BOARDMAN — Two judicial candidates withdrew before members of the Mahoning County Democratic Party could vote to endorse in their races Saturday.
Meanwhile, Probate Court Judge Mark Belinky, under state criminal investigation, finished last today among three seeking the party’s endorsement for his post in the May 6 primary.
Mark Hanni, who filed to challenge three-term Judge Cheryl L. Waite of the 7th District Court of Appeals, withdrew from the race on Friday. He was allowed to address the committee members, and said he’d file paperwork by Monday’s deadline to run as a write-in in the Democratic primary for a county common pleas court judicial seat held by Republican Maureen A. Sweeney, who is currently unopposed.
Also, David Engler, running for the open seat on the appeals court and the most controversial candidate on the ticket, announced at the meeting that he was withdrawing from the primary leaving Youngstown Deputy Law Director Anthony Donofrio as the only Democratic candidate for the position.
Members of the central and executive committees threw their support in the probate court primary behind Susan Maruca, an attorney who finished last in a three-person primary six years ago for the seat won by Judge Belinky. Maruca received 110 votes for endorsement to 50 for Christopher Sammarone and 40 for Judge Belinky.
The state Bureau of Criminal Investigation, with the assistance of the FBI and the county sheriff’s office, served warrants Feb. 7, two days after the primary filing deadline, on the judge’s court office in Youngstown and his Boardman home looking for evidence to possibly file criminal charges, including engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, tampering with records, bribery, money laundering, theft, and theft in office, according to two search warrants.
“I filed for re-election, and all hell broke loose,” said Judge Belinky, denying the allegations, but acknowledging “concern” about the investigation.
“I can win this race,” he said after losing the endorsement vote. “How [the investigation] plays out, I don’t know. There may be nothing there. It wouldn’t be the first time someone was investigated and nothing came of it. But [the investigation] hurt here with the party.”
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