Youngstown election results reflect racial divide

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RELATED: de SOUZA: Come January, Youngstown will have a black mayor, the second in the city's history.



Youngstown is one city that will have a new mayor next year.

But it is two cities that voted in Tuesday night’s historic change:

One city is a population of white residents who largely voted one way. The other city is a population of black residents largely voting another.

It not only decided a mayoral seat, but also a judgeship and a council president post.

“The issue of race is stronger than the issue of political ideology,” said ousted Mayor John A. McNally, who was the Mahoning County Democratic Party’s endorsed candidate. “The party wasn’t the controlling issue in this election. Race was – and it’s been that way before.”

The Rev. Kenneth Simon, pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church and a prominent local black leader, said it’s a move out of last resort.

“The African-American community has almost been forced to take the stance [of voting for black candidates] because the other side of the tracks will always vote for the [white] candidate,” he said. “It shouldn’t have to be that way. There’s qualified people [of all races]. Let’s embrace our diversity and support people of all ethnicities who are qualified. I don’t know why we can’t get to that.”

Jamael Tito Brown won the Democratic primary for mayor over incumbent McNally by 461 votes, but the race by ward wasn’t competitive.

Brown, who is black, dominated in the city’s predominantly black wards – 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 6th.

McNally, who is white, was the winner in the 4th, 5th and 7th wards, with a concentration of white residents.

Brown, a former council president and 3rd Ward councilman, said there was “some crossover” votes for him from whites and that will continue in the general election.

Brown saw enough improvement Tuesday night compared with his 142-vote defeat to McNally in the 2013 Democratic primary when the two first battled for mayor.

Oddly, both men earned more votes Tuesday compared with 2013, with Brown getting 4,323 last night versus 3,169 in 2013. McNally earned 3,862 votes last night compared to 3,311 in 2013.

Ward by ward, race was a factor in 2013 as it was Tuesday night – with the outcomes in each of the city’s seven wards not even close.

In the largely black 1st Ward, which includes all of downtown and portions of the East and South sides, Brown received 73 percent of the vote. He picked up 71 percent of the vote in that ward in 2013.

In the predominately black 2nd Ward, which includes most of the East Side, Brown captured 75 percent of the vote in this primary compared with 77 percent in 2013.

In the largely black 3rd Ward, which takes in most of the North Side, Brown won 69 percent of the vote in this primary, the same percentage he won four years ago.

The biggest change was in the largely white 4th Ward, the city’s upper West Side. Brown received 27 percent of the vote in this primary compared with 17 percent in 2013.

In the 5th Ward, which is mostly white with pockets of black neighborhoods and is on the West Side with a few precincts on the South Side, Brown received 32 percent of the vote in this primary. He received 39 percent of the vote in the ward four years ago.

But that was before the city redistricted its wards and took some black parts of the 5th and moved them into the 6th Ward.

In the predominately black 6th Ward on the South Side, Brown received 67 percent of the vote Tuesday compared with 64 percent in 2013.

In the mostly white 7th Ward on the city’s southeast side, Brown received 36 percent of the vote compare with 32 percent four years ago.

In February, the Democratic Party’s votes to endorse white candidates over black ones led to complaints from local black leaders, and may spell the end of endorsements.

County Chairman David Betras said he will ask central and executive committee members to reconsider endorsements in the primary in the future, but it is ultimately their decision.

“It’s something we should look at,” he said. “It’s become too divisive. There are a number of precinct committee people working against the endorsed candidate so why should we have endorsements?”

Betras said Tuesday’s results are a “rebuke of endorsements.”

In addition to McNally, the county Democratic Party also endorsed 4th Ward Councilman Mike Ray, who lost to DeMaine Kitchen, a former mayor’s chief of staff; and Anthony Sertick in the municipal court race, who lost to Carla Baldwin.

William Binning, a former Youngstown State University political science department chairman, said Baldwin was largely responsible for the success of the black candidates on Tuesday’s ballot in Youngstown.

Baldwin did even better than Brown in every ward – except they tied with 32 percent in the 5th Ward – including getting 82 percent in the 1st Ward, 84 percent in the 2nd, 77 percent in the 3rd, 30 percent in the 4th, 75 percent in the 6th and 40 percent in the 7th.

As for voters casting ballots primarily for candidates of the same race, Betras said: “How do I change prejudice? I don’t know how to answer that. You try to make the party more inclusive. I wish people would be color-blind when voting and not vote for someone because they’re black or white and [instead] elect the best person.”

But Jaladah Aslam, Baldwin’s campaign manager and president of the Youngstown Warren Black Caucus, said Betras has failed to make the local Democratic Party more inclusive and shouldn’t seek re-election as he planning to do in 2018.

She also called for the end to endorsements, saying they divide the party and lead to qualified minorities being overlooked.

“The party is out of touch with the city. It’s way out of touch with minority voters. It’s out of touch with young voters and even out of touch with white voters,” she said. “The party continues to put together a slate of white, old-school candidates and they all lost [Tuesday]. People want to see change, and the party leadership has to understand that or they’re not going to be successful. If the party chair had said not to endorse so we don’t split the party, it would have had an impact on committee members. Instead, he said nothing.”

After the black candidates seeking the party’s endorsement were shut out, “we ran campaigns separate and apart from the party,” Aslam said. “People are tired of being locked out of the Democratic Party establishment, and that was proven in this election.”

“African-Americans don’t necessarily need the established Democratic Party,” Brown said. “This is the first time that history’s been made. It’s going to wake up the African-American voters to say, ‘We have power, we have an opportunity if we go out and vote. We can determine the direction of the election.’”

That none of the endorsed candidates won Tuesday “speaks to the problems of the party,” Binning said. “If they’re going to endorse, they’ve got to produce.”

In the mayoral race, three candidates have filed to run as independents. All three are black, thus guaranteeing that in January 2018, Youngstown, with a current black population of about 45 percent, will have only its second African-American mayor. The first was Jay Williams, who was elected in 2005.

The other candidates are former 6th Ward Councilwoman Janet Tarpley; Sean McKinney, the former buildings and grounds commissioner; and Cecil Monroe, who’s unsuccessfully run for a number of city elected positions including mayor.

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