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Published: Tuesday, 9/6/2005

Mayoral teams woo labor, argue at annual parade

BY KIM BATES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

More than competing hands grabbing for flying candy and high school bands battling for the best sound, there was a battle of candidates too yesterday at Toledo s Labor Day parade.

With just a week remaining before the primary election, candidates for mayor and their supporters were out in force during the morning parade in downtown Toledo, flashing signs, shouting into megaphones, and shaking hands with the thousands of union workers who were on hand.

An exchange between supporters of Mayor Jack Ford and candidate Carty Finkbeiner took the spotlight momentarily during the several-hours-long parade.

McKenzie Gregory, a majorette with South Toledo s Bowsher High School Marching Band, performs in the parade.
McKenzie Gregory, a majorette with South Toledo s Bowsher High School Marching Band, performs in the parade.
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First, Mr. Ford s wife, Cynthia, jumped out of the parade line when she observed Mr. Finkbeiner on the sidelines.

The smiling Mrs. Ford stood next to Mr. Finkbeiner while she extended a sign for her husband.

Then Mr. Finkbeiner and his supporters walked in front of members of the United Auto Workers who were marching with and carrying signs for Mr. Ford.

When the Finkbeiner group reached the other side in front of a viewing table for politicians, words were exchanged between supporters on both sides.

Some of Mr. Ford s supporters and a campaign manager blasted Mr. Finkbeiner for the move, saying it took away from the main focus of the day: Respecting Toledo s unions and their history.

Olivia Montgomery, in an Ironworkers Local 55 shirt, is boosted up to watch the parade by Domingo Valadez. Olivia Montgomery, in an Ironworkers Local 55 shirt, is boosted up to watch the parade by Domingo Valadez.
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Mr. Ford, meanwhile, down-played the activity and admitted that his wife challenged former mayor Mr. Finkbeiner during the parade.

They ve done some tactics like that at other parades, Mr. Ford said. That seems to be their style. It s all right.

Mr. Finkbeiner, though, said he and his supporters didn t calculate the timing of their crossing. He said he simply needed to get to the other side of the road to where he was supposed to be standing. Like Mr. Ford, he also walked in the parade.

I think they re making an issue out of a nonissue, he said, adding that the Labor Day parade is typically a place where candidates must work hard to get their names and message out to the public.

According to polls, Mr. Ford is ranked a distant second in the primary election, competing with city Councilman Rob Ludeman and attorney Keith Wilkowski for the right to face Mr. Finkbeiner in November.

Backers of Mayor Jack Ford and
Carty Finkbeiner argue with each other. Backers of Mayor Jack Ford and Carty Finkbeiner argue with each other.
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Mr. Ludeman, a Republican, was not at yesterday s parade, citing a family commitment. Mr. Wilkowski was there walking and talking with people who were watching the event. His supporters were passing out candy along the way.

We ve had a positive response. People want change, said Mr. Wilkowski, a Democrat who opted not to walk in the parade.

He added that he believes his recent surge in advertising is making a difference and that people are recognizing him and his message.

Meeting politicians wasn t on the mind of everyone. Jayne McCullough, 62, of Toledo was there for two main reasons: to celebrate her longtime union job and the fact that her grandson, Yancy, 15, was there marching and playing trumpet in the Libbey High School band.

Ms. McCullough said the Labor Day parade is important so people don t forget the worth of unions working for better pay and benefits for their members. She is represented by the Service Employees International Union, District 1199, and works at a local nursing home.

I always come to the Labor Day parade, she said. I put all my kids through school on that job.

Contact Kim Bates at:kimbates@theblade.com or 419-724-6074.



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