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Published: Friday, 12/29/2006

Wilma Brown jumps into race to lead council

Toledo City Councilman Wilma Brown will speak at a news conference this morning about why she should be chosen to lead the 12-member body instead of current president Rob Ludeman or challenger Frank Szollosi.

Meanwhile John Irish, chairman of the Lucas County Democratic Party, said that he personally favors Mrs. Brown, although he said the party does not take an official position.

She and Mr. Szollosi are Democrats, while Mr. Ludeman, who has led council this year, is a Republican.

Mr. Szollosi officially announced his candidacy on Wednesday, saying he both could challenge and work with Mayor Carty Finkbeiner.

Mrs. Brown said she will announce her candidacy not because Mr. Ludeman has been a bad president, but that she could help bring together council members divided against each other and the mayor.

She said she would help her colleagues understand "we're all in it together. It's not just the mayor. It's the mayor and council," she said. "I think there should be some compromise between the two. That's not what Frank is presenting. He thinks everything that happened is the mayor's fault."

Mr. Szollosi, in a press release announcing his candidacy, said that he "is working against efforts by Mayor Carty Finkbeiner and the Lucas County Democratic Party that installed Republican Council President Rob Ludeman."

Mr. Szollosi could not be reached for comment last night.

The party hasn't traditionally taken an official position on who should be president of council, Mr. Irish said.

"We certainly would like to see a Democrat in the position of council president and someone that will work will at unifying council as well as the administration," he said.

He said the Mr. Ludeman "has done a good job. I'm not going to say anything negative about Rob."

While there is no party position, "I've talked to a few of the council members and expressed my personal view who I think would be the best for that position," Mr. Irish said. "I think that someone like Wilma Brown - who would be the first female, certainly first African-American female, the one with the most seniority among Democrats and seems willing to be a unifier - is an excellent choice."

Mrs. Brown has been on council since 1998. She was a member of the Toledo Board of Education from 1985-97, during which she was president several times.

Mr. Szollosi made a pitch for his candidacy to Mrs. Brown and council members Michael Ashford and Mark Sobczak last night after a swearing-in ceremony for State Rep. Edna Brown (D., Toledo) in Braden United Methodist Church, according to Wilma Brown.

"He presented himself as the next person to run council and get it straightened around, [that] he should be the one," Mrs. Brown said. "I just told him I thought I should be."

Mrs. Brown said she has the support of Mr. Ashford, Mr. Sobczak, and Phil Copeland. Mr. Sobczak confirmed his support. Mr. Ashford could not reached, and Mr. Copeland said he has not made a commitment.

Unlike school boards and other elected bodies, Toledo City Council has no annual organizational meeting. But Mr. Ludeman said last night, "I have a pretty good inkling that Tuesday nightthere will be some motions made, and we'll see what happens."

Without motions to challenge Mr. Ludeman, he would remain president.

"Sounds like I'm the most feared person in northwest Ohio," he said. "It's very interesting. We're facing a budget hole of $10.7 million, and I think our efforts would be better concentrated on taking care of that instead of playing politics."



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