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La Liga de Las Americas

Toledo, Cleveland, Detroit minority mayoral incumbents locked in uphill campaigns with fellow Democrat challengers


By Alan Abrams
La Prensa Senior Correspondent

Part Two of a Two-part Series in Election 2005


As the November 8 election looms closer on the calendar, three Democratic big city minority mayors remain locked in uphill campaigns against fellow Democrats—not Republicans—trying to dethrone the incumbents.


This phenomenon is being repeated in Lansing, Michigan on Nov. 8, as reported in the Oct. 26, 2005 issue of La Prensa.

Cleveland, Toledo, and Detroit all have minority mayors who are struggling from behind in their efforts to convince voters to return them to office. Latino voters, who are pivotal to the campaigns, appear split in their support. But all three incumbents are confident they can prove the pollsters wrong at the ballot box.

Carty Finkbeiner, candidate for Toledo Mayor


According to the most recent polls, all three of the challengers enjoy double-digit leads over the incumbent Democrats. Each of the three incumbents came to office in the 2001 election and is seeking their second term.


In Cleveland, Mayor Jane Campbell, the first woman to serve as mayor of the city, is being challenged by Frank Jackson, the president of the Cleveland City Council.  To put it into perspective for Toledo readers, this would be the equivalent of Council President Louis Escobar challenging Mayor Jack Ford for his office.


Jackson is African-American, as are Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick of Detroit and challenger Freeman Hendrix


One wonders as to whether this is a new trend or an aberration. A recent poll in Michigan—as reported on page 3 of this issue of La Prensa—shows that Michiganders blame President George W. Bush more than the state counterparts—so one wonders what effect the economy in Michigan and Ohio has had upon these four regional races, where Democrat-challenger is contesting Democrat-incumbent.


The potential for a damaging splits within the local parties, which could be crucial if Democrats seek to rebuild urban coalitions before the 2006 midterm and 2008 presidential elections, has not  been scrutinized  by the national media, preoccupied with reporting on Republican scandals, from Coingate to Rove-Scootergate, as reported in this week’s La Prensa on pages 2 and 3.  But the question lingers, can the internal schisms be healed in time for Midwest urban Democrats to present a unified front against the Republicans in 2006 and 2008, in two crucial states?



Jack Ford is the first African-American to serve as mayor of Toledo. He is being challenged by former mayor Carty Finkbeiner in a race that may well be decided among racial lines. A poll released over the weekend shows that Finkbeiner, who is white, holds an impressive 26 percent lead over Ford. But the mayor is hoping he can close that gap with voters in the final week of the campaign.


La Prensa, which serves readers in all three of the cities, posed the question of “What have the candidates done for Latino voters to deserve their support?


Mayor Ford of Toledo explained that his activities on behalf of Latinos preceded his election in 2001.  “Prior to becoming mayor, I was the founder and guiding force of Adelante, Inc., and when I reached the legislature, I had earmarked $250,000 to pay on the first mortgage of the building on South Broadway.”


Originally an adjunct of SASI, the drug rehab/counseling agency founded and directed by Ford, Adelante was spun off from its parent. Through Ford’s help, it received Title 1 Supplemental Service Provider status, the first Latino organization to receive that designation.


“Secondly, while I was still the Ohio House Minority Leader, I played a key role in chairing Louis Escobar’s first race on the city level and eventually helped propel him to the council presidency” says Ford, who has been credited with an unique and innate talent for identifying and nurturing the careers of talented Latinos.


As an example, Ford recalls that “I recruited Anita López at first at SASI and later helped her in her career when she went to law school and became the city’s first Latino affirmative action director, and subsequently purchasing director.  (López is currently the Lucas County Recorder). “I also made the first appointment of a Latino to the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority—which was Margarita De León;


“I established a Spanish Speaking Affairs Committee (the Hispanic Affairs Committee, or HAC) as a fully developed committee and named Robert Torres as Executive Director. My predecessor refused to give it a staff member,” says Ford.


 “I retained Robert Torres and Arturo Quintero, as well as Lourdes Santiago, who were all held over from the Finkbeiner administration. I am also particularly proud of Robert Torres, whom I appointed to the Department of Economic and Community Development to manage the Youth Entrepreneur Program and to introduce Latino businesses to the city and support their cause. Once the commission [HAC] was in place, Torres was appointed to its half-time position of Executive Director,” says Ford.

Mayor Jack Ford at a recent debate at the University of Toledo.

“I hired Lisa Canales-Flores, first in the mayor’s office in administration, and now in her position in the Department of Public Utilities.


“And I brought Darlene Vásquez Langenderfer from her city council job into the mayor’s office. She is now manager of some 45-customer-service reps in the Water Department,” adds Ford.

In an earlier interview with this reporter, the mayor also took pride in two other recent promotions. “Phil Cervantes, the former Waite High School principal’s son, is the first Latino battalion chief in the history of the Toledo Fire and Rescue Department, and Jesse Torrence, who has been very supportive of Latino causes, is the new director of Toledo Sister Cities, Inc.,” says Ford. As such, he is leading the campaign to link Toledo with a sister city in México.

The mayor has also made outstanding appointments to the HAC. Ford appointed David Ibarra, Bob Vásquez, and Theresa Regalado to the commission in 2002. And the following year, he reappointed Hernán Vásquez and Margarita De León.


“I didn't hesitate to march with FLOC (the Farm Labor Organizing Committee) who took on the Mt. Olive Pickle Co. ...and I have continued my support of FLOC with money,” says Ford.  The mayor has also marched with FLOC president and founder Baldemar Velásquez and his union members and supporters on behalf of immigration reform and rights for migrant workers.


So what would Ford do for Latinos if given a second term by the city’s voters?

“We need to strengthen the Spanish Speaking Affairs Committee (HAC) to become involved in economic development along with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce,” said Ford, who added that strengthening support for Viva South would also be on his agenda.

“It was my idea to use the former South Toledo library ...to set up the Joseph A. Flores Center for Social Justice. I would work with the University of Toledo Law School to make this a beacon in the South Toledo area,” promises Ford.

OCHLA Commissioner Richard Romero in attendance with Mayor Jack Ford and Toledo Council Candidate Bob Vasquez at the July Latino Scholarship Day with the Toledo Mud Hens.


The mayor also stressed that he would continue his groundbreaking efforts to award new contracts to Latino contractors for city projects, similar to the contract received by Mondo Mechanical Company, owned by Juan Hinojosa. “Many others have moved up in their financial capacity,” said Ford of minority contractors. “The city’s opening up of contracts has always been an important diversity issue,” he adds.  


Focusing upon economic development in the interview earlier this year, Ford said he has consistently “tried to open city departments to Latino entrepreneurs who have been cut off in the past. I assisted the Economic & Community Development Department in recruiting prospective Latino businesses to the ‘Cutting the Red Tape’ Business Seminar last July. At that time, a Toledo SBA loan for $21,500 was awarded to participant Jorge Zapata of Northside Customs.


“I’ve helped to secure contracts for Andy Vargas of Andy’s Excavating; Joseph Garza of Joe’s Roofing, and Victor López of C & L Inc.,” said Ford, who conducted business site visits with 36 Latino businesses.


Requests made through his supporters in the Latino community to Carty Finkbeiner for comment for this story were unsuccessful, but it should be noted that during the former mayor’s two-term tenure (1994-2002), that he authorized the creation of HAC and appointed its first commissioners; Finkbeiner also hired numerous Latinos in his administration, including top-notch, right-hand man, attorney Arturo Quintero.

Former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner in attendance at a La Prensa Function in 1996 with former La Prensa sales manager Julie Neller Picknell.



Frank Jackson is the African-American Cleveland City Council president challenging fellow Democrat Mayor Jane Campbell. The latest poll conducted last week by television station WKYC shows Jackson holding a 20-point lead over the mayor in a survey of 587 likely voters.


According to Jackson’s campaign spokesperson Mary Anne Sharkey, “Frank Jackson held a Get out the Vote Rally in mid-October for Hispanic voters on West 25th Street. Newcomer El Sol de Cleveland endorsed Jackson for Mayor with an endorsement reading:  ‘Her (Jane Campbell) promises to the Latino (community) four years ago never occurred. Her administration hasn’t done anything for Cleveland’s Latino community other than appointing a Hispanic liaison. Only at election time is when she makes her appearances... It’s time for a change.... Vote Jackson!’


“Frank Jackson has met regularly with members of the Latino community and has employed Angel Guzmán to be his campaign liaison to the Latino population. He said he will consider Latino appointments to his administration and will meet regularly with representatives to discuss issues of concern. He is strongly committed to having a city government that reflects the city population, particularly the growing Latino population,” says Sharkey, adding that the Jackson campaign has distributed at least two pieces of campaign literature printed en español


According to published reports, Jackson has received the endorsement of four unions with large components of Latino members including the Vanguards of Cleveland, the 180-member Latino and African-American firefighters union; the Cleveland Association of Rescue Employees, the United Food and Commercial Workers, and UNITE HERE.


But Mayor Campbell contradicts Jackson’s allegations and offers a compelling résumé of her efforts on behalf of the Latino population.


Much like Mayor Ford in Toledo, Campbell has had to govern during tough economic times brought on by Bush’s three tax cuts and Bush’s war in Iraq and she has had to make some difficult choices.

Cleveland Council Pres. Frank Jackson
with Janet Garcia and sons
Francisco and Sabastial Garcia.

She points to the number of Latino employees of the city. “In 2003 we had 471 Latino employees. December of 2003 is when we had our extensive layoffs. But today, we have 501 Latino employees—despite the fact that the city has 701 fewer employees than it had in 2001,” says Campbell.


La Prensa posed the same question to Mayor Campbell as it did to Mayor Ford in Toledo. We asked, “What have you done for Latino voters to deserve their support?” Here is her detailed reply.


Campbell said there are three main areas to consider. The first is the development of close relationships with Latino organizations and how her administration has provided funding to them while working closely to deliver services to the Latino community.


Second is her administration’s ongoing “engagement with the business community on issues of equal opportunity,” And third is the administration’s role as an employer in providing a leadership chain for the next generation.


“The City of Cleveland supports Hispanic organizations through the Community Development Program, block grants and through workforce investment activities,” explained Campbell.  “The Spanish American Committee for a Better Community is an East Side group that provides a bilingual education day care program through a social service block grant. We reach out to community groups on both sides of the river such as the Spanish American Center. The traditional Spanish American Committee continues to receive CDC funding.

Esperanza provides youth programs and home ownership counseling, which is an integral part of the campaign this administration has waged against predatory lenders. We have worked closely with El Barrio, while it was an independent entity and now after its merger into the West Side Ecumenical Ministry. El Barrio is active in providing job training and family support as well as ESL classes. We also support the work of the Hispanic Senior Center and the Hispanic Business Association.

“We work closely with all of these organizations by providing some financing and resources to enable them to provide services to the community. We have a clear engagement with the Hispanic community,” says Campbell.

Democratic Mayor Jane Campbell with Luis Martinez and Trudy Ramos at last week's debates.

“Moving to the area of employment, when I started as mayor, I made two high-profile appointments to my cabinet. Eduardo Romero was in charge of personnel. He left because of health reasons and now having regained some of his strength, is running for council. But he may be back.


Henry Guzmán, the other appointee, served as Director of the Office of Equal Opportunity. He left to move to Columbus where his grandchildren are, and now is Service Director in the administration of Mayor Michael Coleman in Columbus,” explains Campbell.


Her other Latino appointees include Trudy Ramos as Latino liaison and several representatives from what Campbell terms “the next generation of Hispanic leadership”—Luis Martínez and Edwin Nuñez. As director of the Mayor’s Office of Equal Opportunity, Nuñez is not only responsible for dealing with minority businesses—although he began as a contract compliance officer—he is also in charge of the implementation of the Cleveland residency program which he monitors.


“Because there are four Hispanic individuals who work in the Office of Equal Opportunity, we are able to say that we indeed have a bilingual office,” says Campbell. The others are Nancy Mercado, who oversees female business certification, Moises Torres, who began in contract compliance and is now a supervisor, and Nelson Muñiz.


“The City of Cleveland has awarded more than $6 million dollars in contracts to Hispanic contractors. We are actively trying to help Hispanic contractors expand from being subcontractors and into becoming prime contractors. One success story we are very proud of is that of Joe López of New Era Construction, who has become a prime contractor for the first time and has received his certification from agencies including the Cleveland school system,” says Campbell.


Another source of great pride for Campbell and her administration are the promotions of Police Commanders Andres González and Hector Cuevas. Those appointments are made personally by the mayor and not through civil service.


“Also worth noting is the fact that in our search for a new school superintendent, there are two Hispanics serving on that commission: Sister Alicia Alvarado and Crystal Ramos. Let me tell you a little something about Crystal Ramos. She is a senior in high school who has received a four-year scholarship to Harvard University. She was raised by her grandparents, and is the first student from a Cleveland municipal school to win a national Junior Achievement Entrepreneurship contest,” Campbell proudly explains.


“When I first took office, I appointed the first two Hispanics to ever serve on the Cleveland School Board.  Gladys Santiago is still a member of the Board, and Magda Gómez served a two-year term,” says Campbell.


When the names and the facts are tallied, Campbell’s accomplishments present a different version of the claims made by her opponent.



 A detailed request for comment by Detroit mayoral challenger Freeman Hendrix did not produce any results, nor did repeated messages left on the voice mail of Bob Berg, Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s media guru.


According to a published report in the Detroit Free Press, suburban residents made up a substantial core of campaign contributors for both Kilpatrick and Hendrix. The paper reported that since Hendrix began campaigning this year, he has raised $3.6 million. Kilpatrick has raised $4.4 million since taking office in 2002. Hendrix has spent $3 million on the campaign; Kilpatrick has spent $4 million since taking office.


The report said both candidates spent the bulk of their money on television advertising. For the last two months, Hendrix spent nearly $1.2 million on TV commercials while Kilpatrick spent $313,712.


Hendrix also spent $46,250 on polls. Most public polls have shown Hendrix leading by double-digit margins, although the race has been tightening.


Kilpatrick seems to have big corporate Detroit in his corner, with executives from General Motors, DaimlerChrysler, DTE Energy, Comerica Bank, and Penske Racing contributing. On the other hand, the owners of three of Detroit’s professional sports teams appear to be in Hendrix’s corner.  Detroit Lions owner William Clay Ford gave $1,000 and Benson Ford Jr. gave $500. Many more members of the auto giant’s family gave money earlier this year.


Members of another Detroit family empire contributed to Hendrix. Atanas and Patricia Ilitch each gave $3,400. Denise Ilitch gave $1,500. David Dombrowski, chief executive officer of the Detroit Tigers, gave $3,400. The Ilitch family also owns the Detroit Red Wings hockey franchise.






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