Four years ago, Terry Stocker was preparing to finish out his second term as Struthers mayor.
But late into the election season, he did something very unusual – he filed to run as a write-in candidate.
Even more unusual, he won.
And the outcome is a classic Mahoning County election story.
Stocker, a longtime Democrat, skipped that party’s primary in 2015 with Danny Thomas Jr., a former council president and 1st Ward councilman, winning the party’s nomination.
In addition to Stocker and Thomas, two independents – Rich DeLuca and Richard Sheeler – were on the ballot.
Stocker said he didn’t run in the Democratic primary because of health issues, but by the time of the August 2015 write-in deadline he said he felt better, and that a lot of people wanted him to seek another term.
He said at the time of his filing: “It’s going to be a challenge to win as a write-in, but I thought it was something I needed to do.”
On election night four years ago, Thomas emerged as the apparent winner by 72 votes over Stocker, but acknowledged that he believed he lost after his campaign counted vote totals posted outside polling locations in Struthers.
It turned out that the county board of elections failed to count 147 write-in votes from two precincts in the city’s 3rd Ward.
Board workers found a sealed ballot box with write-in information in a vault at the board office mixed with boxes of ballots that were counted.
After those ballots were counted, Stocker was declared the winner with 1,431 votes to 1,359 for Thomas, a 72-vote victory.
DeLuca received 484 votes and Sheeler got 40.
Fast forward to this election.
Stocker again didn’t file in the Democratic primary for mayor.
He didn’t return my numerous telephone calls to him Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to discuss his political future.
But don’t be surprised to see Stocker file as an independent.
The independent deadline is May 6, the day before the primary.
Two Democratic candidates submitted nominating petitions for the mayoral primary.
Councilman-at-Large Michael S. Patrick, who’s held that position for about a dozen years and spent about 27 years as a city volunteer firefighter.
Catherine Cercone Miller, secretary to the law director for about five years who’s involved in a number of city civic organizations.
Patrick was involved in a controversy last year in which he was accused of bullying the clerk of council. The matter was settled without Patrick having to make a public apology or having to attend anger-management classes as other council members wanted when Patrick’s attorney got involved.
The race should be a competitive one.
We’ll see if Stocker decides to run for a fourth four-year term when the independent deadline comes around.
Of course he can keep us waiting until the Aug. 26 deadline for another improbable write-in campaign.
Republicans continue to struggle to field candidates in municipal races in Mahoning County. It’s not much better in Trumbull County.
The only Republican to file in Mahoning is Renee M. DiSalvo, the sitting Youngstown Municipal Court judge who is seeking a full six-year term.
Judge DiSalvo was appointed by then-Gov. John Kasich to fill a vacancy starting Nov. 5, 2018.
The city is heavily Democratic though Judge DiSalvo has supposedly garnered support from some Democrats in her election bid.
She’ll face the winner of the Democratic primary.
That race pits Law Director Jeff Limbian against Martin Hume, an assistant county prosecutor who was the city’s previous law director.
Don’t discount the possibility of an independent filing in that race.