Two veteran politicos, both former party chairmen, and a former mayor of the city of Youngstown were asked Tuesday before the polls closed at 7:30 p.m. to predict who would win the Youngstown mayoral contest and to give reasons for their predictions.
All three named state Sen. Robert F. Hagan the winner.
But ex Mayor Patrick J. Ungaro, now administrator of Liberty Township, parted company with Atty. Don L. Hanni Jr., who served as chairman of the Mahoning County Democratic Party for 16 years, and Dr. William C. Binning, who was head of the county Republican Party for nine years, in discussing Hagan's margin of victory over Jay Williams, a registered Democrat running as an independent. Williams is a former director of the city's Community Development Agency.
Hanni opined that Hagan would beat Williams by 400 votes, while Binning pegged the margin at 300. Both also said the winner would get less than 50 percent of the 16,000 votes they estimated would be cast in the six-person contest.
By contrast, Ungaro, who also served in Youngstown City Council, predicted that Hagan would win by a couple thousand votes. That said, the longest-serving mayor in the history of the city conceded he has not been paying close attention to the mayoral race. But his perspective is credible given his familiarity with the city's electorate and the numerous times he was on the ballot.
Ungaro also was more optimistic in speculating about the turnout, saying he believed between 40 and 45 percent of the 49,268 registered voters in the city would go to the polls.
Why a Hagan win?
HANNI: Hagan has been in office for about 15 years and, obviously, the longer you are in public office the more vulnerable you are, the more enemies you make. As opposed to voting for a candidate, people vote against a candidate. But with the deluge of independent candidates (four of the six) and despite the fact most are white, it helps Hagan. Those voters who would be inclined to vote against Hagan have other sources of relief.
In addition, I don't think the residents of Youngstown are overimpressed with job city council has done with a black majority. That may work against Jay Williams primarily on the basis of race, which would be totally unfair.
I think Jay has those things working against him.
The former Democratic chairman reiterated that the election would close and went so far as to suggest that there could be an automatic recount.
UNGARO: I think you have a guy [Hagan] who has been around a long time. He has name recognition, he is white, but also enjoys a lot support in the black and Hispanic communities. On the other hand, you have a black candidate (Williams) who is very knowledgeable, speaks well and has some support in the white community. The outcome depends on how people vote racially. If the voting is along racial lines, it will be very close.
It can go either way ... but I think Hagan will win.
BINNING: Hagan is the more established candidate and although he had a number of detractors and political enemies I thought he ran a pretty solid campaign until Monday with his attacks on Williams. I don't think Jay Williams made the sale. He went to a lot of places he didn't need to go. He should have emphasized his credentials, professional background, his city government experience. I think Hagan's campaign did as good as they could have done under the circumstances.
Youngstown Mayor George M. McKelvey, who must leave office at the end of the year because of term-limits, declined to predict a winner when contacted Tuesday morning. Don't forget that Williams served in McKelvey's administration. The mayor's refusal to use his extensive knowledge of the city's electorate to make a prediction spoke volumes.