South Toledoans could swing mayoral electionWritten by Bailey G. Dick | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Six spots. Twelve candidates.
A dozen candidates are vying for at-large Toledo City Council seats, hoping to bring fresh ideas and familiar names into Council chambers. In this year’s race, a mix of incumbents, names known across the city and newcomers taking their first stab at politics are facing off.
Among the candidates are a pair of South Toledoans with a shared vision of the city. Sandy Spang and Rob Ludeman grew up in the same neighborhood; a few years ago, Ludeman nominated Spang for a vacant seat on Council. And while the pair are technically running against each other in the election, they both hope to be elected and see some of South Toledo’s successes implemented throughout the city.
Ludeman was the District 2 representative on Council from 1994 to 2007, and was elected to his at-large seat in 2009. He said he enjoyed representing South Toledo’s District 2, but has particularly liked spending the past four years representing the city as a whole.
“I enjoy being at-large, and getting into other parts of the city. I want to do that again,” he said.
As a veteran Realtor, Ludeman said one of the city’s biggest challenges is dealing with blighted neighborhoods and high occupant turnover rates.
“Toledo’s properties are occupied more than 50 percent by renters,” Ludeman said.
“Whole neighborhoods need to be redone, and little neighborhood by little neighborhood, we need to re-establish those areas. They need grocery stores, gas stations and coffee houses.”
A newcomer to the Toledo political scene, Spang said she knows a thing or two about revitalizing areas with small businesses. Her coffee shop, Plate 21, is located in a commercial strip in South Toledo that sat vacant for years. The duo hopes to bring their respective professional experiences to the political arena.
“Rob understands housing needs, and I’m passionate about small business. You need both of those things to have a neighborhood. It’s easy to say South Toledo is solid, but I want to bring that to other neighborhoods, and bring that to the central city,” Spang said.
The duo believes the at-large seats are the perfect vehicle for implementing big ideas like neighborhood redevelopment.
“At-large councilmembers are the gatekeepers of long-term vision. With a strong mayor system, we can have new ideas every four years, and ideas are sometimes not brought to fruition. Because Council doesn’t turn over every four years, we need to hold Council accountable for long-term vision,” Spang said.
Ludeman said the pair has something else that sets them apart from other candidates: attitude.
“We’re approaching this with positivity. We’re not candidates who tell people how bad things are. We know how great of a place Toledo is to raise a family,” Ludeman said. “We are going to approach the next four years positively, and find positive solutions to problems.”
Sevens are strong
Looking historically at the way voters in Spang and Ludeman’s native South Toledo show up for elections, there is some speculation that candidates from District 2, which includes mayoral candidate D. Michael Collins, could fare extremely well in the Nov. 5 election.
Political pollster Stan Odesky has been forecasting elections in the Toledo area for more than 40 years using precinct turnout data.
Odesky said that historically, precincts 16 and 7, which are home to Spang and Ludeman, respectively, have “pretty high” turnout rates. Collins lives in District 7.
“The 7s are pretty strong, and 16s are reasonably strong,” Odesky said.
Odesky said in the last mayoral election, South Toledo precincts accounted for about 16,500 of the approximately 68,000 votes cast.
Ludeman and Spang said they hope to have the backing of their own neighborhoods, and noted that having a South Toledo bloc on City Council could benefit the city.
“We have a very strong representation of South Toledo on City Council currently, and that tends to be a very positive thing politically,” Ludeman said.
And while neither Spang nor Ludeman could say for sure if a strong South Toledo showing in the City Council race would translate to a victory for the area’s own mayoral candidate, they did say they were excited to work with whomever is elected.
“Rob and I will be able to work with either administration, and both candidates want to move the city forward,” Spang said.