Darryl Fairchild holds his daughter, Maya, on Tuesday night as supporters celebrate Fairchild winning a seat on Dayton City Commission. JEREMY P. KELLEY / STAFF
Photo: JEREMY P. KELLEY / STAFF
Photo: JEREMY P. KELLEY / STAFF

Fairchild wins commission seat: ‘They recognized I was persistent’

Darryl Fairchild on Tuesday won a Dayton City Commission seat by beating the candidate endorsed by the Montgomery County Democratic Party, a feat that has happened only a couple of times in the last 25 years.

Fairchild defeated opponent Daryl Ward by garnering 51.99 percent of the vote in a nail-biter of a race in which he trailed early but took the lead late Tuesday as votes were counted and the numbers were updated by the Montgomery County Board of Elections.

Endorsed candidates usually prevail in Dayton municipal races, but Fairchild became the first Democratic city commission candidate to notch a victory without the party’s official backing since Dean Lovelace did it in 1993.

Gary Leitzell, an independent, upset endorsed Democrat Rhine McLin in the 2009 Dayton mayor’s race, a separate contest from the commission.

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Fairchild said he was fortunate to have a strong team of supporters who were built up over his last bids for a commission seat. But also, he said his previous campaigns helped get out his name and message.

“We knew how to run a strong campaign, and more importantly, the voters have gotten to know me and they recognized I was persistent and I was going to persevere,” he said.

Fairchild at times during his campaign was critical of the city’s decisions and leadership, and it remains to be seen how he will work with the rest of the commission.

Other elected leaders say Fairchild will now be in a position to try to help address some of the things he sees as problems in the community, but succeeding will take cooperation and teamwork.

“I can work with anyone who is committed to building trust, working as a team, and has in their heart what is best for Dayton and acts on that motivation,” Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said by email Wednesday.

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Tuesday’s race was a special election, held to replace Joey Williams, a long-serving Dayton commissioner who resigned for personal reasons in February.

This was Fairchild’s third run for commission in the last two and a half years. Ward, senior pastor at Omega Baptist Church, was a political newcomer.

Tuesday’s contest was close. But it was not quite as close as the commission race Fairchild lost in November 2015, when he fell just 208 votes short of victory. He defeated Ward by about 492 votes, the unofficial final election results show.

Fairchild lost by a larger margin in a four-way race for two seats last November, when incumbents Williams and Jeff Mims Jr. cruised to re-election.

After the final results were in Tuesday night, Fairchild told a crowd of supporters that he wants to lead in the tradition of some past commissioners like Dean Lovelace, Abner Orick and Dick Zimmer, who he says were close to the community, accessible and accountable.

Fairchild, the manager of chaplain services at Dayton Children’s Hospital, said he felt there was a gap on the commission that needed filled by someone who is concerned with the city’s residential neighborhoods.

“I felt that voice needed to be on the commission, and that’s what pushed me to run,” he said.

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Fairchild campaigned on a promise to help revitalize the residential neighborhoods by developing comprehensive plans for each, similar to the Greater Downtown Dayton Plan.

Fairchild said the county Democratic Party has a strong following in the city, and their endorsement means a lot to voters.

Endorsed candidates have built-in advantages, including mailings, slate cards advertising their candidacy and access to donors, he said. He said it was a challenge to overcome, but persistence paid off.

Fairchild had some advantages given that candidates in this race only had a short window of time to campaign, said Whaley.

Fairchild built up his name recognition from his two previous runs, including one just six months ago, which makes it likely that only an elected official or former elected official would have beaten him, Whaley said.

“He was on the ballot just six months ago, which was a tremendous advantage for him,” said Mark Owens, chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Party.

Dayton City Commissioner Matt Joseph said he expected the race to be close, especially since it was a special election, which tend to have lower turnout and can have unpredictable outcomes.

Lovelace’s 1993 victory came in a special election.

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