Thursday, February 22, 2024

January 2024 Hildo: The Resurgence of A Lo.

It took a decade, but A Lo has regained her form.

Current Lucas County Auditor Anita Lopez was once a staple of this humble column. Back in the early years she won her stripes as the unparalleled “Stepping Stone” Lopez, a moniker earned for jumping three elected positions in a scant five years. 

Lately, though, she has slowly faded out of view, seemingly content in her current position. She’s held it since two thousand six, with a failed dalliance as a Toledo mayoral candidate thrown in for good measure.

Like a political poltergeist, she’s baaaack!

Current County Commissioner Tina Wozniak is retiring with a year left in her current term, setting off a feeding frenzy to replace her. And guess who’s leading the stampede?

A Lo! Stepping Stone once more!

Hop, skip, and jump

Let’s recap A Lo’s political journey. Back at the end of the last millennium, A Lo was an unassuming attorney toiling in the less-than-lucrative non-profit sector. Then she got the itch.

In twenty oh one she ran for a seat on the Toledo school board and won. School board seats are generally unpaid positions, with board members paid a small stipend per meeting. Her term would run through twenty oh five. 

But A Lo had other aspirations. The school board was a mere short-term stepping stone in her political career.

In twenty oh four long-time County Recorder Sue Rioux announced she would not seek re-election. Enter A Lo, who had served just over a year on the school board. She ran for recorder and won. Her term would run through twenty oh eight.

Nope. County Auditor Larry Kaczala’s seat was up for re-election in twenty oh six, and A Lo smelled blood in the water.

See, Kaczala was a Republican in a county dominated by Democrats. Worse, he had accepted campaign contributions from Tom and Bernadette Noe during his unsuccessful bid to unseat Congressperson Marcy Kaptur in twenty oh four.

Twenty oh six was the year the Noe coingate scandal broke open. A Lo rode that wave to an easy win over the incumbent Kaczala. Just five years after her initial election, she was now County Auditor.

Fast forward to twenty thirteen. A Lo had won re-election in twenty ten. But there was trouble in paradise. Incumbent Toledo Mayor Mike Bell was up for re-election. He had angered organized labor by breaking union contracts through a declaration of exigent circumstances. He doubled down by becoming the public face of the ill-fated SB 5, the Ohio legislature’s attempt to permanently allow politicians to break most public union contracts.

Labor wanted someone who could beat Bell, and they settled on A Lo. In an eight-way primary race, Democratic votes won a clear plurality. Unfortunately, then-Councilman Joe McNamara split those votes with A Lo, and neither one cleared the primary, paving the way for the eventual election of D Michael Collins. And the end of the brief political career of one Don Gozdowski, who collected a grand total of three votes in the primary. You read that correctly. Three.

Carousel ride

Back at the Auditor’s office, A Lo has seemed content in her role as Auditor in the intervening decade. Until now.

A Lo was re-elected to a fifth term in twenty twenty-two, but Wozniak’s departure at the end of twenty twenty-three has A Lo jumping again.

The Central Committee of the Lucas County Democratic Party will meet in early twenty twenty-four to appoint Wozniak’s replacement. Others are interested, but A Lo seems to have the inside track. She has consistently been a top vote-getter countywide and is still a favorite of organized labor.

If A Lo gets appointed, two things will happen. First, her auditor seat will be open, and the feeding frenzy will begin anew. Second, she will have to win a March primary and November general election to keep the seat.

Oh, and at least one more thing: A Lo and Commissioner Pete Gerken will be in the same room together regularly. Let the sparks fly!

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