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Exercise your right to vote Tuesday



Published: Sat, March 3, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

Tuesday is the primary election, and I remind you again to get out and cast your ballot for the candidate of your choice.

Voting is one of the great privileges of being an American citizen, and if you are black, I believe voting takes on a greater significance because that right was denied to the descendants of slaves for generations.

Don’t let the lack of transportation be your excuse for not voting. The Community Mobilization Committee, composed of 16 local organizations, can provide you with a ride to the polls, which open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m.

New Bethel Baptist Church on Hillman Street and the Organizacion Civica y Cultural Hispana Americana on Shirley Road are committee members, so call them.

Most of the positions up for election next week are for county offices, and it wasn’t lost on me that there are only two black people — and no Latinos — running for posts in three counties — Jimmy Hughes for Mahoning County sheriff and Joe Louis Teague for Mahoning County commissioner.

So I am challenging black and Latino people between the ages of 25 and 45 to get more involved in the political process.

Baby boomers, such as myself, are getting up there in age, and a new generation has to pick up the baton and continue to run the race.

The county posts up for election are prosecutor, sheriff, engineer, commissioner, coroner, recorder, treasurer, clerk of courts, common pleas judge and appellate court.

Since I started at the newspaper in 1976, blacks and Latinos never have been elected to those posts in Mahoning, Trumbull or Columbiana counties.

In fact, only a handful of blacks ever have run for those offices. In Mahoning County, two come to mind. Tracey Winbush ran as a Republican for county auditor in 2010, and Mike McNair, owner and publisher of The Buckeye Review, ran as a Democrat for commissioner in 2002.

Certainly the dynamics of running for political office in a city and county are quite different in the Mahoning Valley.

Youngstown and Warren have large black communities, and Youngstown has an active Latino community. Most of Columbiana County’s black population is concentrated in East Liverpool.

There is a greater chance of electing blacks and Latinos to positions on city council and school boards in citywide elections.

That being said, however, Youngstown didn’t get its first black mayor until the election of Jay Williams in 2006. Doug Franklin, longtime Warren safety-service director and a former city councilman, was elected mayor last year.

In countywide elections, however, black and Latino candidates would have to do some of their campaigning in rural townships such as Goshen, Green and Ellsworth in Mahoning County, and Bloomfield, Gustavus and Mesopotamia in Trumbull County.

They also would have to make hay in large townships such as Canfield, Austintown, Boardman and Poland in Mahoning, and Howland, Bazetta and Champion in Trumbull.

There are not a lot of black people in those areas, so a minority candidate has to convince those citizens he or she is the best-qualified for the job and that race shouldn’t matter.

The problem is that in some cases, race does play a role in whether a person gets elected.

Women seem to have better success in getting elected in county races. For example, in Mahoning County, there are women judges on the common pleas court’s general, juvenile and domestic-relations divisions. The county recorder, one of the commissioners, and two of the four members of the 7th District Court of Appeals are women.

In Trumbull County, women have the offices of recorder and clerk of courts. Pamela Rintala is a judge for the common pleas court’s family court. Sandra Stabile Harwood is running as a Democrat for the county’s domestic relations/ juvenile court. Three of the five judges on the 11th District Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over cases in five counties, including Trumbull, are women.

In Columbiana County, two women are running for the treasurer’s post, and Brenda Dickey Myers is challenging incumbent recorder Craig Brown in the Democratic primary. The winner will face Theresa Bosel, a Republican.

March is Women’s History Month, and certainly these women are to be commended for their political achievements. None, however, is black or Latino.

I was a panelist at a recent political forum at New Bethel. The church’s fellowship hall was packed with people there to hear from the candidates for Mahoning County prosecutor, sheriff, engineer, treasurer and commissioner.

My conservative estimate was less than 10 percent of the audience was 25 to 45 years old.

The political arena is not a place for the timid, especially in Mahoning County.

Unless younger blacks and Latinos do a better job of getting involved in the political process, however, the diversity we seek for our elected officeholders won’t happen.

Ernie Brown Jr., a regional editor at The Vindicator, writes a monthly column. He can be reached at ebrown@vindy.com


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