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Election roundup: Robart out as Cuyahoga Falls mayor; Democrats keep full control of Akron council

Beacon Journal staff report

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For the first time since the mid-1980s, voters have chosen someone other than Don Robart to run Cuyahoga Falls.

Don Walters, the president of the City Council and Ward 6 representative for 12 years, passed up a bid for re-election to challenge the longtime incumbent mayor.

Voters rewarded him with a narrow victory Tuesday night.

“This is our victory. I had the message, you got it out,” Walters said in thanking his team of 150 volunteers.

Walters downplayed any notion that people voted for him because they don’t like Robart, saying only that, “I think they wanted a change.”

The Ohio Democratic Party took an interest in the race, including paying for two large glossy mailers to voters in the finals days before the election. One piece hammered on Robart for the State Road development and for receiving donations from the developer behind the project. The other accused Robart of being in league with “Tea Party extremists.”

“Please help put an end to ‘Tea Time with Mayor Robart,’ ” the mailer urged.

Jerid Kurtz, a spokesman for the state Democratic party, celebrated Robart’s defeat Tuesday night on Twitter. He noted that Robart was first elected to public office in 1983 and was one of the first to support Senate Bill 5, the state legislation that limited collective bargaining in Ohio but was later repealed by voters in 2011.

“Tonight we defeated him,” Kurtz said.

Robart expressed disappointment Tuesday evening.

“I felt like for 28 years we made all the right decisions for the city, but apparently [voters] felt differently,” he said. “I will work for a smooth transition and help the new mayor in any way I can.”

It wasn’t a total victory for Democrats in Cuyahoga Falls.

They gained a mayor, but lost their council majority when Democrat Mary Nichols-Rhodes lost to Republican Robert Weinhardt in Ward 4.

Democrats sweep

The Republican Party continues to be shut out of Akron City Council.

Democrats won in the three at-large races and every contested ward race Tuesday.

Council will have two new members: Rick Swirsky, who will represent a redrawn Ward 1 that is mainly centered in Highland Square; and Tara Samples, who defeated Ward 5 Councilman Ken Jones in the September primary and did not face opposition Tuesday.

Garry Moneypenny, the council president who held on to his Ward 10 seat, said council needs to “roll up our sleeves and get back to work. There are a lot of issues the city is facing. We have a talented council I’m sure can address the issues before us.”

Voters let off steam

Akron voters overwhelmingly approved Issue 4, which allows the city to donate its aging downtown steam and cooling system to Akron Children’s Hospital.

The hospital then will find a company to enter a long-term lease or purchase of the system, which services Children’s, Akron General Medical Center, the city of Akron, Summit County and several dozen other downtown businesses. The hope is that the company will make the updates needed to the system, and other businesses, including the University of Akron, will return as customers.

The city of Akron and Children’s still will need to work out details of the donation.

“We are happy that the voters understood that this was a good move for Akron and Children’s Hospital,” said Stephanie York, Akron’s spokeswoman who led the ballot issue’s campaign.

Board seeks continuity

Among seven candidates for the Akron Board of Education, newcomer and attorney Dave Lombardi joined incumbents Lisa Mansfield, Bruce Alexander and Veronica Sims to fill the four available seats.

Each returning board member has served no more than one term, with Sims filling out the last few months of Ginger Baylor’s vacated term. The young board looks for new leadership: President Jason Haas steps down in January after not seeking re-election.

Mansfield, the current vice president, is the probable successor. She said she looks up to fellow board member the Rev. Curtis Walker, who has more experience than the entire field elected Tuesday combined.

“Rev. Walker is a fantastic mentor. Of course we’ll look to that,” said Mansfield, who campaigned alongside her fellow incumbents to build on the board’s collective experience. “We’ve tried to maintain that continuity.”

Shake-up in Norton

Norton City Council had a huge shake-up, with three incumbents losing Tuesday.

With a new Ward 1 council member elected — Rick Rodgers — because the incumbent didn’t run, this means that four of the seven members will be brand new.

Danny Grether beat Don Nicolard, the council president, in Ward 2; Dennis Pierson defeated Bill Mowery in Ward 3; and Paul Tousley bested John Conklin in Ward 4.

‘No’ in North Canton

By about a 2-1 ratio, voters in North Canton rejected an issue that would have changed the city charter and made the mayor’s post, currently a part-time job, into a full-time position.

Mayor David Held, who did not favor the proposed change, ran unopposed Tuesday.

Recount possible

One Akron judge race might end up with a recount, depending on the outcome after provisional and absentee ballots are added.

Jon Oldham, a magistrate, defeated Judge Katarina Cook by 16 votes, less than a 0.06 percent difference, according to unofficial election results. An automatic recount is triggered by a spread of 0.5 percent or less.

Julie Schafer, a Copley-Fairlawn school board member, beat Akron City Prosecutor Gert Wilms in the other Akron Municipal Court judge race, with unofficial results that were close, but not close enough to require a recount.