SKOLNICK || Kitchen supporters don’t fool anyone

On the side

Early voting: If you want to vote early in-person at boards of elections in the Mahoning Valley, you’re running out of time.

The Mahoning County Board of Elections is extending its hours today until 7 p.m. and will have early in-person voting from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday. The board is located at Oakhill Renaissance Center, 345 Oak Hill Ave. in Youngstown.

The Trumbull County Board of Elections will be open until 6 p.m. today for early voting. The board will be open for early in-person voters from 8:30 a.m. to noon Saturday, and will have early voting Monday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The board is at 2947 Youngstown Road SE in Warren.

There are no extended early-voting hours in Columbiana County.

The event was touted as “a group of concerned citizens, including clergy and community leaders” to “address the issues surrounding” the Youngstown mayor’s race.

It was a poorly-disguised rally to support DeMaine Kitchen, an independent candidate for mayor.

There were a number of people wearing Kitchen shirts, and of the five speakers, all Youngstown pastors, at Tuesday’s event at the Nathaniel R. Jones Federal Building & Courthouse, two came right out and urged people to vote for Kitchen.

The other three, including Rev. Kenneth L. Simon, who organized the event, were a tiny bit more subtle in their support.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with endorsing a candidate; just say so.

Some of the speakers made unsubstantiated allegations, falsehoods, half-truths and contradictions.

I’m focusing mostly on Simon because he likes to be the focus of attention.

At a Sept. 25 event that Simon helped organize, local black leaders harshly criticized Mahoning County Democratic Chairman David Betras for removing three African-Americans, two members of Youngstown council and a former councilman, from the party’s executive committee for, get this, not supporting the Democratic-endorsed candidate for mayor.

On Tuesday, Simon said, “There appears to be special interests who do not live in the city nor do they have the interest and well-being of the residents at heart. They’re trying to take our city backwards to the days of the corrupt politics and government.”

When I asked about the special interests, Simon couldn’t/wouldn’t give a single name.

“I don’t want to falsely accuse someone in particular and name someone,” he said. “It’s a machine. It’s an operation.”

He said to “follow the money,” and those who contributed to John A. McNally IV, the Democratic mayoral candidate, who don’t live and/or work in the city were these apparently nefarious special interests.

By the way, the pastor couldn’t be bothered to look at McNally’s latest campaign finance report though he “thinks” he saw a previous one.

A week earlier, Kitchen spoke of a supposed group of unnamed conspirators working to bring forth Youngstown’s “demise.”

McNally received out-of-town contributions but so did Kitchen.

Those who gave to Kitchen — including $500 each from a powerful Cleveland law firm and Dave Johnson of Salem, the Columbiana County Republican Party chairman — must be different to Simon and the others. Also, if the pastor had spoken to others at a Sept. 23 fundraiser for Kitchen, he would have learned some are from North Royalton, Columbus, Brooklyn, N.Y., and plenty of others from communities that are near Youngstown, but not in the city.

Money plays a major factor in political campaigns, but not every donor is corrupt and not every candidate who accepts money is in their pockets.

Lyndsey Hughes, a city council employee and a McNally supporter, accused Kitchen of sexually harassing her on and off since January 2011. Kitchen has strongly denied the claims and contends they are politically motivated. The Vindicator reported about Hughes’ allegations five weeks before Tuesday’s election.

“That was a strategic plan of the campaign,” Simon said.

Simon dismissed the complaint as “unfounded allegations” despite an ongoing investigation.

I asked if waiting four weeks after Hughes’ allegations were reported to have a press conference, which was also one week before this election, wasn’t a strategic plan on his part.

“Getting people together takes some time,” he said.

It took less than a week to organize the anti-Betras press conference, and that event had close to twice as many people present.

Some of those at Tuesday’s gathering accused the media — and me in particular — of supporting McNally. No, but if you’re going to make unsubstantiated allegations, don’t be surprised if someone challenges you to back them up.

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