Published November 17, 2005
The results of Tuesday's mayoral race in Youngstown make it clear that the election was not state Sen. Robert F. Hagan's to lose. Jay Williams could not have grabbed the 10,365 votes (52 percent of the total cast in the six-person race) in the waning days of the general election. The vote total is an indication of a build-up of Williams' campaign over a period of time.
Because Hagan kept insisting that his tracking polls showed him with a comfortable lead three weeks ago he told former Mayor Patrick J. Ungaro that he had a 20 point advantage over Williams most long-time political observers predicted his victory. Indeed, on Tuesday, before the polls closed, former Mahoning Democratic Chairman Don L. Hanni Jr. gave Hagan a 400-vote win; former Republican Chairman Dr. William C. Binning pegged the margin at 300 votes; Ungaro, who was correct in his prediction of a 40-45 percent turnout, was way off in the final tally. He said Hagan would win by 2,000.
It was Williams, a registered Democrat running as an independent, who almost hit the 2,000 mark. His 10,365 votes buried Hagan, who received 7,939. But it just wasn't the final numbers that reveal what occurred in the race.
Williams, who had never run for office, who entered the race at a disadvantage because Hagan had won a hard-fought Democratic primary, and who had trailed in raising campaign funds, carried five of the seven wards. As a black candidate, he performed so well in the predominantly white wards that he was able to undercut the Democratic nominee. For instance, in the 7th Ward, which most white candidates for mayor have carried with at least 70 percent of the vote, Hagan could only manage 50 percent. Likewise, in the 4th Ward, he should have done better than the 60 percent.
The ward results indicate that Williams was making major inroads throughout the city with little notice from the press or other observers.
By any measure, his victory was history-making first black to serve as mayor and first independent to win in more than 70 years and certainly proved the experts wrong. But don't judge the experts too harshly. No one could have predicted such a stunning win by a political newcomer.
When the final analysis of the race is completed, one thing it may show is that not only did blacks go to the polls in droves, but there were a significant number of first-time voters.