Frank Janik handily won Tuesday’s Democratic primary for the party’s standard bearer in November in the race to replace retiring Domestic Relations Judge David Basinski.
Janik totaled 8,297 votes or approximately 41 percent of votes cast among the five candidates vying for the post in what was a contentious race marked by judicial reviews of campaign tactics involving Janik and Paulette Lilly, who finished second with 5.073 votes, according to unofficial returns from the Lorain County Board of Elections.
Janik first thanked his campaign committee and supporters “who worked tirelessly for me.”
He then thanked voters.
“I’m humbled and honored to represent the Democratic Party for this judgeship,” Janik said.
An Amherst attorney and city council member, Janik declined to discuss in detail the impact news accounts of negative issues in the campaigns run by Lilly and himself had on the race — particularly his chances versus Lilly. The pair was widely regarded as the front-runners in the five-person field.
“I think the voters have spoken as to what impact it had ... which it didn’t,” Janik said.
When asked specifically about the effect formal complaints made against Lilly had on her candidacy, Janik declined comment.
“I’m going to keep it all positive for now,” Janik said.
Calls to Lilly seeking comment were not returned.
Janik will face Republican Richard Ramsey in November. Ramsey was unopposed in the primary.
The race saw controversy which sprang from complaints filed with the Ohio Supreme Court’s Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline, which challenged her use of the word “return” in campaign fliers, as well as a photo depicting her in a judge’s robe.
A three-member panel found that use of the word “return” coupled with a photo of Lilly wearing a judge’s robe could be perceived by voters as indicating she is a sitting judge instead of a former Domestic Relations Judge seeking election. Lilly lost a re-election bid to incumbent Domestic Relations Judge David Berta in 2006.
Lilly was later ordered by a five-judge panel to stop using the photo unless a distinct disclaimer accompanied the image that made it clear she is a former judge.
On the eve of Tuesday’s vote, Lilly and the three other candidates in the race — Elyria attorney Joel D. Fritz, North Ridgeville lawyer Mary Louise Tobin, and Lorain attorney Michael J. Tony — banded together to purchase a newspaper ad that disputed claims in earlier newspaper ads and campaign mailers put out by Janik.
One complaint was that Janik’s campaign literature essentially ignored all of his opponents but Lilly. Another dealt with wording in his literature that stated “only one candidate has the integrity and commitment” to represent Democrats.
Janik previously labeled his opponents’ ad “a desperate attempt at negative campaigning.”
Three of Janik’s opponents offered their congratulations.
“Frank put in a tremendous amount of effort and financial resources and it has apparently paid off,” according to Tobin, who came in fourth with 2,716 votes according to unofficial results.
When asked about the tone of the campaign, Tobin said “the three of us (with Fritz and Tony) who got the lowest number of votes were committed to take the high road and we took it.”
Tobin added she was “somewhat surprised that “actual experience was not much of a factor.”
The remark alluded to what Tobin said was Janik’s general lack of domestic relations experience.
Tony, who finished fifth with 2,638 votes, termed the race “contentious” but declined to get into specifics.
Despite entering the race late, Tony said he made a good showing in his first try for office, and vowed to make another run for Domestic Relations Judge should a post come open.
“We’ll be heard from again,” he said.
Fritz also declined to discuss the race’s controversy.
“Frank worked hard and deserves it,” Fritz said.
Noting that both Janik and Lilly had strong name recognition, Fritz gave the nod to Janik for having run “harder and stronger. And he had more money to spend.”
Fritz finished third with 2,773 votes. He also said he would consider another run for office.
Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.