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Published: Thursday, 2/21/2013

Toledo City Council Democrats say they will support party-endorsed candidates in future

McNamara, Craig came under fire last month for not supporting endorsee Enright

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Two Democratic members of Toledo City Council have assented to support party-endorsed candidates from now on, perhaps calming the tempest stirred when they refused to vote for their party's preferred candidate to fill a council vacancy.

Ron Rothenbuhler, chairman of the Lucas County Democratic Party, said that council members Joe McNamara and Mike Craig agreed before today's meeting of the party executive committee to write letters stating their support for endorsed candidates. In addition, Mr. McNamara -- a mayoral candidate -- agreed to resign as party second vice chairman and as co-chairman of the policy and bylaws committee, Mr. Rothenbuhler said.  Mr. Craig does not hold any positions within the party.

Those solutions was endorsed unanimously by the executive committee.

Mr. Craig and Mr. McNamara could not be reached for comment tonight. 

The council members came under fire by some in the party last month when they supported Jack Ford, a Democrat and a former Toledo mayor and a former councilman, rather than the party's endorsee, Shaun Enright, to fill a vacancy created when Phil Copeland became Lucas County recorder. Mr. Enright of East Toledo, an electricians' union organizer, was selected for the seat.

The party's bylaws require members of the executive committee to support the party's candidates. Some in the party, most vocally Dennis Duffey of the Ohio Building and Construction Trades Council, alleged that Mr. McNamara violated his oath to the executive committee and called for action to be taken against him.

In response, the executive committee authorized Mr. Rothenbuhler to form a committee to review the matter. The committee met for two days over two weekends and drafted a one-page resolution. Mr. McNamara and Mr. Craig were presented with the document and agreed to accept it before the meeting today, Mr. Rothenbuhler said.

"We had members of the committee, a few, who wanted to push the envelope all the way over the edge, and some didn't want to do anything at all," said Mr. Rothenbuhler. "I decided to use my union negotiating skills of 30 years, working together to come up with hopefully a common goal."

He did not view the review committee's recommendation, which the councilmen accepted, as a sanction.

"I stopped them using the word. We were looking for a resolution acceptable to all," Mr. Rothenbuhler said. "Sanction is a strong word, and I would appreciate that we didn't use it.

"I'm trying to set a pattern that you don't have to love each other, but you have to work together," he said. "That means you are much stronger and send a much more positive message to the community when you work to a positive resolution."

Their eligibility to screen for the party's endorsement remains the same as any other Democratic candidate, Mr. Rothenbuhler said.

In other business, the Democratic executive committee unanimously endorsed Paula Hicks-Hudson to be the next president of council, succeeding Mr. McNamara, who kept his council seat but resigned the post to run for mayor.

Ms. Hicks-Hudson and Adam Martinez, both Democrats, and George Sarantou, a Republican, were nominated to be president at the council meeting Tuesday. After five votes, none of the candidates mustered the support of a majority of council members.

With the executive committee endorsement of Ms. Hicks-Hudson, Democratic council members who do not support the endorsed candidate "would be in the same predicament that Joe and Mike were in," Mr. Rothenbuhler said.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182. 



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