AMHERST — Republican political newcomer Tom Williams beat out state Rep. Joe Koziura, D-Lorain, and two independents on Tuesday to become the next Lorain County commissioner.
Williams, an Invacare engineer and small business owner, netted 43,512 votes, or 47 percent of the vote, according to unofficial returns from the county Board of Elections.
Koziura, who was term-limited in the state House, garnered 39,875 votes, or about 43 percent.
Independent Mike Nunez finished third with 5,618 votes, or about 6 percent.
The other independent in the race, Kirk E. Stewart, the brother of county Auditor Mark Stewart, who was re-elected Tuesday without opposition, finished the race with 3,311 votes, or about 3 percent.
Although Williams said he didn’t know what impact of having two independents in the race was, Koziura said Nunez and Kirk Stewart, both former Democrats, cost him the election.
“When two guys who have no chance of winning — zero, zip — siphon off 10,000 votes, what are you going to do?” Koziura said. “They certainly weren’t Williams’ votes.”
Stewart didn’t disagree and said he believes Williams will make a fine commissioner.
“People don’t want three commissioners from Lorain, and I hammered (Koziura) on that and Tom Williams did, too,” he said.
The other two commissioners, Ted Kalo and Lori Kokoski, Democrats who weren’t up for re-election this year, are both from Lorain. Williams lives in Amherst, while Stewart lives in Elyria.
Williams, the first Republican to win a seat on the Board of Commissioners since Dave Moore in 2000, said he plans to work with Kalo and Kokoski to tackle the problems the cash-strapped county is facing.
The commissioners have cut millions of dollars and laid off more than 75 county workers, including sheriff’s deputies, in recent years as they have struggled with dwindling revenues.
Voters last year rejected making a 0.5 percent sales tax hike permanent that the commissioners had argued was necessary for keeping the county’s criminal justice system operating.
Kalo and Kokoski have said the county will need to put another emergency income tax increase on the ballot next year, which would allow the county to collect the extra money for a year, even if voters ultimately shoot it down at the polls.
Williams has said he would consider asking voters to pass a sales tax increase but wouldn’t want to do so as an emergency.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.