Winnowing the field

. March 10, 2020.

Primary Day in City Politics

It’s finally time for the Primary Election, when certain candidates are launched into the field for the race in November, and other campaigns fizzle out like a damp bottle rocket.

The twenty twenty primaries are partisan, meaning each major party winnows their field of candidates to select their champion for the November General Election. Many such races are unopposed. For example, no other D is challenging incumbent Commissioner Pete Gerken to be the D candidate in November. If you declare as a D at the polls, your ballot will only list Gerken as a candidate. If you declare as an R, though, you’ll see two names. Ron Murphy and Sandy Bashaw are both running to unseat Gerken in November, but only one will survive the primary to get the chance.

That’s how it typically works. One party lines up behind the incumbent in the Primary, while the other party fights it out over who gets to take the incumbent on in the General.


Then there’s this year’s race for Lucas County Sheriff. The incumbent, Sheriff John Tharp, is not running for re-election. Meaning the primary is a free-for-all, anything goes, no holds barred brawl.

On the D side, there are four major contenders vying for the nomination to run in November. The heavyweights are current Toledo City Councilman Gary Johnson and Oregon Police Chief Mike Navarre. The latter has also served as Chief of Police in Toledo, and touts his reported forty plus years in law enforcement. The former is a part-time deputy and full-time business owner. Lest we forget, the other two Ds in the race are Ron Collins and Maurice Morris, but we don’t expect either to vie for the victory come March seventeenth. On the R side, Brett Warner is the only name on the ballot, so as long as he remembers to vote for himself, he will appear on the November ballot to face the triumphant D.

Navarre has the most law enforcement experience and has run two police departments in the County. Johnson has some experience in uniform, but has run a small business for decades. Johnson says the most important responsibility for the Sheriff is administration of the County jail, and believes his business experience is more important for that role. Johnson also says that law enforcement is only a small portion of what the Sheriff’s Department does, so Navarre’s law enforcement background should be discounted.

Navarre, on the other hand, has one of the most recognizable last names in the Swamp. He has led the police departments of two of the County’s largest jurisdictions. He is endorsed by the unions representing Toledo Police Patrolmen and Toledo Police Command Officers. Johnson, on the other hand, is endorsed by several other local unions.

This Warner guy is a cipher who will skate to November only to fall flat. The D powerhouses will slug it out, and whoever wins will be a shoo-in to become…

Oh wait, Not so fast. There’s another candidate in the wings, and he’s a monster of a contender himself.

Earl Mack, with a lifetime of law enforcement and Homeland Security experience, is a lifelong D. But he circulated petitions as an Independent, meaning he will not appear on any partisan ballot in March and will qualify for the November ballot as long as he gets the requisite number of signatures. Whether he did this because of oversight or as a calculated strategy is anyone’s guess.

A three-way D primary race among Navarre, Johnson, and Mack would have been a battle of the titans, but it would have been resolved in March, likely deciding the ultimate race long before the formalities of the November coronation of the winner. Instead, Mack is lurking in the wings, awaiting the winner of the Johnson-Navarre undercard for the championship bout to come this fall.

Odds ‘n’ ends

One other oddity appears on the D primary ballot if you live in Ohio House District forty-four. The incumbent, PHH, messed up her petitions to appear on the ballot. Instead she scrambled to qualify as a write-in candidate. Her name will not appear on your ballot. Instead, it will simply say “Write-in.” This doesn’t mean you can write anyone in, because only PHH qualified for that status.
As long as PHH remembers to write herself in she’ll win on the D side, and will face Robert McMahon, the R, in November. Here comes our fearless prediction number one.

She’ll win.

Last primary musing. Issue One. The D candidate for President is still undecided, meaning high D turnout. The R side is predetermined, meaning low R turnout in an already D-dominated City of Toledo.

Fearless prediction number two. Issue One passes easily.
Take it to the bank.