A number of statewide candidates attended the Mahoning County Democrats picnic.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Democratic candidates running for statewide office next year say the key to a successful political campaign is doing well in the Mahoning Valley.
Mahoning and Trumbull, along with Cuyahoga, are traditionally the three larger counties in Ohio that vote in higher percentages for Democratic candidates.
That's why several 2006 Democratic state candidate hopefuls attended Mahoning County Democratic Party's annual picnic Friday at the Maronite Center's pavilion.
"Mahoning and Trumbull are two of the most important counties in the state for a Democratic candidate," said Montgomery County Treasurer Hugh Quill, the only announced Democratic candidate for state treasurer. "The counties play a critical role in 2006 for Ohio."
Judge Jennifer L. Brunner of Franklin County Common Pleas Court, who is resigning her job Sept. 1 to run for secretary of state, had a busy day Friday.
She first conducted an extradition hearing in Columbus for a couple charged with first-degree murder in the killing of a Tennessee correctional officer, and then drove to the picnic in Youngstown. The couple declined to waive extradition, and the judge ordered them jailed without bond. The extradition hearings could take up to a month, she said.
Judge Brunner spent four years as a deputy director and legislative council to then-Secretary of State Sherrod Brown from 1983 to 1987.
"It's very important to get the Mahoning Valley's support in a primary," she said. "Democrats are in Northeast Ohio and you don't get into the general election unless you get the support of voters in this area."
Subodh Chandra, a former federal prosecutor, resigned earlier this year as Cleveland's director of law to run for state attorney general. To date, he's the only announced Democratic AG candidate.
Even though this is Chandra's first run for office, he also recognizes the importance of getting Valley votes.
"It's critical to any Democratic candidate to do well here," he said. "It's one of the most populous Democratic areas of the state."
Being from Boardman, Mahoning County Treasurer John Reardon, the only announced Democratic state auditor candidate, knows all too well the need to win big in Mahoning and Trumbull counties. Reardon is focusing much of his attention on Northeast Ohio during the primary though he has made recent campaign visits to Montgomery and Franklin counties.
"A strong Mahoning Valley presence solidifies the party ticket statewide," he said. "Democrats in Ohio realize that this area is vital to the success of the party's candidates next year."
Ohio House Minority Leader Chris Redfern of Ottawa County plans to announce his candidacy for state auditor in mid-September. Although he'd run against Reardon in the primary, Redfern isn't surrendering Mahoning County. Friday was Redfern's 15th visit to the county since he was named minority leader in January 2003.
"The Valley is essential in the election," he said. "It's important in the primary, but it's more important in the general election because you need a strong turnout here when facing Republican opposition."
The candidates and would-be candidates agree that a strong gubernatorial candidate is essential to Democrats winning statewide offices next year. They agree that U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland of Lisbon and Columbus Mayor Mike Coleman, who are seeking the party's nomination for that position next year, are excellent candidates.
"They will help down-ticket candidates," Quill said. "They set the tone for the rest of the ticket."