Brown glides to victory in Youngstown mayor’s race
Margin over 2nd-place finisher much higher than previous elections
YOUNGSTOWN – Mayor Jamael Tito Brown had it much easier this time in the Democratic primary for his re-election than in the past.
Meanwhile, Tom Hetrick defeated incumbent DeMaine Kitchen in a write-in race for the Democratic nominee for city council president.
Brown won Tuesday’s primary with about 58 percent of the vote to some 28 percent for Ryan Kelly, a restaurant owner running for office for the first time, and nearly 14 percent for Julius Oliver, 1st Ward councilman, according to unofficial vote totals.
During his first run for mayor in the 2013 primary, Brown lost by about 2 percent to John A. McNally. In a 2017 rematch, Brown beat McNally by 5.5 percent in the Democratic primary and then defeated independent Sean McKinney by nearly 2 percent in the general election.
He won Tuesday by more than 29 percent over Kelly.
Brown said: “The voters recognized the challenges we faced when I got into office, what we’ve addressed during my time as mayor and my vision for the future. We’ve come so far and we’ve got so much more to do.”
Brown said voters supported what he’s done to guide the city through the COVID-19 pandemic and want Youngstown to emerge stronger from it.
“They wanted steady leadership in the mayor’s office,” he said.
“I congratulate Mayor Brown and I hope the opportunity to change Youngstown is there,” Kelly said. “It was a hard-fought race. This wasn’t something I did for my resume or experience. I felt this wasn’t the standard the city should have and I wanted to change it. I hope we really opened some eyes in the city and I hope issues will be addressed soon. The real disappointing part was the lack of voters.”
Turnout for the election was 13.8 percent.
Oliver said he was disappointed with the results, but “Youngstown showed the direction they wanted to go, and I’ll work with them to help achieve that.”
Asked if he would support Brown in the general election, Oliver said: “As a person who knows what’s going on in city hall, I can’t do that. I don’t know the other (candidates’) track records. We’ll have to see what happens.”
Brown will meet Republican Tracey Winbush in the general election for a four-year position.
Retired businessman John White, Richard V. Hill, the supervisor of the Youngstown clerk of courts’ criminal traffic division, and Tayana C. Smith filed to run as independents. The board of elections needs to certify their candidacies before they can appear on the Nov. 2 general election ballot.
During the primary race, Brown touted his experience as mayor as well as being a former council president, 3rd Ward councilman and city school board member.
Kelly and Oliver said it was time for a change with the councilman in particular saying Brown has been ineffective as mayor during his first term.
Brown said safety and crime reduction were his top priorities, including taking a different approach to law enforcement. He wants the city to purchase body cameras for all police officers, install cameras throughout the main corridors and in neighborhoods, add street lights and work to remove illegal guns.
He also wants to continue to invest in workforce development, create more job opportunities for city residents and focus on quality of life issues.
Of great importance to the city is the $88,629,500 it is getting in federal COVID-19 relief funding, he said. Half of it is coming later this month and the rest in May 2022. It has to be spent by Dec. 31, 2024.
Brown wants to take the time needed to develop a plan that involves government officials, city residents and others.
But he wants to use some to eliminate the 500 blighted properties in the city, improve housing quality, clean up the corridors, develop a youth employment program, bring in a full-scale grocery store and improve transit accessibility.
Hetrick, a nutrition educator for Mercy Health-Youngstown, is the apparent winner in the Democratic primary for council president, which featured three write-in candidates.
Hetrick received more than 49 percent of the vote to nearly 40 percent for Kitchen and 3 percent for Lee David Pupio, a retired city wastewater collections system maintenance operations employee.
Election officials were counting the write-in votes in the council president’s Democratic primary late Tuesday.
Kitchen was seeking his second four-year term, but was losing by 255 votes, according to unofficial results late Tuesday.
The machines only counted ballots that had the oval circled and a name filled in. The board will later also count ballots in which voters didn’t fill in the oval but wrote a name before certifying the results. The board of elections’ website listed 205 votes “not assigned” to a particular candidate.
Kitchen could have avoided a Democratic primary if he had been able to get the needed 50 valid signatures on his nominating petitions.
Hetrick and Pupio had said they wouldn’t have mounted write-in campaigns if Kitchen, the only person to submit a nominating petition for the seat, had been certified to the ballot.
Kitchen turned in petitions for the position with 67 signatures, but the board determined only 46 were valid. The board allowed Kitchen to withdraw before certifying the ballot, which allowed him to file as a write-in candidate.
The council president job is largely ceremonial as the person holding it runs council meetings, but doesn’t get a vote. Council president also becomes mayor if the mayor leaves the job early. That’s happened only one time: in August 2011 when Jay Williams resigned to work for the administration of then-President Barack Obama and Charles Sammarone, president, became mayor.
No Republican filed for the seat for the Nov. 2 general election, but two independents did.
The board has to certify the candidacies of Donald P. Scott, a retired city police officer who lost the 7th Ward council seat in 2019 by seven votes, and Erwin Adams, who worked at a parking lot near city hall.