Coyne backed Trump, but says he lost mayor’s race because Brook Park is just ‘tired of Coyne’: Michael K. McIntyre

November 12, 2017 GMT

Coyne backed Trump, but says he lost mayor’s race because Brook Park is just ‘tired of Coyne’: Michael K. McIntyre

BROOK PARK, Ohio -- Tom Coyne is still a maverick, but soon, he won’t be a mayor.

Brook Park voters in 2013 returned him to office. (He’d served as mayor previously from 1982 through 2001.) They proved to be forgiving after his very public arrests for alcohol- and drug-related transgressions in 2003 and 2004, when he was chairman of the Board of Elections.

Before Twitter was a thing or Donald Trump was a politician, Coyne talked like Trump tweets.


“I received more mail than Elizabeth Taylor,” he told me then of his time in treatment at the Betty Ford Clinic in California, followed by 10 days in jail. “Clevelanders want me back in public life. They said they need me in the Democratic Party.”

He’d have to wait. Brook Park voters rejected him in 2005, but he persisted and regained City Hall four years ago, having worked as a consultant in the meantime.

On Tuesday, Brook Park voters bounced him, choosing instead former City Council President Mike Gamella, a man who admits “I’ve been beaten more than a drum” in political races.

So how did Gamella, who calls himself “the exact opposite” of the glib and savvy Coyne, beat him?

Was it Coyne’s support of Trump and his switch last year to the Republican Party? Or was it what almost every mayoral election is about: City services and the handling of the budget?

“It was a judgment on Tom Coyne. They said they’re tired of Coyne, and quite frankly, I’m tired of Coyne,” he said the day after the election. “Trump lost Brook Park by 18 votes. I don’t think you can blame this on my support for Donald Trump.”

Tim Hagan, the former Cuyahoga County commissioner who has formed a Trump resistance group called “The Fearless Loyal Opposition,” said Coyne’s support of Trump played a key role.

“Tom got what he deserved. He was seduced by a demagogue, and he bought right into it, and the people of Brookpark said thanks but no thanks,” said Hagan.

Coyne went on a Trump-like tear when I told him what Hagan said, ending with, “l’ll never run for mayor again, I can assure you of that. ... I have a nice life, but if I choose to, I could run for something right now and I could beat Tim Hagan.”

Coyne says his loss is more likely because voters weren’t happy with the tough decisions he made for the benefit of the city, which was flush during his first term when Ford Motor Co. was going strong, but faced leaner times upon his return.


“I didn’t make any political decisions, I made business decisions,” he said. He closed an indoor pool, contracted out services the city used to perform, tried to combine the city’s two fire stations. His efforts, he argues, righted a listing ship.

“In most cases, a mayor who accomplished what I accomplished would be re-elected,” he said. “People who say, ‘You ran as a Republican,’ or ‘Oh, it was Donald Trump.’ I don’t think so.”

Gamella agrees.

“There were a lot of things being done in the community people didn’t really care for, and I didn’t care for,” said the mayor-elect, an international representative of the United Auto Workers. “I just decided I can either complain or I can go out and do something about it. So I did.”

Coyne wishes Gamella, his neighbor, well and says he’ll have the time to enjoy his new grandson now. At 68, he said he’ll likely still be involved in politics in some way. And he’ll continue to support Trump “because of his domestic agenda.”

“Voters are never wrong, but they have to live with what they voted for,” he said. “Will Brook Park be OK? It’s going to be OK. Is it going to be as good as it could be with Tom Coyne as mayor? Probably not.”

He lost his job, but he retains his swagger.