It’s the ultimate political insult. It refers to someone who is elected to office, only to be turned out of office by voters after a single term.
Winning re-election is supposed to be easy. An incumbent has the bully pulpit. Media coverage is pretty much automatic. Call a press event, and they will come.
Name recognition, the mother’s milk of election campaigns, is a done deal for an incumbent. Thousands of voters have already seen the incumbent’s name on the ballot, and a large percentage of those voters granted the incumbent their vote. In order to lose, an incumbent has to have really screwed the pooch.
Think Adam Martinez, the one-term Toledo City Councilman. Elected to office as a fresh, young, dynamic face in twenty oh nine, Martinez promptly cast his lot with then-Mayor Mike Bell’s call for exigent circumstances to overturn duly negotiated labor contracts. Martinez became a pariah to organized labor, who targeted him in twenty thirteen. When he felt the heat, Martinez doubled down and endorsed Bell himself for re-election as Mayor. Needless to say, Martinez was a one-termer.
Martinez’ story is a cautionary tale. He was smart and good looking. He should have been a shoo-in for re-election. But one bad misstep haunted him throughout his single term, and he became a target for a powerful political force. Bye, Felicia.
The HWSNBN exception
The record for Toledo Mayors is a string of one-termers, with only one exception. That one exception is He Who Shall Not Be Named, who barely won re-election in nineteen ninety-seven against a graveyard marker salesman who no one has heard of before or since, Nick something or other. And even HWSNBN became a one-termer later in his career when he bowed out in twenty oh nine because of the looming economic collapse he had failed to prepare the city budget for.
The real oddity in the mix is PHH, who was elevated to Mayor upon the death of former-Mayor Mike Collins, and won election to the full term in a special election later that year. She won the election with less than fifty percent of the vote due to the vagaries of the Toledo City Charter. She then promptly lost her bid at another term in twenty seventeen.
The other two mayors since the strong mayor form of government, Jack Ford and Bell, were one-termers, and Collins failed to complete even one term due to his untimely death.
The record for Toledo Mayors is, to say the least, littered with one-termers.
Wade on the hook
All of which brings us to the present day, and first-term Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz. Wade made Paula a one-termer in twenty seventeen, choosing to run after polling showed she might lose to Republican Tom Waniewski, and beating her easily.
Wade has been a political mainstay for decades, most recently serving as a popular County Treasurer. He has been a popular Mayor, presiding over a strong Toledo economy. He looks poised to be exception number two to the string of one-term Toledo Mayors.
If he can stop shooting himself in the foot, that is. First, it was the wildly unpopular change to the free lunchtime parking downtown. We have no idea why Wade would waste political goodwill on such a bonehead move. The impact of this gaffe won’t be felt until its full implementation next year. But Wade will still have time for the public to forget before his re-election campaign in twenty twenty-one.
Then there are the interminable road construction projects. Take Monroe and Secor. This intersection is a nightmare during rush hour in the best of times. This year it has been under construction endlessly, with little noticeable progress. Nothing enrages voters like long commute delays.
This too may pass, though, as it will likely be forgotten in two years. As long as Wade doesn’t allow similarly year-long construction delays in twenty twenty-one, he should be okay.
His latest self-inflicted wound might be longer-lasting, however. While the average voter might not notice, or care, Wade’s administration has poked the powerful building trades unions by failing to include them on a large City construction project. The administration quickly scrambled to right the wrong.
Labor has been largely supportive of the Wade mayoralty. While voters are fickle and may forget their parking and road construction angst, labor unions never forget.
Wade is staring the dreaded moniker of one-termer in the face. He has two years to make amends. And, go.