Incumbent Mike Bell and challenger D. Michael Collins, two of the leading candidates for Toledo Mayor, are running as political Independents. Another challenger, Alan Cox, is also running as an Independent. Perennial candidate Opal Covey is registered as a Democrat but is running as a Republican. A school board candidate is a Republican but is considering running as a Democrat, while two Republicans running for Toledo City Council claim to be Independents.
What gives? Are we entering a collective post-Party depression?
First a bit of history. Back in the murky past, namely the 1980s, there was a little known candidate for City Council named Mike Ferner. He was a man ahead of his time, calling for progressive ideas like a city recycling program and a public power option long before such ideas became mainstream.
Ferner was so far ahead of the times that he didn’t fit into the more centrist Democratic Party of his era, so he declared himself a political Independent. His campaign was filled with fellow progressives who didn’t feel completely at home in the D tent and bolted to the left.
After running unsuccessfully in eighty-seven, Ferner won a seat in both eighty-nine and ninety-one, leading to his big leap into the mayoral race of ninety-three. This was just after Toledoans approved a charter change, eliminating the City Manager and creating a Strong Mayor who would lead the executive branch of government.
Ferner’s opponent was the ultimate post-Party candidate, Carleton S. Finkelgruber. The Fink had run for office as a Republican and Independent before settling in as a Democrat. He pulled together factions from all his previous political incarnations and won the election.
Those of Ferner’s supporters who wanted to remain in electoral politics thus had a choice to make. Continue to build a progressive alternative? Or fold back into the Democratic Party and work to move it to the left?
Most chose the latter path, including Ferner’s campaign manager, Paula Ross. The Ross faction worked to fill seats on the Party’s Central Committee, eventually allowing her to become Party Chair. The Ross years led to a diversification of the ranks of elected Democrats and to the election of Jack Ford as Toledo’s Mayor.
It also led to the bifurcation of the Party into the A and B teams, or the progressive and centrist factions. The fight to retain control was brutal, with the B team wresting control of the Party by winning Central Committee seats and running the ol’ Finkelstein against Ford in oh five. The election of the Fink led to an ongoing struggle for balance, resulting to the current state of détente in the Party today.
One might think that would lead to a return to Party politics as usual. Nope. The Fink always seems like a great choice when out of office, but, alas, the gild rubs off the lily soon after he gets in office. By oh seven he had rubbed prominent business interests so far the wrong way that they went shopping for a candidate to defeat him in oh nine. They came up with Mike Bell, a lifelong Democrat wooed by leading Republicans. This contradiction was resolved by touting Bell as an Independent.
Oh seven also witnessed the rise of D. Michael Collins as candidate for Council District Two. Collins is a former labor leader married to a prominent member of the GOP. Unable to resolve this obvious conflict, Collins ran as an Independent. The field was chock full o’ nuts, and in the heat of the A-B Dem split, Collins won.
In the meantime, another split was brewing in the previously silent LC GOP. This led to a Party takeover by one Jon Stainbrook, and then resulted in pro- and anti-Stainbrook fracturing.
Middle of the road
The past is indeed prologue. Some folks are really Rs but know you can’t win in Toledo that way. Others are actually of one Party but decide to try to woo folks from the other. Then there is the ongoing factionalism of the Rs and the barely healed split in the Ds.
What to do? Declare your Independence!
Bell and Collins did so years ago, and proved that voters don’t look deep enough to see that, in the words of one former political commentator, the only thing in the middle of the road is a yellow stripe. As in being too cowardly to own who you are.
So the yellow stripe keeps getting wider! Theresa Gabriel is a Republican Friend of Carty, and is African-American, so she seems sorta Democratish. Sandy Spang is a Republican from the non-Stainbrook side of the Party. Now both are “Independents!”
School board candidate Chris Varwig is an R who wants to run as a D, presumably so she can win. Chris, get with the wishy-washy program and declare your Independence!
BTW, the full quote adds the other thing that ends up in the middle of the road. Dead skunks. Folks who won’t show you their true stripes until it’s too late.
We say enough with the mamby pamby, mealy mouthed pandering represented in calling yourself in Independent. You want real chutzpah? Run
as a Green or Libertarian and really ensure a losing campaign.
By the by, we tried to figure out Covey’s flip flop, but our brain began to hurt and we gave up.