By David Skolnick
The Mahoning County 0.5-percent sales tax lost in the primary election because most rural residents voted against it.
The tax proposal to make the five-year renewal continuous lost by only 519 votes, 1.6 percentage points, in Tuesday’s primary.
But it took beatings in places such as Springfield, Smith, Goshen and Green townships.
Only 693 people in Smith voted on the tax issue with 71 percent opposing it. That meant the issue lost by 291 votes in the small township.
“That’s amazing,” county Commissioner David Ditzler said of the Smith results.
In Springfield, 62.5 percent of voters opposed the tax, resulting in a 285-vote defeat.
“In those outlying areas, we got slaughtered,” said county Commissioner Anthony Traficanti.
In Goshen, where only 789 total votes were cast, the tax lost by 211 votes. It lost by 79 votes in Green.
Other rural townships where the tax lost include Beaver by 30 votes, Berlin by 61 votes, Coitsville by 32 votes, Ellsworth by 59 votes, Jackson by 65 votes, and by 63 in Milton. It also lost in the villages of Beloit by 60 votes and Craig Beach by 28 votes.
“Taxpayers are frustrated with government in general, and we have to work harder to get out to the outlying areas,” Traficanti said. Votes against the sales tax in rural areas “probably had to do with potholes, voter dissatisfaction and the pay raises [articles] in [The Vindicator]. There was no clear message about the tax. The voters spoke, and we have to put out a better message.”
Ditzler agreed with Traficanti that potholes in rural areas was a reason the tax failed.
“When we went out to discuss the tax in the outlying areas, all they talked about was the road conditions being so bad,” he said.
Among the suburbs, Austintown and Canfield townships had more no votes than yes on the tax issue.
The tax lost by 153 votes in Austintown, and by 92 in Canfield Township.
Using raw numbers of votes in the county’s 273 precincts, provided by the board of elections, The Vindicator counted them to determine totals in each community.
Leading the way with yes over no votes on the tax was Youngstown, where it won by 470 votes.
The tax won in Campbell by 104 votes, by 103 in Boardman, by 77 votes in Struthers, 68 in the village of Poland, 56 in the city of Canfield, 54 in Poland Township, 39 in Sebring, 8 in Lowellville, 7 in New Middletown, and 4 in Washingtonville.
The results of the Democratic primary for probate court judge between Susan Maruca and Christopher Sammarone was even closer than the county sales tax. Maruca won by only 222 votes — 11,701 to 11,479.
Maruca could thank her former hometown of Campbell, where she emerged with her biggest victory. She received 290 more votes in Campbell than Sammarone.
In nearby Struthers, Maruca won by 185 votes.
In Youngstown, she beat Sammarone by 134 votes.
“I was surprised by Youngstown as the former mayor is well-respected, but I wasn’t shocked as I do a lot of community outreach in the city,” Maruca said.
The “former mayor” she’s referring to is Charles Sammarone, Christopher’s father, who served in that capacity from August 2011 to the end of 2014. He is currently city council president, a position he’s had for several years, and is a former 5th Ward councilman.
The younger Sammarone lives in Canfield Township, but grew up on Youngstown’s West Side in the 5th Ward, went to school there and is a Youngstown State University graduate and a former football standout during his time there.
Sammarone won the 5th Ward by 121 votes and the 4th Ward, which is also on the West Side, by 33 votes. He lost the city’s five other wards.
Maruca’s biggest win in Youngstown was in the 2nd Ward on the city’s East Side, where her father used to operate the Airport Tavern, a restaurant and bar. Maruca won by 109 votes there.
Maruca also won in Austintown by 100 votes, and did well in most rural areas, winning in Beaver, Berlin, Coitsville, Goshen, Milton, Smith and Springfield townships as well as in the villages of Beloit, Craig Beach, Lowellville, New Middletown, Washingtonville and Sebring.
“I’m much more comfortable at a steak fry than at a more affluent event,” she said. “If you look at the numbers from 2008,” she lost the Democratic probate judicial primary that year, “I won a lot of the rural areas.”
Maruca won in the village of Poland by 26 votes, but lost by 7 votes in Poland Township, where she resides.
Sammarone’s biggest victory was in Boardman, which he won by 330 votes, followed by Canfield Township, where he lives, with a 233-vote majority, and then the city of Canfield with a 212-vote win.
He won in Ellsworth by 10 votes, in Jackson by 8 votes, and in Green by 16 votes.