Mayoral races in Girard, Niles are an easy call for voters because of the field

Seeking elected office should not be an afterthought. If you want the job, you should file candidacy petitions to run – in the Democratic or Republican primaries, or as an independent.

By contrast, a write-in candidacy is, more often than not, indicative of a lackadaisical attitude toward what is, in reality, a job interview.

Voters should think long and hard before putting their trust in someone who is not fully committed to the electoral process.

In fact, voters do look with suspicion upon candidates who aren’t willing to go all in, which is why write-ins rarely win.

That should explain why we generally do not invite such candidates to participate in The Vindicator’s Editorial Board endorsement interviews. We say generally, rather than never, because there have been times, and there probably will be times, when we make an exception.

But, that isn’t the case in the mayor’s contests in Girard and Niles.

On the ballot in each of those cities, there will be only one name listed for mayor: In Girard, James Melfi, Democrat; in Niles, Thomas Scarnecchia, Democrat.

They both have write-in challengers whose names will not be on the ballot. Voters who support them will have to write in the names of the candidates.

In Girard, Melfi, who has been in office since 2000 and is seeking another term as mayor, faces a challenge, if you can call it that, from Juanita A. Lewis. The 71-year-old resident is a political novice who has one central issue she’s running on: Lewis is unhappy that her Parkwood neighborhood on the south side of town has received “nothing,” in spite of grants the city has secured.

Without even talking to the mayor, we are confident that he would be able to show that in his 15 years as Girard’s chief executive, all parts of the city have benefited from his stewardship of the city’s economy.

It is important to recall that when Melfi took office, Girard’s operating budget had a $3 million deficit. The city was declared by the state to be in fiscal emergency, and that resulted in a state-mandated commission coming in and taking over government’s finances.

Difficult decisions

Melfi, working with members of city council, made the difficult decisions on spending. Girard residents responded by passing an income-tax increase that enabled the city to climb out of fiscal emergency.

Today, the budget is stable, and good things are happening.

We have no qualms about giving our unwavering support to Melfi in his re-election bid – as we have done every time he has run.

In Niles, which is in fiscal emergency, Scarnecchia is on the ballot by virtue of defeating long-time Mayor Ralph Infante in the May Democratic primary. The former member of council is being challenged by write-in candidate Barry Profato, also a former councilman and clerk of courts.

We did not endorse Scarnecchia in the primary because we felt it was unfair to tag the incumbent, Infante, with the ongoing investigation of Niles city government by the Ohio Auditor’s Office.

We said that absent a clear statement from investigators that Infante is a target of the probe, residents had no way of judging his veracity.

But as the primary election results showed, the Democratic voters were swayed by Scarnecchia’s contention that the mayor is ultimately responsible for Niles’ financial collapse and that he deflected blame by pointing the finger at the auditor and treasurer.

Since the primary, we have come to the conclusion that the Democratic nominee certainly was right in his analysis of the city’s fiscal problems and the mismanagement of government.

We believe that Scarnecchia is ready to take the reins of power come January and will move quickly to deal with the city’s budgetary crisis.

That said, we also would urge him to consult with state investigators and state auditors to determine the depth of the probe.

The Vindicator endorses Melfi for re-election as mayor of Girard and Scarnecchia for mayor of Niles in the Nov. 3 general election.

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