“There had been several individuals and organizations that had encouraged me to run for a judgeship, especially in Toledo Municipal Court,” she explained. “I had opted not to do so at this time, but when the situation arose that the endorsed Democrat did not have sufficient signatures and people were calling me to reconsider. I then thought it was an appropriate time to pick up and run with it.
But Ms. Santiago’s candidacy may be temporary, as she is willing to step aside if the Lucas County Board of Elections eventually certifies the endorsed Democrat to appear on the ballot.
John Coble submitted petitions in May to run for the same judgeship. However, that submission did not contain enough valid signatures and he subsequently submitted new petitions last month. Republicans are challenging his ability to do so. The elections board had tabled a decision on the matter, because there were two vacancies on the board that have since been filled.
“There is an issue with whether or not he had the opportunity to supplement his petition or withdraw and resubmit,” she explained. “If that issue is decided in his favor, I will drop out of the race because I will be supportive of his candidacy.”
Ms. Santiago is also prepared to run an all-out candidacy for the judge’s seat should Coble’s candidacy be invalidated by the elections board. She would then take on Republican incumbent Judge Robert Christiansen, who has served in that capacity since 2005. For two decades prior to that, Judge Christiansen served on the bench in Lucas County Common Pleas Court. He has tried unsuccessfully twice before to run for a seat on the Ohio Sixth District Court of Appeals.
But Ms. Santiago defends her candidacy as much more than simply serving as a Democratic placeholder should Mr. Coble reach the ballot. The senior attorney in the Toledo city law department ran for municipal court judge in 2006 and has several years’ experience as a municipal court prosecutor. She also believes that Latino leadership is underrepresented in elective legal office.
“The Latino community is not represented on the judicial bench in municipal court or common pleas or court of appeals at this time,” she noted. “We do need that voice in the judiciary. In addition to my being a minority and a female, I also believe I bring something to that bench which is need in our community: sensitivity to various issues which I represent.”
Ms. Santiago, 61, played a very active role last year in the political campaign of another Latina Democratic judicial candidate, Keila Cosme, who unsuccessfully ran to retain her seat on the Ohio Sixth District Court of Appeals. Ms. Santiago also is widely recognized for her quiet community service on a number of non-profit boards and for volunteering to help organize countless charity events over the years, including her service to the Sofia Quintero Art and Cultural Center.
“I think my name is well-known,” she said. “I bring a lot of administrative and legal experience for that seat and I hope to have the privilege to represent the Toledo community as a judge.”
Only one other Latina political candidate had filed petitions to run for elective office by the July 15th deadline to submit signatures. Anita Rios, co-chair of the Ohio Green Party, submitted her name for the public’s consideration as a candidate for Toledo City Council in District 4, a central city representative seat. Ms. Rios would have to unseat Democrat Paula Hicks-Hudson, who was appointed earlier this year to replace Michael Ashford when he was elected to a position in the Ohio House of Representatives.