Youngstown mayoral race suddenly gets exciting

On the side

GOP fund raiser: U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-3rd, who represents Mercer County and nearly all of Lawrence County, is among only three co-chairs of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s annual fundraiser dinner. The dinner, held annually in March, is the House Republicans’ largest fundraiser, bringing in $12 million last year.

Kelly of Butler, Pa., was re-elected last month to his second two-year term.

Votes for Obama: Ohio’s Electoral College will meet at noon Monday at the Statehouse’s Senate Chamber in Columbus to cast Ohio’s electoral votes for President Barack Obama. Each congressional district has a representative.

Youngstown Clerk of Courts Sarah Brown-Clark is the 13th Congressional District’s Electoral College member. The 4th District member is Bill Young of Sandusky County. He is a former Youngstown resident who graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School and YSU.

Youngstown Mayor Charles Sammarone’s statement that he is “reconsidering” a run for his position is a game-changer in what will be the most interesting political race in 2013 in the Mahoning Valley.

Sammarone, appointed to the job in August 2011, has repeatedly said — even before becoming mayor — he was “99-percent” sure he wouldn’t seek election in 2013.

But largely positive reviews from residents, including those who’ve asked him to run, led Sammarone to rethink his position.

People want me “to finish what I started with accountability in government,” he said.

I also think Sammarone has grown to like most aspects of being mayor.

(I’ve already heard from some city employees who are/were counting down the days until Sammarone, who can be demanding, was done as mayor. There are others in city hall who are excited about a Sammarone candidacy.)

A decision will come shortly after the first of the year.

Also, Sammarone said if elected, he may not complete a full four-year term.

A Sammarone candidacy significantly changes the mayoral race.

Council President Jamael Tito Brown, who has been planning a mayoral run for over a year, sounded deflated when we first discussed Sammarone’s announcement.

Brown is still going to run in the May 7 Democratic primary, but said he wouldn’t have been a candidate if Sammarone had told him earlier that he is reconsidering.

Brown referred to Sammarone as a “mentor,” and said he’s “learned how to manage” watching the mayor.

Outgoing Mahoning County Commissioner John McNally IV, who’s told me a year ago he wanted to run for mayor, and Matthew Smith, who failed to get on the ballot for mayor in 1987 because of a lack of valid signatures on his nominating petitions, have filed for the Democratic primary.

Feb. 6 is the deadline to file for the primary.

There will likely be other candidates in the Democratic primary, but I don’t expect any of them to be the caliber of Brown, McNally and Sammarone, should the latter opt to run.

Of course, I’ve been wrong plenty of times.

Just knowing Sammarone is giving this serious thought will overshadow everything else in the campaign until he makes a decision.

A Republican candidate doesn’t have a shot at being mayor of Youngstown, one of the state’s most Democratic cities.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, don’t rule out an independent giving the Democratic nominee a legitimate challenge.

If Sammarone chooses to seek election as mayor, one thing to watch is: will he campaign?

Though he’s been very successful in elections, Sammarone has told me in past elections that he doesn’t go door-to-door or to candidate forums.

He’s said that most voters in the city know him and they either like him or they don’t, and campaigning isn’t going to change their minds.

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