One Democratic primary loser came to support the nominee.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- A congressman, four state legislators and numerous elected officials from Mahoning and Trumbull counties came to show they're united behind the campaign of Democratic mayoral nominee Robert F. Hagan.
But of the six Democrats beaten last month by Hagan in the primary, only one showed up Thursday at the candidate's "Democrat Unity Picnic."
Hagan, a state senator, said he understands why five of the six defeated candidates didn't attend.
"A couple of them were in the race for a longer time than I was, and maybe they need some time to heal," he said. "They may need more time. But we're Democrats, and in the end, we come together."
About the picnic
Hagan's event -- featuring free picnic food, beer on tap with a $1 donation accepted for each cup, soft drinks and a live band -- attracted a few hundred people. It was held under a canvas tent outside Hagan's mayoral campaign headquarters on East Federal Street.
In attendance were U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, of Niles; state Reps. John Boccieri of New Middletown, Sylvester D. Patton Jr. of Youngstown, and Kenneth Carano of Austintown; state Sen. Charles Wilson of St. Clairsville, who's running for Congress next year; officials from Mahoning and Trumbull counties; and mayors and council members from nearby communities.
Patton, who finished fourth in last month's Democratic primary, said he is endorsing Hagan.
"I had a lot of friends in that race, and they were my friends before, during and after the election," he said. "I'm a Democrat, and I support the Democratic winner. Bob Hagan is my friend, and nothing has changed that. I'm going to work very hard to make sure Bob Hagan is successful."
As for Patton's political future, the state representative said for the first time that he is giving strong consideration to running for Hagan's state Senate seat in 2006.
Patton and Hagan can't run for re-election to their state seats in 2006 because of Ohio's term limits law.
If Hagan wins the mayoral race in November, he'll have to resign his Senate seat with a year left on his term. The 10 other Democratic senators would choose his replacement.
Patton is the Democratic state central committeeman for the Senate district.
Mahoning County Recorder Ronald Gerberry, who was at Thursday's picnic, said he will run for the Senate seat next year. Gerberry is a former state House member.
Also considering runs for the post are former Mahoning County Commissioner Ed Reese and Boccieri, who is also looking at bids for Ohio secretary of state and the U.S. House.
Hagan said he recently met with Youngstown Police Chief Robert Bush, who finished second in the Democratic primary. Hagan said Bush told him he needs time before deciding on an endorsement.
Hagan may meet next week with former council President John Swierz, who finished third in the race. Hagan said he's been unable to contact council President James Fortune Sr., who finished fifth in the race, and William Flickinger, who finished last in the primary.
Councilman Michael Rapovy of the 5th Ward, who finished sixth in the primary, said he's a good Democrat and he supports Hagan. But because of family and union obligations, Rapovy said he couldn't attend Thursday's event.
Hagan said he is organizing an economic advisory group to help him determine the best ways to keep and attract companies to Youngstown.
Among those in the group are Bruce Zoldan, the head of the B.J. Alan Co.; Jonathan Levy, a property developer; and Mike Santisi of Santisi Wholesale Foods.