Part I: The Seltzer Way
3. Seltzer Power: Why He Was Called “Kingmaker”
A diminutive man — about five foot, eight, and weighing no more than 140 pounds – Louis B. Seltzer was truly a giant in the Northern Ohio area. Because of his mighty power and influence, he was regarded as a “king maker” by the politicians and business establishment during many of his 38 years as Editor of The Press (1928-1966).
Politicians in the Greater Cleveland area would not consider entering a race for elective office without first calling upon “Louie Seltzer” – as he was known to everyone — in an attempt to get a promise of his editorial endorsement for the job. If they could not get a commitment of an endorsement, they would strive for at least a promise that The Press would be neutral in the race and not actively oppose him. Unsuccessful in either attempt, they would wisely refuse to run for the office.
It was widely rumored in the Cleveland area that there was an underground tunnel from City Hall to The Cleveland Press so that an uncertain mayor of the city could quietly and privately confer with Louie for advice and guidance on a major issue. Despite the tremendous influence and power he enjoyed, Seltzer never abused that authority. He truly believed that in every move his paper made, his overriding concern was the best interest of the city.
In 1941, a year when neither Republican nor Democratic leaders seemed to be developing a strong candidate for mayor, Seltzer looked over the field and decided that a then Common Pleas judge would make an outstanding mayor.
Well before the primaries for mayor, The Press wrote many stories about the judge, his impeccable credentials, sound decisions, judicial temperament, unquestioned integrity, and with it all, the promise of becoming a great mayor.
So successful was the build-up that Frank J. Lausche entered the mayoral race and was easily elected. Following a highly successful tenure as mayor, Lausche became Ohio governor and later U.S. Senator.
In 1953, Seltzer again proved his ability as a “king maker.” Again, there was a dearth of mayoralty candidates, or so the editor thought, and he had his eye on a virtual unknown, Anthony J. Celebrezze. Although Cleveland is a diverse ethnic community, many of The Press’ top writers expressed the fear that the city was not yet ready for an Italian mayor.
Undeterred, Seltzer went forward with his conviction, built up Celebrezze as ideal mayoralty material and saw him become an easy winner. In his fifth term as mayor, Celebrezze was selected by President John F. Kennedy as Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare. Later Celebrezze became a federal judge.