Published September 10, 2006
When Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams endorsed Congressman Ted Strickland, the Democratic nominee for governor, on Sept. 1, the significance of the announcement was not lost on Republican nominee J. Kenneth Blackwell's campaign.
Indeed, Williams had been urged by local supporters of the Ohio secretary of state to hold off on the endorsement until after Sept. 5. That was the date of the first gubernatorial debate held in Youngstown in the studio of 21 WFMJ. The debate, one of four scheduled around the state, was sponsored by The Vindicator, Vindy.com, the newspaper's online edition, and WFMJ.
But once Williams had made up his mind, he saw no reason to delay. That's because the mayor had arrived at his decision after a great deal of thought. He carefully analyzed the platforms of Strickland and Blackwell and also evaluated each candidate's responses to issues that he believes are important to Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley.
According to an individual in the know, the mayor had a shopping list of about 10 items and based his judgment on how each candidate delivered. Strickland did a better job of persuading Williams that his administration will give Youngstown and the Valley priority status.
Prior to the Friday, Sept. 1, announcement of his endorsement, the mayor and the congressman had a chance to talk at a fundraiser for Mahoning County Engineer Richard Marsico. He came away from that conversation with a good feeling about Strickland.
And with his decision made, he wanted to make sure that the Democratic nominee could use it to his benefit. That's exactly what Strickland did.
Several times during the hour-long debate, the congressman let it be known that he had the endorsement of the freshman mayor and of most of the mayors of Ohio's cities.
Considering that Williams, a registered Democrat who ran as an independent in last year's mayoral election, enjoys widespread support from Republicans, the endorsement was a major coup for the Democrats.
Of course, the fact that Strickland enjoys a double digit lead in the polls over Blackwell helped solidify Williams' decision.
But in the end, an endorsement is only as good as the promises made by the candidate. What was Williams promised? He's not saying, but there should be no doubt that Strickland will have to deliver if he becomes governor.
It's inconceivable that the mayor would risk alienating his Republican supporters just for the pleasure of being able to say, "I endorsed Ted Strickland."