After weeks of speculation whether she wanted to run for mayor, Lucas County Auditor Anita Lopez is expected today to jump into the race in which she is already attracting wide labor backing.
Ms. Lopez, who also has served as a Toledo Public Schools’ board member, Toledo affirmative action director, and Lucas County Recorder, has set an “Election Kickoff Rally” for 5 p.m. today at the Aurora Gonzalez Community Center in South Toledo, the center of the city’s Hispanic community.
Ms. Lopez refused Monday to confirm that she would be declaring for mayor, but her Web site gave the story away.
Until the Web site was taken down for “maintenance” about 6 p.m. it displayed a red banner reading “Anita Lopez Democrat for Toledo Mayor,” and had the message: “I am running for Mayor because I believe in Toledo, and I know we can and must do better.”
Ms. Lopez, 43, who resides on Belvedere Drive in South Toledo, joins a race that is well under way but still with the potential for drawing other candidates.
Already declared are Mayor Michael Bell, who is not affiliated with a political party; Democratic City Councilman Joe McNamara; city employee Alan Cox, also politically unaffiliated; Republican Opal Covey, and Libertarian Michael Konwinski.
Other potential candidates are City Councilman D. Michael Collins, who is politically unaffiliated, and Republican Theresa Gabriel, former city assistant chief operating officer and former municipal court clerk.
Mr. McNamara hit Ms. Lopez indirectly on Monday, calling on his opponents to join him in refusing to accept contributions from government employees over whom they have the power to hire and fire. Included in the pledge was a ban on government employees campaigning on their behalf during normal business hours, even if they take vacation time to do so.
Mr. McNamara said the ethics pledge ensures residents that candidates aren’t using the power of their office to get elected.
“Everyone should sign this pledge. It’s not difficult or complicated or asking too much,” he said. “This is just saying don’t use your government office to help you get elected to something different.”
In his 2011 campaign-finance reports, Mr. Bell reported receiving more than $10,000 from city employees. Ms. Lopez also regularly reports contributions from her staff who also volunteer in her campaigns. Mr. McNamara has no city or county employees over whom he has direct supervision.
Mr. Bell was in transit Monday, returning from an economic-development trip to Germany and not immediately available. Mark Luetke, a political marketing consultant for Mr. Bell, said the pledge makes good headlines for Mr. McNamara.
“It’s something you would expect from a challenger at this point in the race. I look forward to Mr. McNamara coming with discussions of some of the real issues that face the community,” Mr. Luetke said.
Ms. Lopez’s rally is expected to send a jolt through the mayoral contest because she had been keeping opponents and supporters guessing for weeks after other candidates had already declared. Her campaign said that among those at the rally would be “Toledoans, working men and women, business leaders, community leaders, elected officials, and all who care about the future of our city.”
Considered a strong union candidate, Ms. Lopez has been urged to run by the Northwestern Ohio Building & Construction Trades Council, and she is expected to pick up support from other unions as well. During 2012, area unions gave at least $11,000 to her campaign committee.
Bill Lichtenwald, president of Teamsters Local 20 and president of the Ohio Conference of Teamsters, said he supports Ms. Lopez and said a political opinion poll last summer identified her as one of Toledo’s most popular politicians, right up next to U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo). Mr. McNamara, he said, is not experienced enough to be mayor.
“She’s the only candidate. She’s a lady that comes from modest means and worked her way through law school. She’s a good politician. She’s a street fighter. We’re excited about her,” Mr. Lichtenwald said. He said members of the Teamsters executive board will be at her rally. “She’s got a big following. Anytime Anita puts on a fund-raiser, she draws a lot of people.”
He said his union was disappointed by Mayor Bell’s move to privatize Teamster trash collection jobs and his enthusiastic support of Issue 2, the 2011 statewide referendum that defeated the public-employee bargaining bill.
“He said there were going to be sacrifices for everybody. His side has not made sacrifices. He made his mind up with no communication whatsoever that he would privatize us,” Mr. Lichtenwald said. “We were willing to work with him.”
Jerry Chabler, a veteran Lucas County Democratic fund-raiser, said the poll results were just a snapshot and circumstances could have changed. “I do know she has strong labor support. There’s no question about that,” he said.
Steve Herwat, deputy mayor and a contributor to Mr. Bell’s campaign committee, categorized the statements of Mr. Bell’s opponents as political rhetoric. He said the employees for the private refuse firm that collects trash in Toledo on contract with Lucas County are represented by Teamsters.
“Obviously the campaign is on. The mayor welcomes all persons who are interested in joining the race. It’s up to the voters to decide between political rhetoric and results,” Mr. Herwat said.
Mr. Herwat added, “There’s nothing wrong under the law for people, including people who work for the mayor, to make contributions.”
Contact Tom Troy at: email@example.com or 419-724-6058.