All eyes on 6th District race

On the side

A game changer?: The decision by former Police Chief Jimmy Hughes to get out of the Youngstown mayoral general election could be a game changer.

Hughes and DeMaine Kitchen, the mayor’s chief of staff/secretary and a fellow independent candidate for mayor, acknowledge that having two prominent black candidates in the race would have meant Democrat John A. McNally IV, a former city law director and Mahoning County commissioner, who is white, would win.

Now the race is up for grabs.

McNally eked out a victory in the May Democratic primary against City Council President Jamael Tito Brown, and says he was already working harder on the general election before the Hughes withdrawal announcement. McNally has to step it up yet again. This will also be a test for county Democratic Party Chairman David Betras. He is tied to McNally, who was endorsed by the party. If McNally loses, Betras and the party’s endorsement process would be heavily damaged.

U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, a Republican from Marietta, won his second term last year by 6.7 percentage points.

The 18-county 6th Congressional District that he represents strongly leans Republican after GOP officials redrew the lines in 2012 to make it more friendly for its party’s nominee. Republican Mitt Romney soundly defeated President Barack Obama, a Democrat, in the 6th, winning by about 12.5 percentage points.

Yet both political parties and special interest groups are treating the district as one of the most competitive House races in the country for the 2014 election.

The National Republican Congressional Committee added nine incumbents, including Johnson, earlier this week to its “Patriot Program,” which provides money, and organizational and strategic assistance to those the NRCC considers vulnerable. It was the second round of the Patriot Program.

Among the nine incumbents in Round 2, four are in districts won by Obama last year and four others won by less than 5 percentage points in 2012. The only one that didn’t fall into either category is Johnson.

Johnson was also selected in 2012 in the NRCC Patriot Program’s second round.

During his first campaign, the NRCC took until a month before the 2010 election to give him “Young Gun” status, another program that provides money and other assistance to non-incumbents.

In Ohio, a key battleground state, there are few competitive U.S. House races. The NRCC is carefully watching where the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is focusing its attention when it comes to challenging incumbent Republicans.

Former state Rep. Jennifer Garrison, a Democrat from Marietta, has declared her candidacy and poses a legitimate challenge to Johnson. (State Sen. Lou Gentile of Steubenville, D-30th, is also considering a run but hasn’t made an announcement.)

“The NRCC is willing to help” Johnson “and we appreciate the extra help,” said Mark Weaver, the congressman’s campaign spokesman. “Sometimes it’s an alert to Republicans and conservatives to help candidates raise money. It’s been a big help in the past. It gets [Johnson] on the radar screen for this election cycle.”

Mark Riddle, Garrison’s spokesman, said, “Ohio’s 6th is a competitive district. It’s no coincidence that a week after Jennifer Garrison announces her candidacy for Congress that the congressman is deemed one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the party by his own party. It’s based on her record of results.”

Also, America’s Voice, a liberal immigration reform group, is targeting Johnson, among 24 Republican incumbents in the House, for his positions on immigration. The group conducted a poll of Latinos in those two dozen districts about various immigration issues. Latinos make up less than 1 percent of the 6th, which includes all of Columbiana County and a portion of Mahoning County.

Don't Miss a Story

Sign up for our newsletter to receive daily news directly in your inbox.