Bill Grace, who served as mayor from Dec. 6, 1999, to Dec. 31, 2011, is running for Council at-large in a race that includes several incumbent Council members. The move, became official Wednesday when Grace turned in petitions to declare his candidacy to the Lorain County Board of Elections, may seem shocking to some.
Grace, however, said he may have physically left City Hall when he lost to Mayor Holly Brinda, but his heart never left Elyria politics.
“I’ve invested so much of my life in how to make Elyria a better place that it’s hard to be on the sidelines,” he said moments after filing. “I guess I would say I really made the decision about a week ago. My heart is fully invested in Elyria, and I’m always looking for ways to contribute to its progress. After having many discussions with family and friends, I felt this was an appropriate way for me to serve.”
Since leaving office, Grace said he has spent considerable time catching up on his personal life and enrolled full-time at Tiffin University in the business administration program.
For the May primary, voters will narrow down the at-large candidates to four Democrats. Councilmen Tom Callahan, Mike Lotko and Vic Stewart are running for re-election. Also in the race is Chuck Martin of Kent Circle. Councilman Jack Baird, R-at large, is running unopposed.
Grace said it is not lost on him that a win for him could mean a defeat for one of his friends.
“They are all my friends, and I can’t say much more than we all know it’s in the heads of the electors of our community to make the choice,” he said.
Stewart said he hasn’t talked to Grace since his decision to run.
“He’s well within his right to run,” he said. “He obviously has the experience — being the former mayor and a prior Council member before that. I guess he just wants to continue to be a part of Elyria.”
While Grace was involved in a somewhat-contentious mayoral campaign when he faced Brinda in 2011, he said he fully believes he will be able to constructively work with her in Council.
“Over the next few years, the city will have to make some important financial decisions, and I believe the city could gain from my years of knowledge,” he said.
Several other current Council members filed to run in the primary and will not face opposition including Larry Tanner, D-1st Ward, Brenda Kay Davis, D-2nd Ward, and Marcus Madison, D-5th Ward. All will likely go into the November election unopposed as well because there are no Republicans in the field.
Incumbents Garry Gibbs, R-3rd Ward, and Donna Mitchell, D-6th Ward, face no opposition in May, but will have opponents in November. Gibbs will face the winner in a primary race between Democrats Mark Jessie and Fred Trimble, while Mitchell will face Republican Bradley Blair.
Councilman Jerry McHugh, 7th Ward, did not file for re-election. Democrat Jack Cerra and Republican Scott McDonald are unopposed in May, but will face each other in November.