Jay Macejko made a rookie mistake in his bid for the Democratic nomination for Mahoning County prosecutor: He misjudged the intelligence of the voters.
Macejko, Youngstown city prosecutor, insisted throughout his first campaign for elective office that he did not send a racist text message about President Barack Obama and did not recall receiving it. Never mind that the text was in a log of cellphone messages between Macejko and Assistant City Prosecutor Bret Hartup that was kept by Hartup.
Enough voters did not buy the explanation, as evidenced by Macejko’s defeat in Tuesday’s primary election. County Prosecutor Paul Gains, who is seeking a fifth, four-year term, has no Republican opposition in the November general election. He, therefore, will take the oath of office in January.
Although Macejko tried to make Gains’ record in office the issue in the election, he found himself not only having to convince the voters that he really did not know about the racist text pertaining to the president, but he also was put on the defensive over a letter of apology he wrote to another employee, Assistant Prosecutor Bassil Ally, who successfully sued him, the city of Youngstown and other city officials for religious discrimination. Ally is a Muslim who charged that the city prosecutor interfered with the practice of his faith.
Macejko and his campaign team should have remembered one of the first rules of politics: “Tell the truth. The truth shall set you free.” Or, at least will help you win an election.
Rather than issue denials that no one believed and parse words that made him out to be just another sleazy politician, the city prosecutor should have come clean from the outset. He could have courted favor with the voters by publicly apologizing for the racist text and for the Ally lawsuit. And he could have admitted that when he used the word “sober” in contrasting his work ethic to that of Gains, he was inferring that the county prosecutor shows up for work drunk. Instead, he claimed that his use of the word was meant to reflect the seriousness with which he would approach the job.
Not only would such honesty have impressed the voters, it would have taken away a major issue from Gains.
Instead, Macejko kept digging himself deeper into the hole.
The admission about the racist text also would have appeased Mayor Charles Sammarone, who has launched an investigation because of Macejko’s denials.