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MAHONING VALLEY Voters' voices are heard, but what are they saying?



Published: Sun, April 7, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The two parties have put up six candidates for two seats.

By STEPHEN SIFF

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

WARREN -- When it comes to deciding between two judicial candidates he's never heard of, Mike Riedmann has a method that works as well as any.

"I usually just vote for the man most of the time," said Riedmann, 38, sipping a cup of coffee between classes in a lounge at Kent State University Trumbull Campus.

"Women can be too emotional sometimes," the Warren man added.

People gathered in restaurants, parks and public places across Trumbull County acknowledge knowing little about the judges now on the 11th District Court of Appeals or the six names that will appear between the Democratic and Republican ballots for the two open seats in the May primary election.

One remarkable feature about the 11th District Court of Appeals race this year is that the November general election will pit one incumbent judge against another on the five-member court.

Interesting race: Republican Judith A. Christley, who has two years remaining on her term, has decided to run against Democrat William O'Neill.

Either way, Judge Christley will remain on the court, but she would get another four years if she beats Judge O'Neill. Gov. Bob Taft would then appoint someone to fill the remainder of her term.

Neither candidate faces an opponent in the May 7 primary.

Appeals court judges serve six-year terms.

"I don't think it is a good idea to run for one seat when you have another in your pocket," said Deryl Porter, a retired Delphi Packard Electric Systems employee who now spends Tuesdays as a volunteer tax preparer at the Cortland Public Library.

"In a case like that, you should just do your job. I just don't understand the logic of that at all unless it is a case of somebody they want to get beat."

Porter seems to be one of the few people following the race closely.

Not following: Much more typical is the response of regulars at Monty's Mosquito Lake Carry-Out, a small diner in Mecca.

"I don't even know who the candidates are," said Mark Harper, 21, owner of MH Contractors in Cortland. "I hope I never have to go to the Court of Appeals, so I don't care."

In the absence of much interest in the race, voters cite many different ways to make up their minds about candidates they know little about.

"Eenie, meenie, minie, moe," said Dave Harper, 21, looking up from a fishing magazine in Monty's. He lives in Bristolville, but works with his brother at MH Contractors.

"Whatever name I recognize, I'll punch in, I guess."

Riedmann, who says he prefers male judges, is also not specifically aware of the records of judges Christley or O'Neill, the pair considered most likely to face off in the general election in November.

However, he says he is more likely to vote for O'Neill because he thinks male judges are tougher on criminals and more fair in divorce cases.

Riedmann, who's back in school after being thrown out of work when CSC Steel shut down, doesn't vote on this theory alone.

He tends to vote against current officeholders.

"I think county politics is pretty much corrupt," he said.

Brian Alfred, 41, of Braceville, takes the opposite tact.

"Sometimes, when there is somebody who is already in office, I'll vote for him if I don't know better about the other candidates," the Second National Bank employee said over lunch at North Perk, a downtown Warren eatery.

Another lunchtime customer, Al Arnold said he also has not paid particular attention to the appeals race and will probably vote along party lines anyway.

"I figure if [the party] can trust them, I can too," the Southington Republican said.

Another customer, Sean Hamilton, 28, says he gets around the problem by only voting in races in which he knows who the candidates are.

He leaves the slots with unfamiliar names blank on the ballot "because if there are people who know them and know who they want to win, I don't want to cancel their votes out," said Hamilton, who recently left the Marines after 10 years of service.

"I'd rather leave it up to people who know what is going on," he said.

Hamilton said he last voted in the 2000 general election so he could cast his vote for president. Since leaving the Marines and settling into civilian life in Bazetta, however, he says he is taking more of an interest in local politics.

"Now that I'm actually living in the community and it's affecting me a bit more, I think about who I will vote for," he said.

Does it matter? Others question whether it matters who gets elected anyway.

"Most of them probably had good intentions when they got in the first time, but it is so bureaucratic, by the time they get down to the things that matter, it doesn't make a difference," said Gary Dattilo, 27, of Hubbard, as he dangled a fishing line in the water off the Mosquito Lake causeway.

It is a rare day that Dattilo, a counselor at a juvenile detention facility, gets to go fishing with his friend Chad Frazzini, 28, a union carpenter from Newton Falls.

Both men work second jobs running their own companies, Dattilo as a landscaper and Frazzini doing carpentry, and they each say they are frustrated with how difficult the local economy makes it to get ahead and how little politicians seem to have done about it.

Frazzini usually takes the time to vote.

"I don't know what I'm doing, but I feel cool standing in line," he said. "The day before, I kinda check the news, see what everyone is doing, then I vote for them if I recognize the name."

Dattilo rarely bothers, although this year he might.

"I hate to say this because so many people died for the right to vote, but you don't even know who you are voting for," he said.

"I think it is kinda hard to find someone you can trust, and when you watch TV commercials they just knock each other and you don't know who to believe."

siff@vindy.com




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