The Democratic nominee for Youngstown mayor has a couple of hurdles to clear before he can take the oath of office; the Democratic nominee for Warren City Council president has a clear path to his swearing-in ceremony in January.
John A. McNally IV, former Mahoning County commissioner and former Youngstown city law director, won Tuesday’s primary by a mere 150 votes over council President Jamael Tito Brown. It is noteworthy that McNally spent more than twice the amount than Brown.
The nominee thus goes into the general election with some major problems, as he acknowledged Tuesday night.
In Warren, Jim Graham erased the bitter memories from his unsuccessful bid for mayor in 2011 by scoring a 301-vote victory over council President Bob Dean.
There’s no Republican in the race, which means Graham, the retired autoworker who was president of Local 1112 of the United Auto Workers at General Motors’ Lordstown assembly plant, will take office in the new year.
Tuesday’s primary also revealed a level of voter apathy that does not bode well for governments in the Mahoning Valley. The Democratic and Republican parties need to determine whether it’s a reflection of the population change taking place in the region, or the caliber of candidates.
The absence of Republican candidates in the top races in Youngstown and Warren is a disturbing political occurrence that needs to be addressed.
Youngstown mayoral contest
The closeness of the primary election confirmed what we had said in our endorsement editorial: Voters had to choose between two candidates who agreed on most of the major issues confronting the city, including the tightening budget, crime and neighborhood deterioration. What, then, was the determining factor? Voting along racial lines.
McNally acknowledged in an interview with The Vindicator that the turnout of his supporters in the 4th and 5th wards tipped the scales in his favor.
The two West Side wards, especially the 4th, have white majorities.
Indeed, it comes as no surprise that the front page analysis of Tuesday’s vote in the city shows that most white voters supported McNally, who is white, and most black voters cast their ballots for Brown, who is black.
The ramifications of such race-based voting cannot be down played.
Youngstown’s population, which is on a downward spiral, has changed in its racial makeup. Therefore, the mayor of the city should be able to garner support from all segments.
McNally is expected to be challenged by five independent candidates in the November general election, including two well-known black leaders, DeMaine Kitchen, chief of staff/secretary to Mayor Charles Sammarone, and former Youngstown Police Chief Jimmy Hughes.
Kitchen is a former member of council, while Hughes ran unsuccessfully for Mahoning County sheriff.
McNally, conceding that voter turnout in the primary was a factor in the outcome, said one of the challenges in the fall campaign is to increase the number of people going to the polls.
“We savor the victory and we’ll go on from here,” he said election night. “The general election will be a crowded field, and we’ll see how it plays out.”
The Vindicator endorsed Tito Brown for the Democratic nomination because he is currently serving in council and has been on the front lines of the battle to keep the city from imploding.
McNally has been away from city government since 2005, which means that the issue of relevant experience will again be raised in the coming months.
The general election could be a defining moment in the political history of the city of Youngstown.
Warren council president
During the primary campaign, Graham contended that council President Dean had become a lightning rod for controversy and that a majority of the 10-member legislative body wanted him out.
We were unable to confirm that, but Graham’s victory suggests that voters were looking for a change in the political climate.
The Vindicator endorsed Dean based on the fact that lawmakers had not taken any action, such as a vote of no-confidence, to demonstrate their displeasure with him.
We also noted that one of Graham’s main issues in the election — his desire and willingness to work closely with Mayor Doug Franklin — is already in play because of Dean’s close relationship with the mayor.
Graham will soon have the chance to establish ties with Franklin.