Retired Police Chief Jimmy Hughes will announce his intention to withdraw as a candidate for Youngstown mayor today and support DeMaine Kitchen, the mayor’s chief of staff/secretary and fellow independent, for the seat, The Vindicator has learned.
On Wednesday, Kitchen confirmed that he and Hughes will make a joint announcement today at the Commerce Building, but declined to discuss the details.
Hughes couldn’t be reached late Wednesday by the newspaper for a comment.
But a source with intimate knowledge of the decision confirmed to The Vindicator the two candidates have discussed the issue and Hughes has agreed to leave the race.
Hughes’ pending withdrawal could have a significant impact on the election. Hughes and Kitchen are both black and could have split the black vote, making it easier for John A. McNally IV, the Democratic nominee who is white, to win the November general election.
McNally, a former city law director and Mahoning County commissioner, won the May 7 Democratic primary by only 142 votes over city council President Jamael Tito Brown, who is black.
While close, the primary wasn’t competitive in any of the city’s seven wards.
McNally easily won in the predominantly white wards, getting as much as 81 percent in the 4th Ward on the city’s upper West Side. Brown did the same in the predominately black wards, such as the 2nd Ward on the East Side in which he received 77 percent of the vote.
When told of Hughes’ pending announcement, McNally said, “I expect to win, but it’s going to be a challenging race. It doesn’t matter how many people are in the race, it will be difficult. ... I’ll have to work harder than I did” in the Democratic primary.
McNally added that Hughes “had a lot of pressure to get out of the race and it looks like that pressure has paid off. I’m sure people would like to see less candidates.”
McNally declined to say who he believed placed pressure on Hughes.
It was a week ago that the Mahoning County Board of Elections rejected requests from Cecil Monroe, a one-time independent mayoral candidate, to remove Hughes and Kitchen from the ballot, contending the two aren’t eligible to run as independents because they are Democrats.
The elections board dismissed Monroe’s complaints though county Democratic Party Chairman David Betras, the board’s vice chairman, voted in favor of removing Kitchen.
Once Hughes withdraws, the only mayoral candidates left will be McNally; Kitchen; Frank Bellamy, who lost the 2011 general election for city clerk of courts and the 2009 Youngstown mayoral Democratic primary; and John M. Crea, a political newcomer. Like Kitchen, Bellamy and Crea are running as independents.