By David Skolnick
Even though he threw his support behind DeMaine Kitchen for mayor last month, retired Police Chief Jimmy Hughes never officially withdrew from the race and his name will appear as a candidate for the job on the November ballot.
When told of Hughes’ failure to withdraw as a mayoral candidate by Tuesday’s deadline, Kitchen, the mayor’s chief of staff/secretary, was stunned.
“Wow, are you kidding me?” he said. “I talked to [Hughes] about a week ago and he said he was definitely going up” to the Mahoning County Board of Elections to withdraw.
Kitchen, who is running as an independent like Hughes, said the former police chief supports his campaign.
“We didn’t fall out or anything,” Kitchen said. “Obviously, it’s disappointing that he missed the deadline, but the campaign is moving forward. I wouldn’t read anything into it except he missed the deadline.”
Hughes said he thought the deadline to withdraw was Sept. 7, but should have taken care of it right after a July 25 press conference at which he said he was quitting and supporting Kitchen.
“I’m not trying to throw any shenanigans into it,” Hughes said. “My intent is to support DeMaine Kitchen for the race. I will have to work hard to let people know I’m not running. I’m sad about this.”
A state law that took effect June 26 states: “Boards of elections must remove from the ballot the name of any candidate who withdraws on or before the 70th day before either a primary or general election. Boards will not remove from the ballot the name of any candidate who withdraws after the 70th day before a primary or general election.”
Before the new law, the deadline to withdraw was 45 days before an election.
While Hughes verbally said he’d quit the race, state law states: “If such candidate’s declaration of candidacy or nominating petition was filed with a board of elections, the candidate’s statement of withdrawal shall be addressed to and filed with such board.”
“Public proclamations aren’t good enough,” said David Betras, county Democratic Party chairman and vice chairman of the county elections board. “He has to follow state law.”
When asked about the impact of Hughes’ name on the ballot, Betras said, “I don’t know. He’s not campaigning. We’ll see what happens.”
In addition to Kitchen and Hughes, there are two other independent candidates for mayor: John M. Crea and Frank Bellamy. John A. McNally IV, a former city law director and county commissioner, is the Democratic Party’s nominee, and Claudette Moore and Cecil Monroe are write-in candidates.
McNally said having Hughes’ name on the ballot “has the potential to affect the race. It allows people to vote for a candidate not interested in the position.”
Kitchen said, “It’s a challenging race, and we don’t need any unnecessary hurdles. It just means Jimmy will have to work hard to let people know he’s not in the race and that people should vote for me. People have many options, but one clear choice.”
Hughes said he “has great name recognition,” and “people have said they’ll vote for me.” But Hughes said he “won’t let this mistake” hurt Kitchen’s campaign.
While Hughes failed to meet the withdrawal deadline, other certified candidates for the election filed the paperwork in time to get out of the race.
Joseph S. Rosky withdrew Monday as a Boardman Township trustee, leaving only the two incumbents — Brad Calhoun and Thomas P. Costello — to run unopposed.
David Raspanti, who resigned in June as a member of Poland Village Council to become the village zoning inspector, waited until last Friday to withdraw from the race. That leaves four incumbents running for the four available seats on council.
Also, Tara Keating, serving her first four-year term on the Howland school board, withdrew last week from the upcoming election. That leaves three candidates, including two incumbents, running unopposed for three seats.