Only two Democratic council members endorse Sen. Robert Hagan.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- It's what good Democrats are supposed to do in this Democratic-stronghold city.
But state Sen. Robert F. Hagan, the party's Youngstown mayoral nominee, is finding it's not that easy to get endorsements from elected Democrats in Youngstown.
Of the six Democrats who serve on the seven-member city council, only two -- Artis Gillam Sr. of the 1st Ward and Michael Rapovy of the 5th Ward -- are endorsing Hagan's mayoral bid.
But Hagan isn't worried.
"What's important is having a relationship with them," he said. "Endorsements don't carry a lot of weight."
That doesn't mean Hagan isn't trying to gain those endorsements, however.
Hagan said he recently met with Councilman Rufus Hudson, D-2nd, but the councilman wouldn't commit to endorsing his campaign.
Not ready to commit
Hagan wants to meet with Councilwoman Carol Rimedio-Righetti, D-4th, this weekend. But Rimedio-Righetti said she isn't sure she'll have time to meet that soon with Hagan, and she has no plans right now to endorse a mayoral candidate.
She and Councilman Mark Memmer, D-7th, attended Friday's mayoral forum at the Byzantine Center at the Grove, sponsored by the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber.
Memmer said he plans to endorse a candidate.
Rimedio-Righetti said council members have to look at who is the best person to help the city before deciding who to endorse.
Hagan also hasn't made much headway getting the endorsements of those he defeated in the May Democratic primary. To date, Rapovy and state Rep. Sylvester D. Patton Jr., D-60th, are the only two of the six Democratic candidates in the primary to publicly endorse Hagan. Among those who haven't endorsed Hagan is council President James Fortune Sr.
Hagan is one of six candidates running for Youngstown mayor in the November general election.
Among the other five is Jay Williams, who resigned in April as the city's Community Development Agency director to run as an independent mayoral candidate.
Williams hasn't received an endorsement from any elected city officials even though he worked there for 41/2 years. But some of those withholding endorsements for Hagan say they want to compare what Williams and the state senator are proposing for the city before making a decision.
"I forged a good relationship with city council," Williams said. "The political support remains to be seen. I understand how politics works. I'm hopeful they'll be open and I'm hopeful for their support. There's a lot of time left before Election Day. They'll decide when they're ready."
The two candidates differ on support from Mayor George M. McKelvey, who declined to comment when asked if he would endorse a mayoral candidate.
Williams, who worked for McKelvey, said he would welcome the mayor's support.
"The mayor and I established a mutual level of respect during my time in the city," he said. "I'd like to have the endorsement of anyone. There isn't one endorsement I'll turn away."
Hagan said McKelvey's support for his campaign could hurt him, and he doesn't want it.
"I don't think a lame duck's support or endorsement means anything," Hagan said of the man he wants to succeed as mayor. "My experience has shown me it would be a lesson in futility to ask for his endorsement."
Also, McKelvey's endorsement of President Bush, a Republican, makes his support less appealing to Hagan.
"My Democratic friends wouldn't say [having McKelvey's endorsement] is a great thing for campaign," Hagan said.