By David Skolnick
Jamael Tito Brown, who lost the 2013 Democratic primary for Youngstown mayor by 142 votes, is “strongly considering” running again this year.
Brown began circulating nominating petitions Tuesday for the May 2 Democratic primary challenging Mayor John A. McNally, who won the primary and general election four years ago. The filing deadline is Feb. 1.
Meanwhile, McNally said he’ll turn in his petitions Thursday to the Mahoning County Board of Elections for a second four-year term.
McNally’s conviction last year in the Oakhill Renaissance Place corruption scandal will play a role in the campaign, Brown said.
“We deserve better in the city of Youngstown from our leadership,” Brown said Tuesday. “The citizens have an opportunity to make their voices heard” on McNally’s convictions.
McNally said it’s “not unexpected” that his political opponents will try to use the convictions against him.
“It’s up to them to make the case [they deserve to be elected], and it’s my job to make the case about all my administration has accomplished,” he said. “What have they been doing for the past three, four years? Voters have seen what I can do and my administration can do. There’s been a 15 to 20 percent drop in crime, more demolitions and more economic-development projects.”
McNally pleaded guilty in February 2016 to four misdemeanors: two counts of falsification, and one count each of unlawful use of a telecommunications device and attempted disclosure of confidential information. He was given a year’s probation in March 2016 and allowed to remain in office. He was facing 18 felonies and seven misdemeanors when he took the deal.
McNally was accused of being part of a criminal enterprise that conspired to illegally stop or impede the relocation of the Mahoning County Job and Family Services Department from a building owned by a subsidiary of the Cafaro Co. to Oakhill, the former Forum Health Southside Medical Center. McNally was a Mahoning County commissioner when the county, over his objections, purchased Oakhill in 2007.
The convictions relate to McNally, when he was a Mahoning County commissioner, illegally faxing the county’s confidential offer July 13, 2006, to buy Oakhill to attorneys at Ulmer & Berne, a Cleveland law firm that represented Anthony Cafaro Sr., former head of his family-owned Cafaro Co. shopping-center business.
McNally beat Brown, the county treasurer’s director of operations and a former city council president, 3,311 to 3,169 in the May 7, 2013, primary. McNally went on to win the general election.
Brown, too, could face criticism from Democrats for his decision to vote an “issues-only” ballot in the March 2016 primary. By doing so, Brown purposely refused to vote in the Democratic primary.
When asked Tuesday to explain his decision, Brown, who is the county Democratic Party’s vice chairman of minority affairs, said he did so because of his “frustration with politics in general. I wanted to do it at that time, and I exercised that right. There’s got to be some bold moves from leaders.”
In response, McNally said, “As a member of Democratic Party leadership in Mahoning County, he needs to come up with a better explanation than ‘I’m frustrated with politics.’ It doesn’t look like he was interested in taking a stand in that [presidential] race or any race.”
Though McNally said he supported Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, her campaign seemed to keep its distance from McNally, making no references to the mayor during Valley visits.
Harry Turner, who unsuccessfully ran in 2015 as an independent candidate for 5th Ward council, says he also will run in the Democratic primary.
Former Councilwoman Janet Tarpley of the 6th Ward previously has expressed interest in running for mayor in the primary.
Meanwhile, Municipal Court Judge Robert Milich cannot run for re-election this year because of the state’s age-restriction law on judges.
Two candidates planning to fill the seat are Anthony Sertick Jr., the city court magistrate, and Carla Baldwin, an assistant county prosecutor who will become a county juvenile court magistrate Thursday.
Deputy Law Director Anthony Donofrio said he hasn’t made a final decision on seeking the seat but is interested. He said he also is considering a bid for a common pleas court position next year.
Council President Charles Sammarone and Clerk of Courts Sarah Brown-Clark are running for re-election. They don’t have any opposition at this point.