - in the 2001 Toledo mayoral contest also might have soured her relationship with party leaders, but she reminded Mr. Walton that she tossed her support to Mr. Kest well before Mr. Ford entered the race.
In the week since her decision was made public, Ms. Shultz said she has heard plenty from citizens, but that there have been “four or five positive [responses] for each negative” one.
“I choose to believe that there are many relationships that have not been damaged,” she said.
Council is dominated by Democrats, even with her defection from the party. Since she crossed the aisle, there are now nine Democrats and three Republicans. She said, though, that she could not stand by and watch those in the majority continue to meddle in affairs not germane to their jurisdiction. She criticized council's decision to take a stance on the war against Iraq, and in the disposition of the Lathrop House, a structure in Sylvania that some say was a stop on the Underground Railroad.
The owner of the house, St. Joseph Catholic Church, had wanted to demolish it to make way for other construction, but the city of Sylvania has intervened. Ms. Shultz said that it is none of Toledo council's business to weigh in on the matter.
Toledo council passed a resolution urging preservation of the house.
Ms. Shultz, one of four councilmen to vote against the resolution, said “the final straw” in her decision to jump to the GOP came in the aftermath of that vote, held late last month, when she heard that other Democrats had aired “the accusation that I was discriminatory” against African-Americans.
Ms. Shultz told Mr. Walton she also felt Democratic Party Chairman Paula Ross was miffed at her refusal to run against Lucas County Auditor Larry Kaczala in the 2002 election. Ms. Shultz said she believed Mr. Kaczala was doing a good job and that, politically, she did not think he could be defeated last year.
Ms. Shultz was first elected to the Washington Local school board in 1975, and moved to city council after her election in 1993. She is the longest-serving elected official in Lucas County now in office.
The Editors airs at 9 tonight on WGTE-TV, Channel 30, and at 12:30 p.m. Sunday on WBGU-TV, Channel 27.