LORAIN — As Joe Thayer was celebrating Independent 8th Ward City Council candidate Joshua Thornsberry’s Tuesday victory over Democrat incumbent Frank DeTillio, Thayer was being denounced across town where the Democrats gathered to watch election results.
“Joe Thayer is done!” an angry DeTillio supporter screamed as the results came in. The anger typified the split between Democratic Party leaders and local union leaders like Thayer, an organizer with Sheet Metal Workers Union Local 33 and former Lorain County AFL-CIO president. Thayer, a Democratic Party precinct committee member, has been banned from attending meetings since supporting Thornsberry.
The historic alliance between Democrats and labor unions took a hit in Lorain when Mayor Chase Ritenauer and Council’s dilution of a local hiring agreement in March included a stipulation that workers unionize, poisoned the waters.
The fracture led to the unions backing Thornsberry and Gregory Argenti, an Independent 4th Ward candidate who defeated Democrat Dave Burgess. Burgess hasn’t conceded and is awaiting the counting of provisional ballots.
Thayer said unions donated about $11,000 to Thornsberry’s campaign. Harry Williamson, Lorain County AFL-CIO president and Communication Workers of America Local 4370 president, said between $7,000 and $8,000 was donated to Argenti. The unions gain leverage on Council, but both the candidates and Thayer and Williamson said the candidates won’t be union pawns.
“It’s not about the party,” Thayer said Wednesday. “It’s about supporting the right person for the job that’s going to fairly represent everybody.”
Despite the animosity, Williamson said bridges haven’t been burned and union leaders are willing to talk to Ritenauer and compromise on some issues.
“But it’s a two-way street,” he said. “We’re tired of giving and getting nothing in return.”
Ritenauer, who said he’s also willing to talk to the union leaders, said he congratulated Argenti and Thornsberry Wednesday on their victories.
“There’s a time for elections and there’s a time for governing,” he said. “There’s no Democratic way to pave a road and no Republican way to tear down a house. Local government is about providing service.”