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No reason for Gains to celebrate

Published: Sun, March 11, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

It isn’t just the sliver of his margin of victory in Tuesday’s Democratic primary that should keep Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains up at night. The fact that he was rejected by more voters than any other candidate in a contested race should be cause for concern.

And, considering that Gains, who is completing 16 years as the county’s chief lawyer, barely held off a challenge from a flawed opponent, there’s a question for the chairman of the Mahoning County Republican Party, Mark Munroe: Aren’t you sorry you don’t have a candidate in the race?

Reviewing the results from Tuesday’s primary, it is clear that Gains has been wounded politically and would be vulnerable in the November general election. But given that no Republican or independent filed to run for prosecutor, he gets a pass and will take the oath of office in January for a fifth, four-year term.

Indeed, he could well have lost the Democratic primary had he faced a credible challenger.

Youngstown City Prosecutor Jay Macejko was hobbled by a couple of major issues that reflected on his character, and yet he received 15,824 votes; Gains won the nomination with 16,385. There are about 200 provisional ballots that were not counted election night, so the margin could be even closer.

Macejko was making his first bid for elected office and, therefore, had the task of introducing himself to the electorate.

Benefit of the doubt

The vote he received suggests that there were quite a few Democrats willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, but more were unwilling to take a chance on him. To be sure, being the party’s endorsed candidate gave him an advantage over Gains, but he was unable to seal the deal. Why? Because a religious discrimination lawsuit filed against him, the city of Youngstown and other city officials was a burden he couldn’t shake off.

The fact that it was an assistant city prosecutor, Bassil Ally, who sued Macejko et al, and the fact that the city settled for a $110,000 payment to him and a $4,000 pay raise indicated guilt — despite the city prosecutor’s insistence that he did not discriminate.

Then there was the racist cell phone text message about President Obama that again put Macejko on the defensive. The message was included in a log of messages between the city prosecutor and assistant prosecutor Bret Hartup. Macejko denied sending the message and said he did not recall seeing it.

The denial raised doubts in enough voters to cost him the election.

What should he have done? Come clean from the outset. On the religious discrimination lawsuit and the racist text, he should have admitted to a lapse in judgment, offered his mea culpas and then found a couple of prominent Muslim leaders — Ally is a Muslim — and black leaders to forgive him and endorse his candidacy.

Gains, on the other hand, has to live with the reality that today he is one of the most unpopular elected officials in Mahoning County.

He should thank his lucky stars that the Republican Party is so politically inept.

Indeed, GOP Chairman Munroe now has reason to worry about Judge Mary DeGenaro of the 7th District Court of Appeals.

DeGenaro, a Republican, will face Atty. Mark Hanni, son of the late Don L. Hanni Jr., who was a leading criminal defense lawyer and chairman of the county Democratic Party.

Mark Hanni was unopposed for the nomination in Tuesday’s election, yet received 21,707 votes.

Democratic Party Chairman David Betras also has reason to worry.

Obama’s vote

In Tuesday’s primary, the complimentary vote that President Barack Obama garnered reveals a potential problem for him in the general election.

Although 33,377 Democratic ballots were cast Tuesday, Obama received only 24,659 votes. That means 8,817 Democrats chose not to support the president.

Given the predominance of Democratic voters in Mahoning and Trumbull counties, the Obama campaign will be looking for a huge turnout in November to provide it with the margin of victory the president needs here to overcome Republican votes in other parts of Ohio.

Betras and his counterpart in Trumbull, Dan Polivka, have their work cut out for them.


1Alexinytown(246 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

Bertram, you should thank your lucky stars you still have a job in this town given how politically inept YOU are.

If the Republicans are so inept, why don't you come over and show us how it is done. Put your own reputation on the line, for how little it is already worth.

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2chuck_carney(499 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

The author fails to take into account two factors: first, the 2000 plus Macejko votes cast before the scandal broke, and, second the strong effect the party endorsement had on the party loyalists voting for Jay despite any evidence to the contrary. An extremely large portion of Jay's votes were from the loyalists.

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3sue(176 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

Bertram, this is a one party county. Why should Mark Munroe feel bad for not having a sacrificial lamb to run against Gains? The only reason that there are a few Republican judges is because they don't have a party designation on the ballot.

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41970mach1(1005 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

Gains may be weakened, but is there even a viable Republican lawyer who showed even the slightest bit of interest in running? Probably not.

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5AnotherAverageCitizen(1176 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

We should not have Repub judges. Nor should we have Dem judges. They should be fair and equal. Well, then again so should faux news.

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6CompMan(125 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

"Although 33,377 Democratic ballots were cast Tuesday, Obama received only 24,659 votes. That means 8,817 Democrats chose not to support the president." Flawed thinking; especially in Mahoning and Trumbull counties. Many voters do not vote for a candidate when there is no oposition on local, state or national level. A phrric victory to add humility to those running without challenge.

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7redvert(2172 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

Citizen is reminding all of you that the Alphabet networks and CNN are fair and equal. Do you believe that, of course you do because that is the kind of crap you have been told to believe for the last 50-60 years in the valley. And thank god that you do believe it, otherwise the valley would not be as successful as it is. After all, it is known as the armpit of Ohio!!!

And mach1, why would a Republican bother to run, the valley is programmed!

Do i need to repeat....armpit.

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8anothermike(221 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

Exactly correct, when a candidate is unopposed, some folks don't bother to give him/her a vote of confidence. That being said, it doesn't matter whether Gains won by 200 votes or 2000 votes, it still counts. Before Bertram's time in the Valley, one candidate won the dem nomination in Warren for Mayor by three votes. You do have to give the repubs credit for not wasting time and money running candidates in democratic strongholds. I'm sure some independent could jump in for the general election, but Gains will still win. His tough race was in the primary, everyone (almost) was aware of that.

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9AtownAugie(792 comments)posted 3 years, 5 months ago

I swear, Mr De Souza, sometimes it seems you eat a pickle just before you sit down to write your column.

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