Presidential race overshadows local contests

By David Skolnick

It’s been a very hectic election season, with the Mahoning Valley receiving visits from the presidential candidates, their surrogates, members of the national media as well as journalists from throughout the world.

Like 2004, the presidential campaigns are focusing a great deal of attention on Ohio.

But unlike 2004, the Democratic-dominated Valley has received more visits from the Republican presidential nominee than the Democrat since the March primary.

In 2004, Democrat John Kerry made six campaign visits in the area compared to one campaign stop by President George W. Bush, a Republican. Bush also hosted a town-hall meeting on health at Youngstown State University in 2004, but that was an “official presidential visit” rather than a campaign stop. The big difference is tax dollars paid for the cost of the invitation-only YSU visit while the Bush campaign paid for the other stop.

After the March primary, Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, visited the Valley twice. In comparison, John McCain’s visit to Youngstown and Hanoverton today is the fourth time since the primary that the Republican presidential nominee has campaigned in the Valley.

Nearly all the attention in the Valley for this election is focused on the presidential race.

There are two reasons for that.

One is rather obvious. It’s the presidential election and that’s naturally going to attract a lot of attention.

The other is, well, it doesn’t look like any of the other races are going to be very close.

We’ve had some intrigue in a few Mahoning County races, but the incumbents should win.

Even so, there are a couple of races to watch.

State Rep. Ronald V. Gerberry of Austintown, D-59th, has spent more than 30 years in elected office. He’s facing Dick McCarthy, a Republican from Boardman, who is 25 years old and has never run for elected office. Gerberry has more elected experience than McCarthy has breathing experience.

But in the last campaign finance report, for the time between July 1 and Oct. 15, McCarthy raised $50,860 with another $17,159 in in-kind contributions compared to $48,525 raised by Gerberry with $75 in in-kind contributions.

If the amount of money he’s spending is an indication, Gerberry realizes he’s got a fight on his hands. He outspent McCarthy $78,479 to $39,676. With Gerberry’s unbelievable name recognition in the district, he should win.

The other race to watch is for Mahoning County Probate Court judge. Judge Mark Belinky, appointed by Gov. Ted Strickland, is challenged by Mahoning County Court Judge Scott D. Hunter.

Judge Hunter, a Republican, has received support from some prominent Democrats including ex-county Chairman Michael Morley and ex-county Commissioner Ed Reese. Judge Hunter has spent more money on the campaign than Judge Belinky. Also, Judge Belinky loaned his campaign $78,100 as of Oct. 15.

But Judge Belinky successfully fought off two challengers in the Democratic primary who spent a lot of money on their campaigns.

The Western Reserve Transit Authority is again seeking approval on a 0.25 percent sales tax in Mahoning County. The campaign committee has raised and spent significantly more money this time around.

The tag line on the WRTA yard signs and billboards is “not a property tax.”

That’s true. It’s actually a sales tax that impacts every person every time they make a purchase on items subject to sales tax.

The signs might as well boast that it’s not an income tax, it’s not a stamp tax, you won’t be attacked by killer bees on WRTA buses and it won’t cause bad breath.

The race for the unexpired term for attorney general will almost assuredly go to Ohio Treasurer Richard Cordray, a Democrat.

But give credit to Republican Mike Crites for this election’s most amusing campaign ads.

The take-off on the PC-Mac commercials with Pete C. and Mack ¬≠¬≠— on his Web site at — is hysterical.

Equally funny is the “Running Rich” Internet ad — —that’s a take-off on the Dancing Matt videos. It has someone who’s supposed to be Cordray running, he’s actually jogging in place, all over the state for various elected positions. Somehow “Running Rich” never makes it to the Valley in the ad that runs 2 minutes and 35 seconds. In the campaign, Cordray has visited this area significantly more than Crites.

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