New PAC pushing minority candidates

YOUNGSTOWN — Four Youngstown men with close ties to Mayor Jay Williams have created a political action committee that envisions being a major player in Youngstown and Mahoning County politics.

The Progressive Leadership Coalition Political Action Committee would encourage the Mahoning County Democratic and Republican parties to support qualified candidates — particularly minorities — for political office, said Herman L. Hill, the organization’s chairman and a former Youngstown councilman.

The PAC is dedicated to developing, encouraging and supporting policies that positively impact Youngstown and the county, Hill said.

The committee plans to endorse candidates beginning with the May primary. All seven city council seats and a municipal court judicial seat in Youngstown are up for election this year.

The committee has 30 members, and all but three are black, but Hill said anyone is invited to join.

The four who created the PAC and work directly or indirectly for the city are:

• Hill, the city Human Relations Commission’s director of business development and compliance through a contract the city has with the Mahoning-Youngstown Community Action Development Corp. MYCAP hired Hill for the job at Williams’ suggestion. Hill worked on Williams’ 2005 successful independent mayoral campaign.

• Jamael Tito Brown, the HRC’s executive director who has the job through a contract with the Greater Warren-Youngstown Urban League. The league hired Brown, also a Youngstown school board member, based on a recommendation by Williams. Brown was Williams’ campaign manager.

• Jason Whitehead, Williams’ chief of staff/secretary.

• Harry L. Johnson III, the city water department’s office manager and auditor, hired by Williams.

Williams said he has no involvement with the organization but supports anyone who tries to improve the community.

“Anything that causes people to come together with a community-driven agenda is a good thing,” he said.

To join the PAC, a person must contribute $25 to it and have a desire to improve the area, Hill said. The PAC is nonpartisan and isn’t an independent political party, Hill said.

The PAC shouldn’t be considered competition to the local Democratic and Republican parties, Whitehead said.

“This organization can be a complement to the parties,” he said. “I would perceive them as our big brother.”

The PAC has no connection to the Citizens for Public Service, a political group created last month that wants to combine the voting power of minorities and the faith-based communities to elect leaders with a “moral center.”

The Rev. Jay Alford of Youngstown, who serves as that group’s co-chairman, couldn’t be reached today to comment on the PAC.

Hill and Whitehead don’t see a problem with two new alternative political organizations in the area.

Mark Munroe, the county Republican vice chairman, says there are benefits to having the two groups in Democratic-dominated Mahoning County.

“It’s a reflection of the discontent and unhappiness with the Democratic Party managing the area for the past 30 years,” he said.

Lisa Antonini, Mahoning Democratic chairwoman, said her party wants qualified minority candidates to run for office.

“I support their idea,” she said of the PAC. “I look forward to working with them. If there is an opportunity to identify and promote African-American candidates for office, we’re willing to support them.”

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