LORAIN — Attorney Jack Bradley is the Democratic candidate for mayor this November.
Bradley was unanimously appointed to the slot on the November ballot by the city’s Democratic Central Committee on Tuesday evening, but not before Lorain County Party Chairman Anthony Giardini addressed a differing legal opinion on the constitutionality of the entire proceeding.
The committee was set to appoint someone to fill former Mayor Chase Ritenauer’s unexpired term and slot on the ballot June 9 but delayed it after five of the six original candidates were disqualified under a section of Ohio Revised Code.
Avon Lake-based attorney Gerald Phillips — representing Lorain Councilman Dennis Flores, D-Ward 2, and the group Ohio Citizens for Honesty, Integrity and Openness in Government — issued an opinion shortly thereafter alleging the disqualification was unconstitutional and that those who still were interested in the appointment could risk the seat they were elected to in the primary for the Committee appointment.
Giardini disputed Phillips’ opinion at Tuesday’s meeting, citing the Central Committee never asked Phillips for his legal advice and that the memorandum did not change his mind, or that of the Lorain County Prosecutor’s Office. Phillips’ opinion also is in contradiction with the Ohio secretary of state who agreed with Assistant County Prosecutor Gerald Innes’ interpretation of the code ahead of Tuesday’s meeting.
“This is serious business, this isn’t a version of ‘Game of Thrones’ where we’re going to do these kinds of machinations, challenge laws that have been in place, for this case six years, and then hope that we can get it all done and still maintain our credibility.”
He said they have expressed disagreements with the law itself, but the Committee and Board of Elections don’t get to pick what laws they follow — to try to have it declared unconstitutional via court proceedings between now and July 15 is “impossible.”
Following the proceedings, Phillips said it would be up to his clients whether or not anyone wanted to pursue a legal challenge.
He explained his clients still are Flores and the Ohio Citizens for Honesty, Integrity and Openness in Government, which he said has been active in local governments throughout Northeast Ohio for the past 11 years, involved in everything from city tax issues and referendums to charter amendments.
“If a legal action is pursued, we’ll let you know. As of now I’m not engaged to file a lawsuit,” he said. “If somebody asks me, I’ll tell them exactly what they can do and cannot do. I stand behind my opinion.
Ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, Phillips released a supplemental memorandum to his original legal opinion, citing guidelines for candidate withdrawal under Ohio Revised Code. His supplemental memorandum states a candidate for an appointment must withdraw as a candidate for their successful primary seat before the filing deadline, 86 days before the general election. Phillips’ goes on to write, “It is no longer necessary for any Successful Primary Candidate to officially withdraw prior to being nominated and prior to (Tuesday’s) meeting by filing a formal withdrawal with the Lorain County board of Election. Instead, only the successful candidate among the Successful Primary Candidate need to officially withdraw; the unsuccessful Successful Primary Candidate need not officially withdraw.”
He said is supplemental opinion eliminated the majority of criticisms Giardini gave during the meeting.
“They didn’t even consider it,” Phillips said. He later called Giardini’s dismissal of his opinion biased, noting Jack Bradley is Giardini’s former legal partner.
Retired UAW Local 2000 chair Jerry Donovan agreed with Phillips’ opinion. Donovan was seeking the appointment, but withdrew his name Monday afternoon. “That was the shallowest interpretation of the law that I’ve ever seen that Tony Giardini uttered tonight,” Donovan said.
He added, “I have never seen such an effort made by certain people in order to prevent someone from being nominated for mayor.”
Donovan had been seeking the appointment in hopes of being elected in November, to then resign in January and trigger another appointment process so that those who were disqualified ahead of the June 9 meeting — including his daughter, Councilmember -at large Mary Springowski — would have a shot at the nomination.
The Committee appointed Lorain Board of Education vice president Tony Dimacchia to the unexpired term of Council-at large Joe Koziura, who is now serving as the interim mayor through Dec. 31. Dimacchia’s first meeting will be Monday, leaving the school board to fill his vacancy for the rest of the year at least 10 days from now. The next board meeting is 5 p.m. July 16 at the high school.
“I’m extremely excited to work with Mayor Koziura, City Council, our city workers and most importantly represent the taxpayers and voters of the city of Lorain,” he said. “So thank you very much for this opportunity.”
Dimacchia has served on the Board of Education since 2008 and was in his third term, making it bittersweet to leave his position on the board behind, he said. He was nominated to the at-large seat in part because he won the seat in the May primary. He is uncontested on the November ballot.
Bradley, who previously ran for Domestic Relations Judge in 2018, will face Republican Jessie Tower on the November ballot. He said he is going to start working on his campaign, with support from his family and members of the Central Committee. Once elected he plans to work in the schools to help boost test scores and provide mentorship, as well as start a citizens committee to get neighborhood-level concerns in front of the city administration.
“I had to run a county race before I thought we all ran a very good race and I plan on running a good, clean race this time,” he said. “I was happy that I got the unanimous support from the Central Committee for the city of Lorain and I’m going to count on all of them to help me through this and to help me be as good a mayor as I can possibly be.”
Democratic Central Party Chair Paul Adams hoped committee members could unite behind Bradley as he campaigns for his bid between now and November — noting its only a little over 100 days until the election.
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