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A choice for a change

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Sandy Spang’s entrance into the county commissioner race offers something new for Lucas County voters: competition.

THE BLADE/ANDY MORRISON
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For the first time in eight years Lucas County voters will have a real choice when they vote for Lucas County Commissioner.

Gary Byers, who was recently defeated as a judge in Maumee, is running as the endorsed Democrat.

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We are told that Mr. Byers will bring judicial experience to the office of county commissioner. It’s not clear how or why such experience is relevant. And his judicial tenure was controversial, in any case.

As judge, Mr. Byers failed to monitor the bookkeeping of one his staff, who then stole $31,000. Rather than agree with the Maumee City Council on an audit by the state auditor’s office at a reasonable price, which would then be open for public scrutiny, Mr. Byers used court money to hire a costly private auditor at a higher price than the state auditor. The court’s initial contract said the audit would be for the court’s eyes only, raising questions about the court’s transparency. Ultimately, the court’s audit was completed at a cost of $245 per hour — compared with $50 per hour that would have been the cost of the state audit — and was released to the public.

In the coming campaign, Mr. Byers may well show voters that he can adapt to a branch of government that demands collaboration and transparency, but clearly his learning curve would be steep in this regard.

Also filing as a Democrat was Michael Hood, a Spencer Township trustee.

The Republican in the race, so far, is Sandy Bashaw, a nurse and a strong supporter of President Donald Trump. That’s the extent of her political background. She also has a pastoral degree from Oral Roberts University, and is married with four sons.

The candidate likely to get the backing of many Republican and independent voters in Lucas County will be Toledo Councilman Sandy Spang, who said last week that she intends to run for commissioner — as an independent.

A former Republican, Ms. Spang ditched her old party in 2010. Toledo’s election process is officially nonpartisan, so the ballot doesn’t identify candidates by party. Candidates who are or lean Republican have nothing to gain, and may even suffer in heavily Democratic Toledo, by being associated with the GOP.

Ms. Spang was the third highest vote-getter when she ran for council in 2013 and the highest vote-getter in 2017. She ran for mayor in 2015 in a crowded special election that was won by the incumbent, Democrat Paula Hicks-Hudson. Ms. Spang came in fourth.

Can an independent win a partisan countywide race? It is a proposition that has never been tested. But if anyone can, it is Ms. Spang who is a formidable personality, campaigner, and policy wonk.

In any event, she is providing a real choice — the first voters have had in a very long time.

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