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Mayor’s race gets clarified

Published: Fri, January 11, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

By David Skolnick (Contact)

On the side

Washington lobbyist: Steven C. LaTourette, the recently retired Republican congressman from Ohio’s 14th District, is now a D.C. lobbyist.

LaTourette of Bainbridge, who didn’t seek re-election this year after 18 years in the U.S. House, will head a new government relations and lobbying subsidiary of the law firm of McDonald Hopkins LLC, a business advisory and advocacy law firm with six offices nationwide, including one in Cleveland.

“I firmly believe in the moderate and constructive values that I represented in Congress and intend to continue representing those values on behalf of clients whose interests are impacted by the actions of our government,” LaTourette said.

LaTourette will be the president and based in Washington, D.C.

The vice president is Jennifer LaTourette, his wife, who’s spent the past decade as vice president of Van Scoyoc Associates, a government lobbying firm, and was LaTourette’s chief of staff before they were married.

Youngstown Mayor Charles Sammarone’s decision to not run for the job this year brings that election into focus.

There will be two leading candidates in the Democratic primary in May: John McNally IV, a former Mahoning County commissioner and Youngstown law director, and Council President Jamael Tito Brown.

Matthew Smith, who unsuccessfully ran for elected office in city government more than 25 years ago, has filed to run for mayor, but isn’t viewed as a strong candidate for the Democratic primary.

While the primary isn’t for another four months, Brown has somewhat stumbled out of the gate.

Brown seemed shell-shocked when I reported Dec. 18 that Sammarone was “reconsidering” his decision to run for mayor after about one-and-a-half years of saying he was “99-percent” sure he wouldn’t seek the elected position.

Brown had a Dec. 13 press conference announcing his plans to run for mayor, but it won’t be until next week — a month after his announcement — that he’ll file nominating petitions for the seat.

Brown wants to make sure he’s got enough valid signatures and is filing well before the Feb. 6 deadline. But it shows a bit of a breakdown in his campaign’s organizational skills.

On top of that, DeMaine Kitchen, Sammarone’s secretary/chief of staff and a longtime Brown friend and political ally, says he’s giving serious consideration to an independent mayoral run. That’s hardly a ringing endorsement for Brown.

“It’s a good strategic move” to run as an independent, Brown said of Kitchen.

Kitchen’s wife is Brown’s wife’s niece.

“My goal is to come out as the [Democratic] primary winner,” Brown said. “If I win and he stays in, that’s fine. There would be no animosity. But I would hope if Tito Brown won the primary [Kitchen would] consider stepping down and joining my team.”

Sammarone said he will run in the May primary for the Democratic nomination for council president.

He’s held that position for more than 17 years, including 51/2 straight years before the August 2011 resignation of Mayor Jay Williams elevated Sammarone to the top spot in compliance with the city charter’s ascension provision.

Sammarone said he wants to return to council president for a variety of reasons.

One is it’s easier to manage his time as council president, meaning it’s not a 24-7 job like mayor. In the job, Sammarone has advised mayors, but ultimately, the guy running the city makes the final decisions.

In reality, the position is largely ceremonial under the city charter with the main responsibility being to run council meetings. That’s pretty good for a job that pays $28,117 in annual salary with the option of full medical benefits.

Some — among the most vocal being Phil Kidd, a community activist mulling a mayoral run — contend the council president should be a more active participant in representing the city and be active in community engagement.

The charter review commission, of which Kidd was a member, recommended the position be eliminated, because there’s not much to it.

City council, which decides what charter amendments make it to the public ballot, quickly rejected that proposal. Council president should have more responsibilities or be eliminated. But I don’t see that happening.

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