Collins won by more than 6,000 votes, extending an early lead as the votes were counted and election night wore on. The mayor-elected called it a “David versus Goliath win” in his acceptance speech. However, voter turnout was just 26 percent—the smallest since Toledo went to a strong mayor form of city government.
The two independent candidates courted votes in the pivotal Latino community in the closing days of the campaign. It was the first-ever Toledo mayor’s race to feature two finalists from neither major political party.
Collins secured the endorsement of Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) co-founder and president Baldemar Velásquez just days before voters went to the polls. Earlier, a group known as Latinos for Bell held a political fundraiser for the incumbent at the Sofia Quintero Art and Cultural Center. Many in attendance were Latinos appointed to key municipal posts by Bell during his only term in office. Whether they will remain in influential administrative positions is up to the Collins transition team, which will be led by Bob Reinbolt, former chief of staff to three-term mayor Carleton “Carty” S. Finkbeiner.
Collins received heavy support from organized labor, which was still incensed over a political stand Mayor Bell took on SB 5/Issue 2, which would have limited the collective bargaining power of public unions. Municipal labor organizations also took Bell to task over forced contract concessions under “exigent circumstances,” a tactic that declared the City of Toledo was in dire financial straits. Bell campaigned heavily on his accomplishment of balancing the city budget without tax increases after facing a $48 million deficit.
Collins acknowledged the support of labor unions in his acceptance speech.
“There were those that stepped up to support me because of their concerns over right-to-work legislation,” said Collins. “We sent a strong, direct, and clear message to the state of Ohio. It’s a message that our elected officials in Columbus cannot ignore. We will not become a Right-to-Work-for-Less state. To those supporters, this win is for you.”
Bell was aligned with the business community, receiving endorsements from the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce and Board of Realtors, among other groups. He openly courted international investment, selling the Marina District to the Chinese investment group Dashing Pacific. But outside groups used that land sale in TV ads, criticizing the lack of jobs created so far by a dormant Marina District site.
“You’ve got to respect where the citizens are—and they’re the ones who make the decisions,” said Bell during an election night watch party at Table 44 in downtown Toledo. “I’m okay with their decision. I’m respectful of the direction the citizens want to go in and you won’t find any hard feelings here on my side.”
The outgoing mayor also promised a smooth transition between his administration and the takeover of the mayor’s office by the Collins camp.
But there may be some troubled days ahead for Bell administration officials as Collins takes office on January 2, 2014. The mayor-elect has indicated he would like to keep Fire Chief Luis Santiago, but has had harsh words for Police Chief Derrick Diggs, who kept silent during a recent controversy over comments Collins made during a public forum that he didn’t believe racial profiling existed in Toledo. Collins cited a police department report in his later statements, which said there were no recent racial profiling incidents or complaints.
Councilman Adam Martínez
But Councilman Adam J. Martínez is in danger of losing his seat after nearly 600 provisional ballots are counted later this month. Martínez won the sixth and final at-large council seat on Election Night, but finished just 34 votes ahead of Democrat and former Toledo Public Schools (TPS) board member Larry J. Sykes, who came in seventh.
In the late days of the campaign, Martínez angered fellow Democrats and union leaders by publicly endorsing Mayor Bell’s candidacy. Union and party leaders denounced the endorsement by Martínez—some even calling for him to return campaign contributions. Martínez cited those racial profiling statements for his stance, believing the mayor-elect was dismissing mistrust of police in the black and Latino communities.
Martínez took a short vacation to Kentucky with his wife following the election and was unavailable for comment.
Fifth place finisher Theresa M. Gabriel beat Sykes by just 109 votes and hired former Ohio Supreme Court justice Andy Douglas to advise her during the provisional ballot count, fearing a sticky process that could change the outcome of the city council race.
The Toledo Public Schools levy passed by a comfortable margin of nearly two-to-one. TPS leaders credited academic progress being made across the district, a more active and positive campaign, and the public’s acceptance of an enthusiastic, young, home-grown interim superintendent who has re-energized TPS and its educators. Issue 24 on the ballot was a 6.5 mill, five-year renewal levy.
Dr. Romules Durant spoke to more than 100 community groups during the campaign, outlining the next steps in the TPS “transformation plan” if the levy passed. He promised more community partnerships at individual schools, a renewed focus on career-technical education, as well as expanding and replicating innovative programs that already are showing promise.
Other Lucas County levies also passed—a renewal of tax funding for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority and another for the county’s developmental disabilities board.
A Lorain County Community College renewal levy passed by just 75 votes. The levy includes an additional 0.6-mill increase to continue the University Partnership program’s operations. LCCC will be able to keep 160 educational programs that serve 10,000 students each year. The partnership allows students in Lorain County to inexpensively take classes at the LCCC campus while earning credit toward 40 different degrees offered at leading universities.
Also in Lorain, Joel Arredondo was re-elected to his seat, receiving over 75 percent of the vote, which means he will remain as city council president. Voters returned Frank Jackson to another four-year term as mayor of Cleveland.