By David Skolnick
Mahoning County Commissioner John McNally IV will not seek re-election next year and is “strongly considering” running for Youngstown mayor in the 2013 election.
McNally, a Democrat, told The Vindicator on Monday that he wouldn’t seek a third four-year term. McNally would remain a commissioner until his term expires Jan. 2, 2013.
“It wouldn’t be fair to the voters of Mahoning County for me to run next year for commissioner and then move right on to the mayor’s race,” McNally said.
The primary election for Youngstown mayor is in May 2013 with the general election six months later.
“I’m kind of term-limiting myself out of county commissioner; eight years is enough for me,” McNally said.
Though there are no term limits for county commissioner, there are for Youngstown mayor. A person can hold the mayoral seat for two four-year terms.
Those wanting to replace McNally have until Dec. 7 to file nominating petitions to run in either the Democratic or Republican primary, which is March 6, 2012. Those wanting to file as an independent must do so by March 5.
McNally, along with others, was indicted on criminal conspiracy charges related to the relocation of the county’s Department of Job and Family Services. McNally maintained his innocence, and all charges were dismissed in July 2011 after prosecutors said their inability to obtain tape recordings held by the FBI and provide them to defense lawyers made it impossible to proceed with the case.
McNally said Monday he had no concerns regarding that investigation.
“As far as I’m concerned, a criminal investigation [of me] is done,” he said.
Before being elected county commissioner in the November 2004 election, McNally spent eight years in the city’s law department including two years as law director.
McNally said he’s wanted to run for mayor for about nine years and opted not to seek the seat in the 2005 election, the last time an incumbent did not run for re-election. Jay Williams, the city’s former community development agency director, won the 2005 race as an independent and was easily re-elected in the 2009 race as a Democrat.
Williams resigned three months ago to take a job in the Obama administration with then-council President Charles Sammarone elevated to mayor. Sammarone will fill the remainder of Williams’ term, which expires Dec. 31, 2013. Sammarone has said it is highly unlikely he’d seek a full four-year term two years from now.
The 2013 mayoral race was expected to be crowded — and still could be even with McNally as a candidate.
If for some reason McNally opts not to run for mayor, he said he’d be “content” to continue his law practice.
Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti, also a Democrat from Youngstown, said that if McNally runs for mayor, she’ll support him.
Commissioner Anthony Traficanti, a Democrat from Poland, said he was “shocked” to learn from a reporter that McNally wasn’t seeking re-election.
“He had previously stated to me he was running for re-election,” Traficanti said. “I’ve worked well with John. We’ve had our differences, but over the past couple of years, we’ve gotten along well.”
Traficanti said he is definitely running for his third four-year term as commissioner in 2012.
County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras said McNally is a “great officeholder and a quality guy. John would make a fine mayor with his administrative capabilities and know-how. I don’t endorse, but I can’t say enough good things about John McNally.”
There are two people who are interested in the seat as of Monday, Betras said.
They are Austintown Township Trustee David Ditzler, a former Democratic chairman who lost to Traficanti for commissioner in 2004; and Walter “Buzz” Pishkur of Boardman, director of business development for United Water and the former head of Forum Health and Aqua Ohio.
“I’m considering it,” Pishkur said. “I have an interest in doing things that benefit our Valley. The exciting thing for me is I could help people as commissioner.”
With McNally out of the race, Ditzler said he’s “definitely interested in running for commissioner. It’s something I’ve wanted to do.”
John Boccieri, a former U.S. House member and state legislator, had discussions with local Democratic leaders about possibly replacing McNally should the incumbent not seek re-election. Rimedio-Righetti said Monday that she would support Boccieri if he moved back into the county from Alliance in Stark County and ran for commissioner.
But Boccieri said Monday that he wasn’t going to run for commissioner.
Boccieri said he’s getting close to taking a job with a risk-management firm in Boardman and is still busy with the Air Force Reserves.
Boccieri said people have asked him about running for county commissioner as well as going back to the state Legislature. But he said only a return to Congress would interest him politically at this point.
“I haven’t taken running for Congress off the table,” he said.