By Rev. Donald L. Perryman, Ph.D.
The Truth Contributor
The price of doing the same old thing is higher than the price of change.
– Bill Clinton
The outcome of our November 2 municipal election was precisely as expected.
Incumbent Wade Kapszukiewicz bested former mayor Carty Finkbeiner by an overwhelming margin, 69 percent to 30 percent in the mayor’s race. The public also elected a group of six at-large councilpersons, including four women, three of whom participated in their first political campaign.
Here are a few takeaways from the election.
Mayor’s Race: Let’s Go Forward Not Backwards!
Carty’s strategy to run a Law-and-Order campaign and “hankering for a past when everything was peaches and cream” turned out to be a fallacy of nostalgic thinking. Voters didn’t buy the premise that Carty’s previous terms as mayor somehow represented the “good old days.”
Certainly, Carty could point to previous successes such as Owens-Corning and Jeep, which got done primarily because of his indefatigable drive and single-minded pursuit. In addition, his work in saving UTMC and championing former UT star basketball player John Rudley’s induction into the UT Hall of Fame are remarkable examples of Finkbeiner’s exceptional advocacy and zeal.
Yet, we must also remember many negatives lest we look back on Carty’s reign with rose-colored glasses. For example, former mayor Mike Bell still maintains that Carty left his administration with a $40 million deficit. To this day, there also remain bad hotel deals Carty made that Toledo taxpayers are still paying for. And, more recently, have we forgotten that Finkbeiner finished a distant third to Paula Hicks-Hudson by 10,000 votes in the 2015 campaign for mayor?
The Blade was correct in its assessment that Toledo loves Carty, but as an activist and not necessarily a mayor.
On the other hand, Kapszukiewicz captured every neighborhood, age group, and ethnic group in the 2021 general election. Wade won 100 percent of all wards (24/24) and 94 percent of all precincts (193/206), and even 58 percent of the central city vote. In 2017, he only won 16 percent of the central city and lost badly in several other neighborhoods.
The 2021 lopsided election results testify that voters are more confident in Wade’s growth and forward-looking leadership than what Carty promised in recapturing so-called past glories.
City Council At-Large: Infusion of New Blood
This group is a fresh, women-led troop whose message spoke, “Let’s connect to the community. Let’s take on issues that advance us.” The successful candidates organized themselves into a unit that supported each other. When they were out canvassing, they carried the slate and talked about their own campaign and that of their colleagues’. As in the mayor’s race, backward-looking campaigns of grievance or law-and-order failed.
Katie Moline finished comfortably in first place, more than 4,000 votes ahead of Nick Komives. Moline’s achievement was partly due to having just been on the ballot the year before when she ran in the special election against Tony Dia. The name recognition undoubtedly gave Moline a leg up. However, Moline’s campaign calling card was fiscal accountability, which she promoted vigorously.
Look for Moline to leverage her successful fiscal responsibility brand for a future run to replace Anita Lopez for county auditor as Lopez shifts her focus to a judicial run.
Nick Komives is a respected leader who, during his term, has proposed more legislation than any other council member. He has done a marvelous job of being responsive to people and is seen as a strong leader in the community. With Wade now being term-limited, look for Komives to run for mayor in four years. In the meantime, expect councilmembers to start crawling all over each other to become president of Toledo City Council, a position for which Komives makes a legitimate claim.
Michele Grim is a new candidate that ran a well-funded campaign and was seen on television a lot. Grim is more progressive than most Toledoans have been, and her finishing third reveals the voters’ desire for new blood and informed policymaking.
Cerssandra McPherson, who brings an activist mentality like Komives, started with a built-in following, having the labor movement’s strength behind her. Yet, many also perceived her as a solid councilperson. Within the Lucas County Democrats, she was always willing to support other candidates collaborating on literature drops and other campaign activities.
Tiffany Preston-Whitman, in contrast, lacked the built-in labor support that McPherson had, and as an appointee to Council, would have been the easiest of the candidates to lose. Indeed, there are several examples of former Toledo councilmembers appointed to a seat but unable to retain the seat or get elected. Yet, Whitman ran a robust campaign to finish fifth comfortably. She is an example that if you serve effectively, you can get the voters’ support. It’s not always about having the biggest press conference or causing trouble at council meetings. Preston did nothing to draw attention to herself other than be a rock-solid councilperson.
George Sarantou made the final at-large spot, primarily due to name recognition. The former city councilman is a Republican who ran as an Independent but has also served on the boards of several African American social services agencies. Sarantou took much flak about difficulties he experienced while serving in the administration but was never a lousy councilperson.
On the Cusp:
Mac Driscoll finished outside the top six but impressed many voters. No one knew much about him when the Democratic Party endorsed him. However, Driscoll dazzled the Chamber of Commerce and many others who believed his thoughtful solutions and way of analyzing problems would be a help on City Council. If Driscoll continues to build his profile, he will have a reasonable shot at getting elected the next time.
What happened to Savage?
Harvey Savage finished out of the money in ’21 just as he did in 2017. Savage always seems to run well in the primary but not the general election for reasons unknown to me. However, this is the second time he just hasn’t come through. And no, I don’t believe it is because Harvey is not related to the well-known philanthropists Bob and the late John Savage.
Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, PhD, at firstname.lastname@example.org