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Incumbent, 1 challenger take absentee votes in two county judge races

Mahoning County Probate Judge Robert Rusu Jr. appeared on his way to retaining his court seat.

But an upset could be in the making with early results for a Mahoning County judgeship.

For probate judge, incumbent Rusu secured the absentee vote: Rusu had 29,715, or 52.59 percent, of those votes while ex-county commissioner and lawyer David L. Engler had 26,787 votes.

The intially close results gave Rusu and his team hope, he said. “We’re just hoping we prevail.”

Still, since it was anticipated that voter turnout would be higher this year, Rusu said that it was known “it was going to be difficult” to tabulate the later results.

Rusu said he believes he accomplished a lot in his six years as judge, and believed that the voters see his work.

Engler, 60, of Youngstown, said the race was close based on the absentee votes alone.

“It’s close, and we just have to wait,” he said. “There are no clear indications.”

The five-year term begins in 2021.

Rusu, 53, of Canfield, was appointed to probate court judge to fill an unexpired term of ex-Judge Mark Belinky in July 2014 by then-Gov. John Kasich. In 2014, Rusu campaigned and won the general election.

In the county court race, attorney Joe Schiavoni received a majority of absentee votes. The Democrat from Boardman secured 23,258 votes, or 65.62 percent of the absentee votes.

“I appreciate the outpouring of support in the early votes and absentees,” he said at 9 p.m., a trend he hoped continued through the night as numbers were tallied.

The 41-year-old attorney said that “if the Valley allows me” to serve voters once again as a judge, he will apply the same work ethic and mindset as when he was a state senator.

The incumbent, J.P. Morgan, said that while many of the absentee ballots counted were Democratic, he was still “confident” as the wait for in-person numbers continued.

Throughout the day, Morgan said “the feeling that was received” by communities was that he “was doing very well.”

There aren’t party affiliations for judicial candidates in Ohio’s general election. Morgan is a Republican, and Schiavoni is a Democrat.

Morgan, 45, of Canfield, was appointed to the bench by Gov. Mike DeWine in March 2019 to fill an unexpired term of Judge David D’Apolito.

The term will end Dec. 31, 2022.

Schiavoni ran for governor in 2018, but came in third in the primary election.

A former state senator who served from 2008-2018, Schiavoni, 41, also has been an attorney since 2005, handling workers’ compensation, accidents, probate estates, domestic issues, contract disputes and criminal matters.

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