Interview with Seth Taft

Take us back to October of 1967, how did your campaign change after Carl Stokes won the primary?


Well, it was i--interesting. And I think I better give you a little history of the, uh. This, uh, campaign started because the uh, incumbent mayor of Cleveland, Ralph Locher was not doing a terribly good job. There'd been a great deal of, uh, unrest in the city. In 1966 we'd had some, uh, riots of various kinds and, uh, so by 1967 the incumbent mayor was in real trouble. Ah, I had, uh, uh, thought about running for mayor before but gradually in that spring time I finally concluded this was the time to do it. And, uh, uh, I, uh, I of course in some respects was a carpetbagger. I had lived in the suburbs. On the other hand I'd spend most of my waking hours for the previous twenty years in the city of Cleveland. So it was really my home. Um, then, uh, as we came up towards the filing deadline, in Cleveland at that time there was a Republican primary, a Democratic primary and you could file as an independent. Ah, and, uh, I thought of filing as an independent because Cleveland is a three, four, or five to one democratic so that having the r--word Republican under your name wasn't necessarily an asset. Ah, so I thought of filing as independent and thought I would have a better chance of being successful. Ah, on the other hand, the Republican Party, uh, said to me, "If you run as an independent we're going to file a Republican candidate." And that would have d--so diffused the votes so there was no chance of being elected. So I said, "Alright, I'll run in the Republican primary." Then as we got up to the filing deadline, around the first of July, Carl Stokes, uh, was the very prominent, uh, candidate for on the, uh, Democratic side. He'd been a state legislator. He was very popular. He was very articulate. A, uh, fine person. He and I had worked on legislation together in various fields like fair housing and things of that sort. So that we, we were, we were good friends. Ah, and as we got to the filing deadline it suddenly appeared that maybe he was going to run as an independent. And if he ran as an independent there would then be at least three people in the general election. Ah, there'd be, uh, Stokes. There'd be somebody who'd won the Democratic primary and there'd be me, we, me who'd won the Republican primary. I concluded under those circumstances I didn't have a ch--a prayer of getting elected mayor. So I announced publicly that I would not run for mayor unless Carl Stokes filed in the Democratic primary. Now, I can't say whether that influenced his decision, but at any rate, after I made that statement he in fact did decide to, to file in the Democratic primary and then I filed as a Republican. Ah, frankly, uh, I thought at that time the incumbent mayor would win. After all, you would, that would be the normal thing to expect, that, uh, an incumbent mayor would win the primary of his own party. Ah, so frankly I, uh, I thought that, uh, Ralph Locher, the incumbent mayor would, would win the Democratic primary. And I sort of campaigned on that basis. Now, I was, during that period of the summer, since I was the only person who'd filed in the Republican primary, I had no competition. Ah, now the primary in Cleveland at that time, uh, was five weeks before the general election. So it was about the first of October. So that from the filing deadline in, uh, late June, early July until October--that's July, August, September--three months. Ah, the Democrats were having a, a rip-roaring primary kind of, uh, campaign and I was, didn't have one. So I had to run my efforts in such a way as to keep me in front of the voters so they would know who I was. We even, uh, uh, a guy who's, uh, was running the media part of my campaign said you got to have something attractive. So, so we got an elephant. So, uh, we got, we got an elephant.