August 22, 2014

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Chase Ritenauer elected Lorain mayor in a landslide

LORAIN — Chase Ritenauer walked to the podium Tuesday night to give his victory speech to Bruce Springteen’s “Born to Run,” but Del Shannon’s “Runaway” would’ve been more appropriate for Lorain’s next mayor.

The Democratic Ritenauer won in an 11,838 to 2,766 landslide over Republican Tim Baxter with 81 percent of the votes cast going for Ritenauer.

“After a 10-month interview, I’ve got to say to Lorain, ‘Thank you for hiring me to be your next mayor,’ ” said Ritenauer, who began campaigning in January. “I’m ready to get to work on behalf of you, your interests, your investments and your hopes (for) our city.”

More photos below.

There had been little doubt of Ritenauer’s victory in the traditionally Democratic Lorain since he soundly defeated incumbent Mayor Tony Krasienko in the May primary 4,035 to 2,461, a 54 percent to 46 percent victory margin.

Outnumbered and outspent — Ritenauer spent about $55,000 in the primary and general election compared with the approximately $11,000 spent by Baxter — Baxter waged an uphill battle walking door to door across the city.

Besides the lack of money and supporters, Baxter said he was hurt by a big Democratic turnout for the union-battling state Issue 2, congressional Republicans “acting terribly” and good weather, which helped the big voter turnout.

“I got clobbered,” said Baxter, a Class III wastewater treatment operator who quit his job in Springfield in August to campaign. “The people had to be ready for a change, and I had to have all the other things on line for me to get where I needed to go.”

Baxter said he had no regrets about his campaign, which emphasized fiscal austerity.

“I had a great message, but it’s a bad message for the establishment,” he said. “I did my job as a citizen to try to give the residents of Lorain a choice.”

Ritenauer, 26, was introduced to about 200 supporters at the Rosewood Place banquet hall on Oberlin Avenue as the youngest mayor for a city of Lorain’s size and as a reformer.

“He’s an articulate, solution-driven leader,” said Scott Muska, Ritenauer’s co-campaign manager. “He knows how to bring people together, and he knows how to get the job done.”

In his approximately 20-minute victory address, Ritenauer focused on the same fact-based, results-oriented agenda he ran on. Reducing crime, improving infrastructure and housing and spurring business investments are his top goals.

Racked by poverty and high unemployment, Ritenauer acknowledged reversing Lorain’s decline would be “monumental” and require difficult, unpopular decisions.

“But bold decision-making focused on what’s best for the future of Lorain must and will be the barometer in decisions and policy initiatives,” he said. “You can count on that.”

Ritenauer, a former deputy safety-service director in Lorain who is public works commissioner in North Olmsted, said his transition team will be chaired by Lorain Auditor Ronald Mantini and begin interviewing candidates for Ritenauer’s administration soon. Packets with job applications were on hand at Rosewood with a Nov. 16 application deadline.

Ritenauer profusely thanked his family and friends — he joked that his remarks sounded like an Emmy award acceptance speech — and stressed the need for unity within his administration and Lorain.

“I will dedicate everything I can to make sure our city begins ascension to prosperity,” he said. “(Today) begins our pathway to building a city rooted in higher standards and a new approach. The page is turned, and a new chapter begins now.”

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 at egoodenow@chroniclet.com.