So when the mayoral hopeful publicly addressed the first defeat of her local political career, there were nearly as many reporters as campaign workers left to hear what she had to say. Ms. López explained that she chose to watch the election returns with her family at her South Toledo home.
“I look forward to spending some more time with my children, getting the auditor’s office focused,” she said. “This is about the state of the city. I want to thank all my volunteers and supporters. It was a close election.”
Ms. López, 44, of Mexican/Tejano descent and who grew up in the Old South End, was making a bid to become the first Latino mayor in the city’s history. She has previously been elected to the Toledo Public Schools board of education, as county recorder, and two terms as county auditor. She had previously served as the city’s affirmative action and purchasing director under then-Toledo Mayor Jack Ford.
Her campaign focused on a platform of creating quality jobs, safer neighborhoods, and responsive government that provided good customer service. Ms. López frequently called Mayor Bell “out of touch” with citizens.
While she tried to stay positive and upbeat on election night, her comments were tinged with bitterness toward incumbent Toledo Mayor Mike Bell. Ms. López also immediately threw her support behind Bell’s lone remaining opponent in the November general election: city councilman D. Michael Collins.
“I respect the wishes of the voters, I always have,” she said. “I said from the beginning our number one job is to make sure Mike Bell is not the new mayor. I look forward to continuing to make sure Toledo continues to move forward with a new mayor. As soon as the official results are certified, I will be supporting D. Michael Collins for mayor.”
Mayor Bell and Ms. López were each involved in an intense discussion following a Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce legislative breakfast several months ago. The county auditor admitted that conversation served as a “trigger point” in her eventual decision to run for mayor.
According to Ms. López, that discussion centered on how the city was handling water bills with customers, as well as nonpayment of water bills by some city council members.
“I said it doesn’t reflect on the city well when the current mayor and city council members are fighting and pointing fingers at each other,” she recalled. “At that point, I felt the city was moving in the wrong direction and I made it very clear to him that I would likely be running for mayor. I think the state of the city is why we all ran for the mayor’s office. We had a variety of candidates.”
“I don’t care what she thinks. Obviously, the voters didn’t care what she thinks,” said Mayor Bell. “She can throw her support wherever she wants. My bottom line is we’ve turned this city around from a $48 million deficit to a $5 million surplus. So I could care less what she’s saying.”
Ms. López called it “a heated primary” that “raised the level of discussion about the direction of the city of Toledo.” She pointed out “that a majority of the voters did not vote for Mike Bell,” calling it “telling” about the “current state of the city.”
Unofficial voting results—where only 15.11% of the eligible voters cast ballots on September 10th—had incumbent Mayor Bell with 26.70% of the total vote, Councilman Collins with 24.45% of the vote, Auditor López with 22.92% of the vote, and Councilman Joe McNamara with 22.44% of the vote.
“I got enough to win. That’s all I care about as a mayor,” countered Bell following a victory celebration at Mulvaney’s Bunker on Dorr St. “I’m not worried about numbers. If it’s just one point—all I’m worried about is winning the game and I won the game. I know now that we need to concentrate a little bit more on our message, because people don’t understand all the things we’ve done.”
While the advancement of Councilman Collins to the November general election surprised many political observers, Mayor Bell, 58, stated he expected that outcome.
“In fact, I told many people that I did believe it was going to be Mike Collins, just because two Democrats [López and McNamara] were going hard at it against each other, that they would take each other out and he would slip through the cracks like that,” said the mayor.
Former Toledo City Council President Joe McNamara, 36, finished fourth in the race. He told reporters he will finish his current term on city council, but admitted his “political career in Toledo is done.” Mr. McNamara subsequently submitted his letter of resignation as chair of the Lucas County Democratic Party's Central Committee to Ron Rothenbuhler.
The election results set up a first-ever mayor’s race between two independent candidates.
The November campaign also sets the stage for a renewed fight between both sides of the debate over SB 5, a statewide measure that voters defeated that would have stripped some power from public labor unions. Mayor Bell backed the proposal, while Collins, a former police officer and union president, vocally opposed the measure.
“Since 1837, there’s never been an election with two independents running for mayor and I think that’s great,” said Bell. “I think that, for me, the part that makes that great is that Toledo is turning. In order for us to be able to grow, these types of things have to happen.”
Collins, 69, is endorsed by the city’s rank-and-file public safety unions. With Ms. López now backing his candidacy, it may mean her heavy union support also will shift to the retired Toledo city police officer as well. She had the support of other municipal unions and Teamsters Local 20.
The retired Toledo Police Patrolman’s Association (TPPA) president may have an uphill fight in the November general election. He raised and spent the fewest political dollars in the primary among the four major candidates, telling reporters he had “the most meager of resources but plenty of energy” from supporters who knocked on the doors of voters in what was mainly a grass-roots campaign.