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.
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.