It just might be the most thankless job in local politics.
The mayor of Toledo must lead a bloated, lumbering bureaucracy crammed with political hacks and first cousins biding their time and waiting for a fat government pension. The mayor is the public face of an aging city caught betwixt its industrial past and its funky, artsy, eds and meds future. They must cope with a curmudgeonly electorate who wants miles and miles of crumbling roads and sidewalks fixed last week. And they are expected to do all this with a budget hamstrung by an aging population, dwindling tax base, and state and federal budget cuts.
To succeed, you gotta be one part talking head and a couple of dozen parts magician. Is it any wonder no one ever gets re-elected to this god-forsaken job?
Strong for Toledo
That’s not quite right. Since the voters created the current “strong mayor” form of municipal government, exactly one mayor has been elected to two consecutive terms. He Who Shall Not Be Named won re-election back in ninety-seven by several hundred votes. Over a gravestone salesman who no had ever heard of, and most couldn’t name right now. Nick Wichowski, or some such nonsense.
Since then, Jack Ford, HWSNBN (again), and Mike Bell have all been one-termers. Heck, He Who Shall Not Be Named was threatened with a recall vote less than a year into his most recent term. Michael Denny Collins passed away in his first term, to be succeeded by current Mayor Paula HH. Who has now served a bit less than two years, and is up for re-election this fall.
So it is perfectly understandable that the local Dems are a bit squeamish at PHH’s re-election prospects. If He Who Shall Not Be Named could barely beat some sort of Wichowska-whozis, can Paula beat the odds and win over a truly formidable candidate?
Remember, because she succeeded a deceased former mayor, Paula won a special election in twenty fifteen without a primary to winnow the field. It was a one-time race-to-the-top election, with former mayors Bell and HWSNBN, Collins’ grieving widow, a sitting and past member of Toledo City Council,and others battling it out. Paula won handily, but still only got a thirty-five per cent plurality of the vote.
Leap of faith
This year thirty-five per cent is a double digit loser. There will be a primary which Paula must clear. It will then be a head- to-head race to the general election, with fifty per cent plus one vote needed to win.
Can Paula pull it off, when no recent mayor has come close?
Odds makers won’t take that bet. Mayor Paula faces a steep climb, with an electorate itching for a fight after last year’s Presidential clusterdump. Can she win the mad-as-hell-and-not-gonna- take-it-anymore vote? The pundits and prognosticators think not.
And Dems are thus really, really worried that translates into a Mayor- elect Spang, or Ludeman, or Waniewski, or whatever.
EnterWade-man. WadeKapszukiewicz sees this as an opportunity to finally ascend the mayoral ladder. Or leap off the mayoral cliff.
Normally we would say Wade has little chance of winning. Actually, we would ask why the heck he would want to. He can be LC Treasurer for another thirty years, with good pay and a staff to do the actual work. Instead he wants to walk into the Mayor of Toledo firing squad?
Anyway, Wade isn’t exactly charming as a public speaker, and he has been pretty invisible as Treasurer. In normal times he’d be a less than perfect candidate.
But these are mad-as-hell times. We doubt Paula can beat the odds, or win the mad-as-hellnicks. Will the Dems dance with the mayor that brung ‘em? Or will they roll the dice, withdraw support from the incumbent, and wade in with Wade? Or possibly recruit someone better poised to win?
Or do they face the ultimate nightmare? We shudder to think. Welcome to the twenty-second floor, Mayor-elect He Who Shall Not Be Named.