By David Skolnick
Youngstown Prosecutor Jay Macejko’s close-but-failed Democratic primary bid for Mahoning County prosecutor can be attributed to his inability to win his hometown vote.
Incumbent county Prosecutor Paul J. Gains beat Macejko countywide by 561 votes, a 1.74 percent margin of victory.
In Youngstown, where Macejko lives and has served as city prosecutor since January 2006, he lost by 1,287 votes to Gains.
Among the city’s 77 voting precincts, Gains — who lives in Boardman and is a former Youngstown police officer — won 54 of them compared with 20 for Macejko with three ties, according to an analysis by The Vindicator of raw precinct-by-precinct vote totals of Tuesday’s primary election.
Gains won every precinct in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Wards and won in a large majority of the 5th, 6th and 7th Wards. The 4th, on the city’s West Side, is the only ward that went with Macejko. He won 10 of the ward’s 13 precincts with one tie. In total votes, Macejko beat Gains 803-706 in the 4th.
Why did Macejko fail to win in his hometown?
Because of a racist text message about President Barack Obama, said William Binning, the retired chairman of Youngstown State University’s political science department.
The April 7, 2009, text may have been sent by or to Macejko but has not been authenticated. Macejko denies authoring or sending it.
“I just received my Obama stimulus package. It was 3 pieces of chicken, a pack of kool-aid and a dime bag. Did u get yours?” read a message in a series of texts alleged to have been exchanged between Macejko and Bret Hartup, an assistant city prosecutor.
A list of Hartup’s supposed text messages was given last month to this newspaper by Atty. Scott Cochran, a Gains supporter representing the Islamic Society of Greater Youngstown. The organization is seeking to unseal documents in a settled religious discrimination lawsuit filed against the city by Bassil Ally, an assistant city prosecutor.
“The racial comment allegedly made about Barack resonated to [Macejko’s] disadvantage in Youngstown,” Binning said. “His downfall seemed to be in the African-American wards in the city.”
The 1st, 2nd and 6th Wards are largely black wards with the 3rd leaning black.
“The Obama text message was very damaging to him,” Binning said of Macejko. “He didn’t clear it up or at least to the satisfaction of voters. Black people are very sensitive to [racial] comments.”
The vote from black areas of the city wasn’t in support of Gains but against Macejko, Binning said.
“That text message was fatal,” he said. “We don’t know who sent it or if Macejko saw it. But his argument [that] he didn’t see it is weak.”
The precinct voting data showed Macejko strong in Struthers, winning all 15 of that city’s precincts; Poland Township, winning 15 of the 16 precincts with one ending in a tie; and in eastern portions of the county, sweeping all precincts in Lowellville, New Middletown, Poland village and Coitsville. He also won five of Springfield’s six precincts.
Macejko won 22 of the 40 precincts in Austintown, where he lived before becoming Youngstown prosecutor, and tied Gains in one.
Gains won 29 of the 47 precincts in Boardman, where he lives, and tied in one.
Besides Youngstown and Boardman, Gains was strong in Canfield Township and city, Beaver and in the western part of the county. He swept Ellsworth, Goshen, Jackson, Smith, Sebring, Beloit and Craig Beach.
In the Democratic primary for sheriff, Jerry Greene of Boardman captured 55.61 percent of the county vote against former Youngstown Police Chief Jimmy Hughes and Poland Township Police Chief Brian Goodin.
Greene won 208 of the county’s 273 precincts, winning every precinct in Struthers, Austintown, Canfield Township and city, Beaver, Berlin, Coitsville, Ellsworth, Goshen, Green, Jackson, Milton, Smith, Beloit, Craig Beach, Lowellville, New Middletown, Washingtonville and Sebring.
Greene won all but one of Boardman’s 47 precincts with Goodin winning the other, and five of Springfield’s 6 precincts.
Hughes, with 24.47 of the county vote, won 49 precincts, including every precinct in Youngstown’s 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Ward, and all but one of the 6th Ward’s 10 precincts.
Hughes, who is black, and Greene, who is white, split the 14 precincts in the 5th Ward, which is a mixed black-white ward.
Greene won all 13 precincts in the mostly white 4th Ward, and won 10 of the 13 precincts in the 7th Ward, which leans white in population. Hughes won the other three precincts in the 7th.
Hughes won three wards outside of Youngstown — all in neighboring Campbell.
Goodin, with 19.92 percent of the vote, won 15 precincts countywide, including 11 in Poland Township. Greene won four precincts in Poland Township, and Goodin and Greene tied in one precinct in the township.
Incumbent county Commissioner Anthony Traficanti of Poland won all 273 precincts in the county, and 75.81 percent of the vote, easily defeating James S. Horvath of Campbell.
In the other commissioner primary for the seat being vacated by John McNally IV, Austintown Trustee David Ditzler won in 223 precincts and tied in 10 others on his way to winning the Democratic nomination with 50.16 percent of the vote in a six-man race.
Ditzler won 63 of Youngstown’s 77 precincts with three ties.
The only other candidate to win precincts in Youngstown was Joe Louis Teague, who won 11 of them with two ties. Teague, of Youngstown, finished third receiving 6.82 percent of the county vote, and won only one other precinct, that being in Campbell.
Walter Pishkur of Boardman finished second in the primary with 28.54 percent of the vote. But all he could do in Youngstown was muster a tie in one precinct.
Ditzler was strong in his hometown, winning all 40 precincts in Austintown, and won 37 of Boardman’s 47 voting precincts with three ties in that township.
Pishkur won 27 precincts countywide and had six ties.