Rob Ludeman has barely settled into the corner office of the Toledo City Council president, but Democrats are already discussing kicking him out.
Democrats boast a three-vote council advantage, but squabbling between party factions helped Mr. Ludeman, a Republican, gain two Democratic votes and win the presidency last week.
Democratic leaders ramped up the pressure to reverse that - and install a Democrat - this week, starting at a closed-door lunch meeting of dozens of local elected Democrats and party operatives.
The meeting, on Monday in Toledo's Warehouse District, included harsh criticism of the council president vote from U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Toledo and the newly elected state Democratic Party chairman, Chris Redfern, along with calls from several attendees to revisit the decision.
"There was widespread agreement that the political mistakes of the recent past can soon be corrected," Mr. Redfern said last night. "And there's going to be an effort in the next couple weeks to determine if Democrats can set aside their differences and indifferences to start working again for the families they care about."
Several attendees said they couldn't agree Monday on which Democrat to elect president, which was the sticking point of the original vote. Asked yesterday if they favored a revote, several council Democrats answered carefully or didn't answer.
Councilman Mark Sobczak, who voted for Mr. Ludeman last week, declined comment. Councilman Frank Szollosi, who voted for Democrats on all four presidential ballots, said he didn't favor a GOP president last week, "and I won't be in favor of one next week."
Councilman Ellen Grachek, who also voted Democratic on every ballot, said she'd be open to another vote. She said the continued presidential debate "is becoming disruptive to city business."
Mr. Redfern warned the Monday meeting that if local Democratic factions - the so-called A Team and B Team - can't bridge their differences soon, the state party will set up its own operation for statewide candidates in Lucas County and those candidates, including the Democratic nominee for governor, might curb campaigning here.
"He said if we don't get our act together, we can't blame those people if they don't want to come to Lucas County," said Wade Kapszukiewicz, the Lucas County treasurer, who spent $500 from his campaign account to cater the luncheon. "And he also said if you don't get your act together, we might have to bypass the party in running the coordinated campaign."
Mr. Kapszukiewicz said 71 people attended the meeting, including Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, local party chairman Jack Wilson, and both Democratic Lucas County commissioners, Pete Gerken and Tina Skeldon-Wozniak.
Mr. Redfern said he'll follow up by convening a smaller group of county leaders to broker a truce between the factions.
The local party's executive director, Domenic Montalto, said Democrats should compromise soon on another council issue: the appointment of a District 3 councilman to replace Bob McCloskey, who won an at-large seat in November. Mr. Montalto said both factions should support Taylor Balderas, the party's endorsed candidate.
"Here's an opportunity to show some goodwill," he said.
Mr. Ludeman, who still has a picture to hang in his new office, said he hoped Democrats would let the presidential vote stand.
"Everyone on council knows I'm going to deal with them fairly," he said, adding later: "I would prefer that our group look like we're trying to do the best for citizens and taxpayers, not political parties."
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