Endorsements loom large

On the side

Campaign pitch: As he’s done in previous campaigns, Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul J. Gains is using his compelling story of organized crime figures trying to kill him on Christmas Eve 1996 as proof of his integrity and honesty. Gains was shot once, but the would-be assassin’s gun jammed when he tried to fire other shots.

A mailer sent by his campaign this week in support of his re-election effort takes the matter to a new level: “Since Paul Gains overthrew the mob: Our families are safer ... Businesses are moving into Mahoning County ... We’re making real progress everyday.”

Yes, Gains is taking credit for overthrowing the mob.

Gains is being challenged in the March 6 Democratic primary by Jay Macejko, Youngstown city prosecutor. It is likely to be Gains’ most challenging re-election effort.

Certified petitions: County boards of elections certified the validity of nominating petitions for all candidates who filed by the Dec. 30 deadline in the new 13th, 6th and 14th congressional districts.

Saturday’s endorsements from the Mahoning County Democratic Party could mean a lot in some of the hotly-contested March 6 primary.

Two endorsements are slam-dunks: Commissioner Anthony Traficanti and Treasurer Daniel Yemma will easily gain the support of members of the party’s central and executive committees over their challengers.

Engineer Richard A. Marsico is likely to be endorsed over Patrick T. Ginnetti, but it could be close.

Also, Jerry Greene should win the endorsement for the open sheriff position over former Youngstown Police Chief Jimmy Hughes and Poland Township Police Chief Brian Goodin.

The endorsement vote for county prosecutor between incumbent Paul J. Gains and Youngstown City Prosecutor Jay Macejko will be the most interesting.

This is based on the assumption that the party will endorse in all of the races. The party has chosen to not endorse in some heated races.

The party will also consider endorsing in the other county commissioner race. The position is held by John McNally IV, who isn’t seeking re-election.

There are eight candidates in the Democratic primary, but only four are seeking the endorsement.

Of those who declined to be considered for the endorsement, at least three — Joe Louis Teague, Richard Oz Ouzounian and Patrick M. Chrystal — didn’t have a chance of winning.

Ouzounian said he’s not seeking endorsements from any group.

Walter Pishkur also declined to seek the endorsement saying the party shouldn’t formally support a candidate in his race.

He said there hasn’t been enough time between last month’s filing deadline for the open seat and Saturday’s meeting for committee members — particularly during the holiday season — to get to know the many candidates and make an informed vote.

That leaves Domenic Delmonte, former Youngstown Councilman Jerry McNally, Struthers Mayor Terry Stocker and Austintown Trustee David Ditzler.

Ditzler, who served as Democratic chairman more than a decade ago, should capture the endorsement.

That expectation means Ditzler needs to win or he’ll look like a weak candidate.

Ditzler said he “would definitely consider withdrawing from the race” if he isn’t endorsed.

He should do well in the suburbs, but may struggle in Youngstown.

Ditzler, like other township trustees and suburban residents, opposed Youngstown’s joint economic development district plan to tax those working and/or living in Austintown and Boardman.

Some Youngstown precinct committee members perceived Ditzler’s position as being critical of the city, and won’t endorse him.

Ditzler said he has support from key Democrats in Youngstown, but acknowledged the JEDD issue is “a battle I face.”

No matter the outcome of Saturday’s endorsement votes and the expected rhetoric of party unity, Mahoning Democrats will remain divided in several of these races.

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