By Rev. Donald L. Perryman, Ph.D.
The Truth Contributor
If you want your [campaign]to succeed, you have to be a visible, in -the-trenches leader… Make yourself available where the action is, and note how people rally to your commitment. – Kindra Hall
The common perception is that political endorsements serve as a mental shortcut to help voters become clear on a candidate’s identity and positions on issues.
Yet, when the Lucas County Democratic Party endorsed seven candidates for just six at-large Toledo City Council seats, its decision was quite telling. Pure and simple, the Party’s screening committee lacked strong confidence in their own slate’s ability to get elected.
While endorsements must be taken with a grain of salt, the Party recognizes that pure name recognition is the key in tightly-contested multi-candidate elections.
Voters walking into the booth for the September 14 primary election will select six candidates without knowing possibly 2/3 of the 19 candidates listed on the ballot. This could potentially make for intriguing outcomes in the general at-large city council race.
For those who are looking for a confident forecast of the final six at-large council seats, here are some sure predictions:
The Top Tier:
It’s all about exposure, earned media, and how much money you can raise. The following candidates should finish in spots one through four:
- Nick Komives
Komives has spent a ton of money on the primary. His reputation for submitting relevant voter-friendly legislation has also provided much media exposure over the last couple of years. As a result, Komives is a shoo-in for reelection!
- Katie Moline
The CPA that, in a short time, has gained notoriety as a tightfisted budget overseer on council. Moline is a conservative or moderate Democrat supported by the police and fire unions, which are somewhat overrated on turnout but have influence. Moline also possesses a great marketing machine that has provided her with considerable exposure to the public.
- Michele Grim
Grim is playing it smart, knowing she has to finish well in the primary. No one comes from eighth or ninth place in the primary to finish in the money in the general. Focusing on opportunities for youth and gun violence prevention and enforcement, the hard-working first-time candidate appears everywhere in television ads. If no other candidate steps up to match her spending on TV commercials, Grim definitely makes the primary and finishes in the top tier in the general election.
- George Sarantou
Legacy on the ballot matters, and Sarantou is at the head of the list based on name recognition. The top three finishers will spend a lot of money. Then you have to fight against Sarantou, the former three-time city councilman. He also has the backing of a large Greek community behind him. He wasn’t the greatest as finance director, one political operative said. Still, he presents a serious challenge to the other at-large hopefuls.
The Second Tier:
Incumbents typically don’t get knocked off of city council. Adam Martinez, Kurt Young and Karen McConnell-Hancock are notable exceptions. However, that is a possible scenario as only two candidates in this most competitive tier will be successful in the general election. It will be a tragedy if no African American females remain on city council.
It is then paramount for candidates in this tier to do well with their base but also break through to other voting blocs in Toledo. Otherwise, the final two spots will be a coin flip.
- Harvey V. Savage, Jr.
The executive director of the Martin Luther King Kitchen for the Poor brings some name recognition, as the famed Savage Park is named after the candidate’s philanthropic father. Savage can make it successfully in 2021 if he avoids the precipitous slide between the primary and general elections, which he experienced in his unsuccessful attempt at city council in 2017.
- Tiffany Preston-Whitman
Appointed in 2020 to replace suspended at-large city council members, this is Whitman’s first campaign. She is very knowledgeable on relevant issues and outspoken in her short time on council. Still, she does not have the earned media presence as those in the top tier.
- Mac Driscoll
Driscoll is a sleeper candidate running his first campaign on a platform that promotes investment into Toledo’s neighborhoods. With considerable digital marketing experience, Driscoll will maintain a competitive advantage if his campaign raises enough funds to continue to make his name familiar to voters. So, I’ll keep my eyes on his media buys.
- Cerssandra McPherson
McPherson has gotten press for being outspoken concerning gun violence in the black community. However, McPherson did not help her campaign when she failed to support proposed legislation that would have added Juneteenth as a paid holiday for City of Toledo employees.
The City had proposed trading Juneteenth for Good Friday, a move vigorously protested by the African-American faith community. However, rather than just voting for an amendment that allowed both holidays, McPherson sent the new ordinance to committee, citing budget issues. This was a “rookie mistake,” said some, citing McPherson’s admitted political immaturity.
Does McPherson keep her appointed seat? Only if she learns not to anger, shake up, or abandon her base by taking questionable stands on issues not in their interests.
The Bottom Tier:
Campaigns Matter! Most lower-tier candidates, as a rule, are there because they don’t have a campaign war chest that could buy them positive name recognition. However, this tier could change if someone drops $30,000 on a TV commercial and runs it the last two weeks of the election. Otherwise, the following are on the outside, looking in.
- Larry Sykes
Sykes, despite his legal issues, still has name recognition. But, typically, voters don’t do a deep dive in primary elections. So, the former councilman will likely end up in the top 12 but falls short of the final six. I won’t be surprised, however, if he finishes in the top eight.
- Tony Dia
Dia’s previous campaign for city council was wrecked by an unfavorable newspaper article about a problem he had as a juvenile. Depending on how much he puts into a media campaign, he might finish from 8 -10 due to name recognition.
- Alfonso Narvaez
No one has more zeal and community spirit than Narvaez, who has fallen short several times in his quest for city council. Yet, somehow and in some way, Narvaez gets out of his community activist foundation into the political arena. Unfortunately, it just won’t be in the 2021 city council at-large election.
The Off the Grid Tier:
Steve Fought worked for U.S. Representative Marcy Kaptur for years. However, I have not seen him appear in the media. Ron Murphy has run before but also seems not to put a lot of money into media buys.
Likewise, many others are also apparently missing in a contest where name recognition and being visible is the name of the game.
Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, PhD, at email@example.com