By David Skolnick
With Mahoning County Commissioner John McNally IV not seeking re-election, six Democrats are running in the March 6 primary for the seat.
Nine Democratic candidates originally sought the post.
But Frank Bellamy of Youngstown was disqualified, and Struthers Mayor Terry Stocker and former Youngstown Councilman Jerome McNally withdrew shortly after failing to get the county Democratic Party’s endorsement last month.
The remaining Democrats are: Austintown Trustee David Ditzler, Walter Pishkur of Boardman, Domenic DelMonte of Austintown, Richard Oz Ouzounian of Boardman, Joe Louis Teague of Youngstown, and Patrick M. Chrystal of Youngstown.
The winner moves on to the general election to face Republican David V. Rossi of Boardman and Howard Markert of Youngstown, a Green Party candidate.
Also, incumbent Commissioner Anthony Traficanti of Poland is being challenged in the Democratic primary by James S. Horvath of Campbell. There are no other candidates in that race.
The filing deadline for independent candidates is March 5.
Several of the Democratic candidates running to replace McNally said one of their top priorities is to find money for the sheriff’s department, primarily to run the county jail.
Pishkur, the former president and chief executive officer of Forum Health and Aqua Ohio, touted his business experience as why he’s the best candidate.
“When I look at government and the dynamics of it, I see the need to bring my management skills” to the commissioners’ office, said Pishkur, director of project development for United Water Inc.
“We have to start focusing our attention on economic vitality and job growth.”
County officials have “not only a role, but a responsibility to be involved in economic development and job creation,” he said. “The county’s role is to create an environment to help” grow the local economy.
Ditzler said 18 years as a township trustee and nearly 30 years in business make him the most well-rounded candidate in the field.
If elected commissioner, Ditzler said he’d focus on government consolidation to save money. He pointed to the courts, fire districts and emergency 911 centers as areas for consolidation.
“Poor leadership” is the reason little consolidation in the county has occurred, Ditzler said. He added he would bring proven leadership to the job.
Teague, a retired factory worker, said if he is elected commissioner, he would focus mostly on fighting crime in Youngstown.
Teague is critical of the county commissioners for not tackling crime problems in the city.
“They haven’t done anything to stop crime in Youngstown,” he said.
DelMonte, a truck driver, said he brings “fresh ideas” to county government.
He wants to have monthly town-hall meetings to receive public input on the best ways to move the county forward. Also, the meetings would help the county operate more effectively, DelMonte said.
Ouzounian, owner of Mill Creek Media, a communications company, said as commissioner he would be “the most aggressive salesman Mahoning County has ever seen to attract new business and industry.”
He added that as commissioner he’ll “bring some common sense to Mahoning County government.”
Chrystal didn’t respond to repeated attempts by The Vindicator to contact him and didn’t submit a candidate questionnaire.
Also, Horvath, who is challenging Traficanti for the other commissioner seat, didn’t respond to several attempts by this newspaper to contact him and failed to submit a questionnaire.
Traficanti is seeking his third four-year term as commissioner.
“It’s been very tough [economically] these last few years,” he said. “I’m glad we rode out the recession, but not to where we want to be. We still have to be conservative. Nobody should think everyone will get raises and everything [will go] back to being hunky dory. We’re still going to be watchful of our spending.”
The county commissioners have balanced budgets in difficult financial times, he said.
County officials will have to continue to do more with less money, Traficanti said. If re-elected, he plans to continue to look at more innovative ways to streamline county operations.