Published November 7, 2005
If Robert F. Hagan, the Democratic nominee for mayor of Youngstown, loses the election Tuesday, he will have only himself to blame.
Hagan's decision not to particpate in Sunday night's debate hosted by WYTV-Channel 33 backfired when Republican nominee Robert Korchnak showed up unexpectedly.
Hagan, Korchnak and three other candidates in the race had made a public show of solidarity not too long ago when they announced they would not attend the debate. At issue was the format that would have featured Hagan, Korchnak and Jay Williams, a registered Democrat running as an independent, in one forum, and the three other lesser candidates in another.
Williams was the candidate who agreed to the groundrules and, therefore, was expected to have the spotlight all to himself.
But at the last minute Sunday, Korchnak showed up complete with a stitched up gash on his head. He was in a car accident.
Thus, the debate featured just two of the six candidates: Williams, a frontrunner; and the Republican nominee who may take votes away from Hagan, since both are white. Williams is black.
Hagan's absence was palpable, especially during the time set aside for closing arguments.
Voters who were still undecided Sunday night saw Williams, an eloquent, thoughtful candidate, make a strong argument for why he should be mayor.
Should he win the election, he will be able to point to the WYTV debate as putting him over the top.
Hagan's political instincts failed him.