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Underdog Harvey Savage Jr. finishes strongly in Toledo council primary

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    Toledo City Council candidate Harvey Savage, Jr., has made it through the primary and is moving on to the general election in November. He met with campaign staff at his home Wednesday, to get started on the next election.

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    Harvey Savage

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You’ve seen his signs, now meet the man.

The surprise strong finisher in the Toledo City Council primary election was Harvey Savage, Jr., the executive director of an inner-city charity kitchen who has never run for office before.


Toledo City Council candidate Harvey Savage, Jr., has made it through the primary and is moving on to the general election in November. He met with campaign staff at his home Wednesday, to get started on the next election.

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Mr. Savage, 73, came in fifth among the 13 candidates seeking 12 slots on the general election ballot to run for six at-large council seats, according to unofficial results.

With no party endorsement, he spent only $1,100, as of Aug. 23, and finished with more votes than four opponents who were endorsed by the Democratic Party and who spent more money, including appointed incumbent Kurt Young, who spent more than $38,000.

Mr. Savage held no news conferences.

“What were we going to talk about? I wanted to run for office. I wanted to be a light in the community. I want to keep doing what I’m doing. I want to take it to the next level. The community came out and supported me,” Mr. Savage said.

“I got my signs out early. That might have made a difference. I know a lot of people and I’ve got a lot of family,” Mr. Savage said.

He dismissed speculation that some voters may have confused him with the Savage family for which the University of Toledo’s Savage Arena is named.

“If you’re very inattentive when you vote and you don’t know who you voted for I guess that could happen, but I don’t think very many [did that]. A lot of people I talk to don’t vote for a candidate they don’t know,” Mr. Savage said.


Harvey Savage


The South Toledo resident retired from DuPont Co. in 1993 as a manager in human resources. He was the second oldest of 15 children of Rev. Harvey Savage and Martha Savage.

His late father in 1969 started Martin Luther King Jr. Kitchen for the Poor, which serves lunches Monday through Friday and donates food. Mr. Savage often worked with his father.

The top four winners in the council primary were incumbents Sandy Spang (I.), Rob Ludeman (R.), Larry Sykes (D.), and Cecelia Adams (D.). Mr. Savage had 9,186 votes, compared with Ms. Adams’s 10,704 votes.

Gary Johnson, an endorsed Democrat, was the second challenger who broke into the top six, largely on signage and dogged appearances at campaign events. He received 8,745 votes to finish sixth. That was despite having only recently moved into Toledo from Sylvania Township where he and his wife raised their daughter through high school.

Mr. Johnson, the owner of a flooring company, is Puerto Rican on his mother’s side and received backing from the Latino community, he said.

“It’s pretty close between Nick and I,” Mr. Johnson said, referring to candidate Nick Komives, who finished seventh. “That tells me we have some work to do. I didn’t get my message out quick enough to the voters. I need to go back to voters and make sure we get the message out.”



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Mr. Komives said the low voter turnout, 13.3 percent, was a factor for the way council candidates performed.

"We have been working really hard talking to voters and knocking on doors," Mr. Komives said. "That is what it will take to win in November. I am hoping that electorate will be significantly larger than [the primary.]”

Just 150 votes separated Mr. Komives and Mr. Johnson.

Eighth down the list of finishers was Sam Melden, who held neighborhood running events and news conferences. He called the primary election “the most accurate poll possible.”

“We look at the numbers and we kind of reassess our strategy and figure the best way to connect with voters over the next six or seven weeks,” Mr. Melden said.

He said he ran on the theme of “fresh new leadership,” but said voters actually voted for an increase in median age.

“You could make the argument that they want an older city council not a younger one,” Mr. Melden said. 

Mr. Young, who came in ninth, said he knew he had an uphill slog getting voters to know him.

“We did not get where we needed to go as far as getting me out in front of people door to door enough and phone banking,” Mr. Young said.

Ms. Spang said she heard positive comments from citizens about her initiatives for budgeting and maintaining city structures.

“I hope the election results reflect that voters appreciate having a principled, truly independent voice on council,” Ms. Spang said.



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Mr. Ludeman was dismayed by the low turnout.

"I was all over Toledo yesterday and I had no hands to shake because no one was voting," Mr. Ludeman said. "It was very sad to see people were not out at the polls."

Mr. Sykes credited a “core following” of supporters who “have always been there for me.”

Ms. Adams was appointed to council and then won a special election unopposed, so Tuesday’s vote was a test of her ability to compete.

"I think people can see I am working hard for them in the very short two-year period," Ms. Adams said.

Endorsed Republican Alfonso Narvaez, president of ONE Village Council, finished 11th — an improvement over four years ago when he finished 15th out of 17 candidates.

“We are going to increase our ground game, do more door to door, and we are letting people know it is time for a change and time for new people on council," he said.

Tom Names, the 13th-place finisher who was knocked out of contention, blamed his poor performance on the media and because he was not invited to candidate forums.

"I didn't have a lot for money and I am not an incumbent, I counted on the media to cover my platform," Mr. Names, a retired professional engineer, said.

Endorsed Republican Patricia Robinson, who finished 10th, and unendorsed Democrat Clyde Phillips Jr., could not be reached for comment.

Contact Tom Troy at tomtroy@theblade.com419-724-6058, or on Twitter @TomFTroy.

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