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Elyria mayor will see 3 independent challengers in November election

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    Bill Grace files his petitions at the Lorain County Board of Elections on Monday for an independent bid for Elyria mayor.


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    Clifton Oliver has filed to be an independent candidate for Elyria mayor.



    Frank Whitfield, president and CEO of the Lorain County Urban League, speaks at Erie Island Coffee, in downtown Elyria, Saturday morning, April 27. Whitfield will be running for Elyria mayor as an independent.


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    Bill Grace files his petitions at the Lorain County Board of Elections on Monday for an independent bid for Elyria mayor.



ELYRIA — By the time the independent filing deadline passed Monday afternoon, the field of candidates for the Elyria mayor’s race in the November general election had grown to four.

Though she did not face a primary challenge in today’s election, incumbent Mayor Holly Brinda will face challenges come November from three independent candidates: Former three-term mayor Bill Grace and political newcomers Frank Whitfield and Clifton Oliver.

All three men filed as independents by Monday’s deadline, according to the Lorain County Board of Elections.

Brinda said Monday she is looking forward to the coming campaign, and sharing the continued momentum of growth and investment in the city under her tenure.

“I think it’s healthy for a community to have a choice as to who they want as mayor,” she said.

Bill Grace

Grace served as mayor from 1999 to 2011, and was defeated by Brinda in the 2011 Democratic primary. It was a reversal of the primary four years previous in 2007, when she challenged Grace and lost.

Grace resigned from the Lorain County Democratic Party’s executive committee Monday in order to run as an independent.

Asked why he’s running as an independent instead of as a Democrat, Grace said partisanship “doesn’t present as much in city matters.”

“It made sense to be independent where affiliation is less important than the issues themselves,” he said.

Grace said multiple people in the city have been encouraging him to run for the top office.

“My deep passion is to do my best to help Elyria be successful,” he said.

Grace also ran an unsuccessful campaign against Brinda in 2015. Following that defeat, he served as interim director of Main Street Elyria and recently has been working for a Cleveland-based office technology company, he said.

Clifton Oliver

A U.S. Marine Corps veteran, Oliver said Monday he welcomes the challenge presented by having three other candidates on the ballot in November.

“I’m like ‘Cool, welcome to the party,’” he said with a laugh.

“I’m happy, I want people who want to make change out here,” Oliver added. “We can’t have complacency. I can’t be the only one who thinks that there’s a problem in the city and something has to change.”

Formerly a registered Democrat, Oliver said he doesn’t necessarily agree with all the things either major party does.

“Being someone who thinks for himself is something I pride myself on,” he said. “It made sense to me to do this, because I want people to believe in what I’m doing, not what letter is behind my name. ... Politics has ruined a lot of things in this country. It’s just gotten out of control.”

Oliver also said that it is people who need to be held accountable for their individual actions, not the parties to which they belong. Too many times, elected officials also go “from public service to self-serving,” and Oliver also said he sees a lack of fairness in the city these days.

A businessman and investor, Oliver said he appreciates a challenge and was taught in the military to confront challenges head-on.

“The Marines always taught me, you run toward the problem, not away from it,” Oliver said.

Frank Whitfield

The president and CEO of the Lorain County Urban League, Whitfield on Thursday turned in his signatures to run for mayor as an independent. His last day at the head of the Urban League will be May 15, he said upon announcing his candidacy.

Whitfield, who will graduate May 18 with an MBA from Case Western Reserve University, is running a bipartisan, independent campaign he is calling “WElyria.”

In announcing his campaign, Whitfield said building a successful city where diverse teams of people work together requires a special collaborative leadership style that is inclusive, courageous, makes difficult but necessary decisions, is inspirational, compassionate and understands struggle while overcoming obstacles.

He also pledged to show residents how, and how well, their tax dollars are being spent.

“I’m just really looking forward to showing the city why I’m the best person to lead it right now,” he said Monday. “I think I’m going to be the best person to bring good jobs to the city, to make sure Elyrians get those jobs, that our city is safe and our children are successful.”

Contact Dave O’Brien at (440) 329-7129 or do’ Follow him at @daveobrienCT on Twitter.

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