It was hard for a Youngs-town voter to soar like an eagle in Tuesday’s mayoral election when surrounded by turkeys (the candidates), which explains the low turnout.
Question: If an election is held and few of the registered voters show up, can the winner credibly claim to have broad-based support of the people?
And, if the winner who is the Democratic Party nominee wins by 1,221 votes, can he claim a mandate?
Thus, the best John A. McNally IV can hope for when he takes office Jan. 1 is a governing coalition with a majority of city council. That will be no easy feat.
The contentious campaign waged by the two front-runners, McNally and DeMaine Kitchen, bared the racial divide that exists in the city of 65,000 — and falling — and serves as a harbinger of things to come.
Youngstown needs a mayor who is accepted in all seven wards. Instead, the city will be led by an individual who wasn’t able to appeal to a wide cross-section of the population.
Why? The low turnout is proof that none of the six candidates in the race was able to ignite the passions of the voters. McNally and Kitchen were weighed down by personal baggage that gave the electorate pause.
McNally’s political record features a criminal indictment stemming from his role in the Oakhill Renaissance Place scandal when he was a Mahoning County commissioner.
Kitchen is a tax scofflaw and has been accused of sexual harassment by a female city employee when he served as chief of staff to outgoing mayor, Charles Sammarone.
The other hopefuls either had political skeletons in their closets or just did not make the case for their candidacies.
Thus, Youngstown residents were faced with the prospect of having a mayor who would be distracted from his public responsibilities if charges or complaints were filed against him.
The number of city residents who went to the polls Tuesday suggests that a majority of Youngstowners weren’t enamored by McNally or Kitchen.
In every election there is one race that becomes the draw, attracts media attention and gets the political juices flowing. In Youngstown, it has traditionally been the mayor’s contest.
But a funny thing (yes, it is laughable) happened on the way to Tuesday’s contest: The May Democratic primary, which featured McNally, the party’s endorsed candidate, and Jamael Tito Brown, council president, turned out to be a dud. This, even though there was a charter amendment on the ballot to ban the gas extraction method called hydraulic fracturing — fracking.
Incidentally, the proponents of the anti-fracking amendment refused to accept the defeat of the issue, arguing that the low turnout was not reflective of the attitude of the wider population. They put the charter amendment before the voters Tuesday, and the result was another rejection.
If the anti-fracking coalition believes that a third could be the charm, they would do well to hire some seasoned political consultants. No means no.
McNally’s 150-vote victory in May over Brown in the primary, despite his spending much more money and having the party behind him, was a reality check. He conceded that the low turnout came as a surprise and vowed to reach out to as many voters as possible, including those in the black wards of the city.
The general election results show him with 5,802 votes against 4,582 for Kitchen. Again, McNally had a lot more money to spend, and had the Democratic Party machine in his gear for his campaign.
At best, it was a bittersweet victory for McNally.