Politicians love to even old scores.
Revenge is sweet in politics, and most electeds have long memories. Nothing is sweeter than putting an old foe in their place.
This is especially true when a defeat is particularly bitter, and even more so when the campaign got personal. Head-to-head battles are fought in the trenches, and the loser is usually driven to avenge the loss. Such campaigns also usually go negative, so there is much to avenge.
This year’s campaign for mayor of Toledo has just such a revenge motive. Well, actually, since there looks to be at least seven candidates, there are so many chances to even old scores that we might have lost count.
The fact that this year’s race is a winner-take-all has brought every living former mayor of the last two decades into the race, and that alone makes for lots of bitter memories. They go back to the early nineties, when Carty and Mike Ferner served together on Toledo City Council.
Carty made the push for a charter change to allow for a “strong mayor” form of government for the city, eliminating the city manager and giving the mayor elected in nineteen ninety-three unprecedented administrative power. The ninety-three campaign was hard fought, with endorsed Democrat Pete Silverman a mere afterthought as Carty ran against his party and against independent Ferner for a slim victory.
You can bet Ferner remembers it all well. Exit polls projected him the winner by double digits. He lost by less than seven hundred votes. There were allegations that poll workers slipped Carty vital information about voter turnout on Election Day, allowing him to plan his poll visits strategically. Sharing such information is illegal. Receiving and using it is not.
Later that same decade Carty had a run-in with a constituent who had what she characterized as a “pet shelter” on Toledo’s East Side. Inspectors went in and found a mangy menagerie of ill-cared-for animals and shut it down. This shuttered Opal Covey’s only source of income at the time. She declared total war on The Fink and has run for mayor in every election since.
Fast forward to two thousand five. Carty had been term-limited from running in two thousand one and Jack Ford was mayor. It was the height of the of the A team-B team split in the local Democratic Party. The B-team camp was ticked off at Ford over the awarding of city contracts and wanted him gone. They got their mayoral candidate in the return of Carty and ran an entire slate against a full slate on the A-team side. On that A-team slate was a judicial candidate named Paula Hicks Hudson. She lost.
Carty returned to the mayor’s seat in oh six and quickly wore out his welcome. He survived a recall effort, just as he had in previous incarnations, but ticked off business interests to the point where by two thousand nine they sought a popular Toledoan to defeat him in his re-election bid.
They found just such a candidate in a former fire chief, the beloved Mike Bell. Carty crossed ‘em up by announcing just before the filing deadline that he was not running for re-election. Bell won a close race over Keith Wilkowski instead.
Bell immediately angered labor interests by unilaterally changing wages and other labor costs to balance the budget, then went a step farther by supporting Governor Kasich in his anti-labor SB 5. Labor wanted Bell gone and looked for a popular Toledoan to defeat him in his re-election bid.
After their choice got beat in the primary, they turned to former union head Mike Collins and threw everything they had behind his campaign. He beat Bell easily before dying in office. Now his widow, Sandy Drabik “Collins” has taken up his mantle.
See? Grudge matches all over the place, including every candidate in one form or another. Did we forget? Councilwoman Sandy Spang has complained for two years that she has been disrespected because she is neither chair nor vice chair of any council committee. Who made the decisions on committee leadership last year? Then-Council President Paula Hicks Hudson.
Ferner, Bell, and Covey vs. Carty. Hicks Hudson vs. Carty. Spang vs. Hicks Hudson. Bell vs. “Collins.” Are there any other grudge matches in this year’s race?
Yeah, one more biggie. The ultimate factor is probably whether Carty can keep his foot out of his mouth until November. And whether voters remember how much they regularly dislike him about six months after they elect him.
The biggest grudge match is Carty vs. Carty. Game on.