Incumbent Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson declared victory in Toledo’s mayoral primary race Tuesday night, but added her campaign still has a lot to do if she is to defeat Wade Kapszukiewicz in the general election.
With elections officials reporting all votes counted, the endorsed Democrat had 9,686 votes, to 8,350 votes for Mr. Kapszukiewicz, a fellow Democrat and Lucas County Treasurer. Endorsed Republican Councilman Tom Waniewski came in third with 6,659 votes. Self-proclaimed Prophetess Opal Covey tallied 199 votes.
“We’re halfway there, and it’s going to be a different kind of race, but it’s the same race because it’s the same message, and that message is one of the possibilities of what we have been able to do in really a short time and really under some different kind of circumstances than what a normal elected officials has had to go under,” Ms. Hicks-Hudson said during a speech at her campaign headquarters at about 11:15 p.m.
Ms. Hicks-Hudson, 66, who won a special election in November, 2015 to serve the two years remaining in the term of the late Mayor D. Michael Collins, had the benefit of a campaign run by the Ohio and Lucas County Democratic parties, which endorsed her for re-election.
Her campaign focused on the advances the city has made since she has been mayor, including no recurrences of the 2014 water emergency that forced a prohibition on drinking the city’s water for more than two days.
But she faced a well-funded opponent in Kapszukiewicz, 44, a former councilman who is in his fourth term as county treasurer. Mr. Kapszukiewicz accused Ms.Hicks-Hudson and Mr. Waniewski, 60, of failing to accurately keep track of the city’s money when it was learned that $8.2 million had sat idle in a city account since 2011.
Mr. Kapszukiewicz on Tuesday night told an excited group of supporters that he will be moving on to the general election.
"Enough results have come in that we can now say that tonight Toledo took the first step toward becoming the city we all know it can be," he said. "There is a lot of work to be done between now and November, but these results have told us that Toledo has heard our message of change.”
While campaigning, Mr. Kapszukiewicz promised to consolidate city and county offices that do similar functions, such as building inspection, and said he would lead a push to make pre-kindergarten available to all Toledo children.
Mr. Waniewski was the least funded of the three, but the only candidate with a significant claim on Toledo’s Republican voters. He was endorsed by the Lucas County Republican Party, and also supported by the rival splinter group Republicans for a New Lucas County. Mr. Waniewski rolled out several policy ideas, including to end the practice of paying for leaf and snow pickup and mowing of boulevards and media by special assessment.
Mr. Waniewski on Tuesday night said he was surprised and disappointed by a low voter turnout.
“When 10 percent of the Toledo voters come out, that does not say a lot,” he said. “But we had a great run. We had a great organization.”
Ms. Covey, 77, has run five times before and has never received more than 1 percent of the vote. Deputies escorted her out of the Early Vote Center Tuesday night after she was asked to be quiet.
The Lucas County Board of Elections faced early problems in reporting the totals because its computer server that tabulates the votes crashed about 6 p.m.
Lucas County Elections Director LaVera Scott said the county’s server machine, which is not connected to the internet because it contains election data, is serviced by a contractor, Dominion Voting Systems Corp., based in Colorado. Ms. Scott said the machine is under warranty and said she would be in touch with Dominion on Wednesday about getting the machine repaired for the general election.
The contest has been played out in competing political messages, in television commercials, a flood of voter mail, and live debates with the candidates.
However, the lively election campaign failed to generate a big turnout increase. According to the Lucas County Board of Elections, about 24,988 of Toledo’s 187,711 registered voters had voted as of when polls closed, or just over 13 percent of registered voters.
In the 2013, primary election 23,957 people voted, or 15.2 percent of the registration at that time. In the 2009 mayoral primary, the total turnout was significantly higher, with 37,009 voters.
The election was notable for the high number of early voters, with 2,301 cast ballots early, compared with only 791 in 2013. In addition, 1,669 people voted by absentee mail-in ballot.
Toledo voters were also picking the 12 people who will be on the general election ballot for council. Because 13 people filed for the 12 slots, only one person, Thomas Names, was knocked out of contention.
Lucas County poll workers were using electronic poll books for the first time instead of the paper books. Deputy Director Theresa Gabriel said the machines were faster than the paper books, and less open to error. In addition, they enabled election workers to update voter information immediately.
The machines are expected to cost up to $836,000, with the Ohio secretary of state's office furnishing about $517,000 and Lucas County responsible for the remainder.
Ms. Gabriel said the low turnout, at least as of 5 p.m., was surprising.
“Everyone is shocked. I think it’s amazing,” Ms. Gabriel said. “Maybe it’s the attitude of the people, they don’t think it’s important.”
Board of Elections Director LaVera Scott said some locations had issues getting the electronic voting machines up and running, and the All Saints Lutheran Church polling location on Heatherdowns Boulevard had some voters use a paper ballot. All electronic machines are now property set up and in use.
“It should not have taken us as long as it did,” Ms. Scott said. “Any few minutes that a voter has to wait is irritating to me.”
Ms. Hicks-Hudson was propelled into the mayor’s office unexpectedly in February, 2015 when Mayor D. Michael Collins died just over a year into his first term. Ms. Hicks-Hudson, formerly the District 4 councilman, was serving as council president at the time.
Mayor Hicks-Hudson was at polling locations Tuesday, while dozens of volunteers spent the last several hours calling likely voters and Democrats in an effort to get as many people to the polls as possible.
“My gut says I am feeling really good about this,” said Sam Melendez, the mayor's campaign manager. “I started feeling good a few days back and today, what I have been seeing is really good news.”
Ms. Hicks-Hudson benefited from the political operation of the Lucas County Democratic Party, which supplied volunteers and put her name and picture on a Democratic Party ticket card that was mailed to likely Democratic voters.
Mr. Kapszukiewicz and his supporters waited for returns to come in Tuesday night at his downtown campaign headquarters in the Gardner Building.
The candidate said he spent the day making last minute phone calls urging people to get out and vote. He said he felt content with whatever happens and was proud of the campaign he ran.
“This was an election about connecting with the voters on a personal level and we felt that there was nothing more valuable than calling people and encouraging them to vote,” he said. “We’ll find out soon if it worked but one way or another I respect the will of the voters; in their infinite wisdom they will make the right decision and then we’ll move forward. Hopefully at the end of this we’ll have a city that is even stronger than the one we have now.”
Mr. Kapszukiewicz outspent his two opponents, enabling him to keep up a phone bank, send six waves of direct mail, and ran ads on television.
Dozens of people assembled at the Waniewski headquarters on South Bryne Road to monitor the primary results. Campaign staff, friends, and supporters enjoyed a Polish-themed dinner with kielbasa and mashed potatoes.
Mr. Waniewski said he started visiting polling places at 6:30 Tuesday morning.
“We've been going nonstop and we're feeling good about things,” he said.
Joshua Hughes, a member of the Lucas County board of elections, said the board used a backup server to tabulate and report the votes.
The polls closed in Toledo and Perrysburg at 7:30 p.m. after opening at 6:30 a.m. They are the two local jurisdictions that had primary elections for city government offices, with Perrysburg deciding also on mayoral candidates for the general election.
Staff writers Lauren Lindstrom, Ignazio Messina, and Jay Skebba contributed.
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