AVON LAKE — Tuesday’s mayoral runoff was nonpartisan, but Democrat Greg Zilka attributed his unofficial razor-thin, 29-vote defeat of incumbent Mayor Karl “K.C.” Zuber to party crossovers.
“It was frustrating when party politics kept on being brought into the race (but) frankly, I won because I received quite a few votes from people who registered Republican,” said Zilka, a councilman since 1985 and council president since 2001. “It’s a nonpartisan race, but it became a bipartisan victory.”
Zilka, 65, said his relationship with the Republican Zuber had become “a bit strained” over finances and Zilka’s push to increase regionalism inspiring him to challenge Zuber.
Zilka — an economics and social studies teacher at Avon Lake High School from 1971 to 2006 — promised to be a prudent money manager in hard economic times.
“It’s not going to be easy because of the cutbacks from the state, but we’re going to have to live within our means,” Zilka said. “It’s going to be tough going, but we’re going to do it.”
With the runoff coming on the same day that Ford Motor Co. announced a $128 million investment at the Ohio Assembly Plant, Zilka said he was surprised that it didn’t generate more votes for Zuber.
Zilka said voters may have agreed with his contention that the investment was more due to Ford’s good relationship with the United Auto Workers union than the influence of Zuber.
Zilka won 2,451 to 2,422, a 0.6 percentage point margin of victory, according to unofficial results from the Lorain County Board of Elections.
Zuber defeated Zilka 3,676 to 3,595 in November, a 0.9 percent margin of victory. Third candidate Robert Berner garnered 1,782 votes.
Paul Adams, board director, said up to 36 absentee ballots and up to 26 provisional ballots will be counted Dec. 20. If the final margin is 0.5 percent, an automatic recount will occur.
Zuber said he had no opinion on a recount and he couldn’t attribute his defeat to any specific issues.
Zuber, who said he won his first race for City Council by 20 votes when he took office in 1992, said he’s used to close elections.
Mayor since 2008, Zuber said he was proud of his record, including construction of a new city pool, creating a new Metro Park and attracting WOW, a cable television, Internet and phone provider, to Avon Lake.
“We did a lot of good things for the community, for which I’m grateful,” said the 48-year-old Zuber, who was Zilka’s student in high school. “I always have tried to work hard for the community and God and the citizens blessed me to be able to serve as mayor for four years.”
Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or firstname.lastname@example.org.