LORAIN — Twenty years after he last held the city’s top job, Joe Koziura will once again serve as Lorain’s mayor after Democratic Central Committee members chose him over two serving City Council members to finish out the last six months of former Mayor Chase Ritenauer’s unfinished term.
A large contingent of residents decked out in green campaign T-shirts and hats had turned out at Rosewood Place on Oberlin Avenue to support at-large Councilwoman Mary Springowski’s bid for the seat, which survived the first round of voting but not the second.
It took two ballots for Lorain’s Democratic precinct committee members to choose Koziura over Springowski and Acting Mayor/Council President Joel Arredondo, who came in third in the voting and was eliminated after the first ballot.
Following his win, Koziura — a councilman at large for three consecutive terms prior to his primary defeat — was greeted by multiple constituents who shook his hand and gave him hugs. Koziura praised the work Ritenauer did for the city and said Lorain is “well on its way” to a renaissance.
Koziura said he did not decide to put his name into consideration for interim mayor until late, and did so after he got “a lot of calls” and “a lot of pressure” from supporters.
He served as the city’s mayor from 1996 to 1999 and for nearly 20 years in the Ohio House of Representatives over two separate stints, came in fourth out of nine candidates for three open at-large seats on Lorain City Council in the May primary, garnering only 12 percent of the vote to Springowski’s 19 percent.
“As the interim mayor of Lorain, I humbly want to thank all of you who supported me,” said Koziura, who promised to work together with other elected officials over the next six months “for the good of the city.”
As he spoke, boos from some Springowski supporters echoed through the room. Both Democrat Board of Elections member Anthony Giardini and Lorain County Board of Elections Director Paul Adams had to call for quiet at times and urge respect for each candidate.
Following their nominations by central committee members, the three candidates were given five minutes each to make their case as to why they should be chosen to serve as mayor after Ritenauer resigned May 31 to take a job in the private sector in Illinois.
Along with stating his credentials as a nearly 50-year member of the Democratic Party, Koziura said he intended to support whoever was chosen Sunday as the interim mayor.
He said there are “tough things ahead” for Lorain, including union negotiations, the appointment of a new police chief and water and sewer issues.
Calling back to times when the city acted in an unpopular way and raised water and sewer rates on its residents, Koziura noted that “sometimes the right thing to do is the hard thing to do.”
He also denied he would “clean out the seventh floor” at Lorain City Hall of anyone who supported fellow Democrats over him.
Springowski relied on her status as a top vote-getter in citywide elections to try and convince the central committee she was right for the job.
“The voters have said, time and again, that I am the one they want to represent them,” she told the 39 members of the committee who were in attendance Sunday.
Springowski said she would defend residents’ rights, help Lorain’s economic and civic recovery, work to build a strong relationship with the city’s schools and that she had faith that party leaders would agree.
“Hard work and long hours are not a novelty to me,” she said. “I will focus all my attention on the office of the mayor. ... I will not support codified voter suppression.”
Following her defeat in Sunday’s vote, Springowski said she still has a lot of support in the city and that she felt badly — though also “very grateful” — for the supporters who showed up to back her bid.
“It’s evident Lorain wanted me more as a leader,” she said.
But “some people don’t listen to the constituents,” Springowski said, urging Lorain Democrats to give the voters the chance to decide the next mayor.
“I’m still the top vote-getter,” she said. “I’ll just go forward, get up tomorrow and go to work.”
Arrendondo, who was eliminated from contention after the first ballot, told the committee members that “I listen, I learn, I lead.” He said he would bring leadership, involvement, care and cooperation to the office, pointing to his 12 years as president of Lorain City Council.
Koziura said there still is work ahead for the city, including supporting the Broadway improvement project and the new hotel.
“I’m right on it, and ready to rock,” Koziura said.
The gathered Democrats also griped about Ohio election law, the so-called “sore loser” provision that precluded five of six Lorain Democrats from running in November to replace Ritenauer as mayor after they ran for different posts in the May primary.
Those prohibited from running by the provision in the law were Springowski, Arredondo, Councilman at-large Mitch Fallis, Lorain school board member Tony Dimacchia and city Auditor Karen Shawver.
Most, Giardini said, were “announcing their intention to run to replace (Ritenauer) before the ink was even dry on his resignation.”
The “sore loser” provision “eliminated our entire A-team,” he said. “They were the best representatives for us and our party.”
Only former state Rep. Dan Ramos was left of the six original candidates. On Friday, Ramos suspended his campaign, calling the process of picking a new mayor a “circus” and denying allegations by retired UAW leader Jerry Donovan that the other five candidates were eliminated using an obscure election law in order to secure Ramos the Democratic nod for mayor.
“Even if Dan knew, so what?” Giardini told the central committed and the packed house behind them Sunday. “It wouldn’t have changed the law.”
As it stands now, the party has no agreed-upon candidate for mayor in November.
Attorney Jack Bradley also said he plans to seek the mayor’s seat in November.
Donovan, who is Springowski’s father, also has put his name in for consideration, but with the plan to resign from office if elected so that his daughter could be appointed by the central committee.
Koziura said the work for Lorain Democrats is far from over.
“We’ve still got to meet to pick the next mayor,” he said.
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