It was predictable. It was inevitable. But now that it has happened, it changes everything.
That might seem like unwarranted hyperbole, and perhaps it will be just that. But mark down April 12th just past and remember the announcement that day which changed the race for the 22nd Floor once and for all.
Yessiree, kidz, that was the day that Toledo Councilwoman Sandy Spang officially began her race for mayor. Or mebbe LC Commissioner Pete Gerken. Or even (shudder) He Who Shall Not Be Named.
None of those wanabes officially declared their intentions on that fateful day in April. But they darn well should, and soon. That’s because on April 12th Councilman Tom Waniewski announced that he has entered the race.
And that throws said race wide open.
See, the race was shaping up to be a showdown between incumbent Paula HH and challenger, County Treasurer Wade Kapszukiewicz. Although Wade has yet to declare unequivocally, he is raising and spending thousands of dollars on an unofficial campaign. His stated reason for challenging fellow Democrat PHH is that polling shows she can’t win.
Powers dat be have worked mightily to convince Wade to get out of the race, reminding him that Paula is term limited and he could be a shoo in four years from now. But he seems resolute in his determination to run. He has been fundraising among the big money folks and courting the votes of Republicans and rightward leaning Ds.
He could still have changed his mind about running, of course. But not now. With Waniewski in the race there is a real threat to PHH. T Wah is a Republican with friends among Ds and unions. He’d have a hard time denting Paula in the central city, but he is wildly popular in District Five, which he represents on council, and that West and Northwest Toledo district typically has a high voter turnout. It is not inconceivable that he could actually win.
Except his voting base is almost precisely that of Kapszukiewicz. Wade formerly represented District Five. Both he and T Wah are of Polish descent from North Toledo. Both are white males. Both will court the same donor base. And T Wah will strip any hope Wade had of gaining support from Republicans.
All of which puts Wade in a conundrum. T Wah’s entry into the race makes it much harder for Wade to win. But it also ensures that Wade can’t leave the race, either, lest T Wah beat Paula. So Wade is forced to suffer the scorn that comes with going against the Democratic establishment in challenging PHH, while also knowing he can’t win.
T Wah has opened the door for someone from District Two, the other district with high voter turnout. With T and Wade splitting the District Five vote, and PHH locking up the central city, someone with South Toledo bona fides could conceivably clear the primary and run against Paula in the head-to-head knockout round in November. With Wade and T Wah gone after the primary, such a challenger could lock up Republican votes and those from District Five and win.
Enter Sandy Spang, who has mayoral ambitions and strong South Toledo ties. No, she’d have to forego a sure fire re-election to her council seat. That likely won’t happen.
It is Gerken who has the most obvious road to the 22nd Floor. The former Jeep worker and South Toledo resident could lock up labor support, use south end votes to clear the primary, and clean up with the disgruntled white guy vote in November.
We expect Gerken’s announcement by June.
Meanwhile, He Who Shall Not Be Named, if you are reading this, forget about it. We were just kidding. There is no path to the 22nd Floor for a south ender like you. We’ve seen that film too many times before. Retirement suits you well.