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Three independents file for Youngstown mayor’s fall race

YOUNGSTOWN — The winner of today’s Democratic primary for Youngstown mayor and Republican nominee Tracey Winbush have three independent candidates and a write-in wanting to challenge them during the Nov. 2 general election.

John White of 107 N. Belle Vista Ave., a retired businessman; Richard V. Hill of 1020 Genessee Drive, the supervisor in the Youngstown clerk of courts’ criminal traffic division, and Tayana C. Smith of 978 E. Boston Ave. filed as independents for mayor by Monday’s deadline. None has ever run for elected office before.

Also, Calvin Hill Sr. of 46 Lilburne Drive filed as a write-in candidate. The write-in deadline for the election isn’t until Aug. 23. Hill ran as a write-in four years ago and got two votes.

Richard V. Hill has worked the past 21 years at the clerk of courts office and is also an insurance broker.

While Hill has voted in Democratic primaries consistently for several years, he said he decided to run as an independent because “you don’t have the time to speak on the issues in the primary. You can have a longer time to speak in the general election.”

Hill said he’s concerned that the city’s rates of poverty, crime and unemployment are high and the current administration, run by Mayor Jamael Tito Brown, hasn’t been “fiscally responsible with tax dollars.”

The reason the city has a large surplus is from federal COVID-19 relief funding and not “because we have a strong budgeting process.”

Hill was among eight clerk of court employees to receive large raises in September from Clerk of Courts Sarah Brown-Clark. It was a decision that drew complaints from several city council members.

Asked how he can criticize the current administration for not being fiscally responsible while getting a 25.7 percent raise, Hill said: “That was me taking on extra responsibilities. When you take on extra responsibilities, you should get paid for that.”

Brown-Clark said she is supporting Hill’s candidacy, but didn’t ask him to run for the position. Hill said it was his idea to get in the race.

“He would be a wonderful alternative” to Brown, Brown-Clark said. “He has excellent qualifications. My problems with the administration are based on its poor performance.”

White said he’s running for mayor because the city is declining and “nobody has a plan to bring people here and keep them here.”

White said he wants to reduce the city’s current 2.75 percent income tax by at least 1 percent and contends that will bring in more residents and more businesses to make up the loss.

“You’d have volume,” he said.

He also wants to reinstate residency requirements for city employees.

White has owned a bakery, rental properties and a tow truck company.

He said he is spending “all my money focused on running for mayor.”

The Mahoning County Board of Elections has to certify all independent candidates. Those running citywide in Youngstown need at least 173 valid signatures.

The city charter also states the “mayor shall be an elector and resident of the city for the five years immediately preceding the mayor’s election.”

White registered to vote a few months ago and acknowledged he hasn’t voted since the early 1990s.

“I never got involved in politics,” he said, explaining why he hasn’t voted in about 30 years. “I was raising a family and I never got involved.”

He said he’s researched the charter and said: “If they want to fight that one, I’ll head to court. The law is in my favor. The burden of proof is on them.”

Law Director Jeff Limbian said the board of elections contacted him about White not voting and he hasn’t researched it yet because it isn’t time sensitive.

But Limbian added: “As I understand it, there’s a problem with the candidacy. The John White candidacy is in question, and I was going to investigate it in the next week or so.”

Smith couldn’t be reached Monday to comment on why she’s running for mayor. Smith has largely not voted in primaries in recent years though she did in the Democratic primaries of 2008, 2014 and 2018, according to board of election records.

Today’s Democratic primary has Brown of 625 Carlotta Drive, serving his first term as mayor, being challenged by Councilman Julius Oliver, D-1st Ward, of 47 Central Federal St. (Realty Tower Apartments), and Ryan Kelly of 1828 Chapel Hill Drive. Also, Winbush, also of 47 Central Federal St., is the lone Republican for the position.

Meanwhile, Donald P. Scott of 1112 Ivanhoe Ave., a retired city police officer who lost by seven votes in 2019 in the 7th Ward council race as an independent, and Erwin Adams of 48 St. Louis Ave., who works as an attendant at a parking lot near city hall, filed as independents for council president.

Scott and Adams have both often voted in Democratic primaries.

If they’re certified as candidates, they’d face the winner of today’s Democratic write-in race for the seat. The three candidates are incumbent DeMaine Kitchen of 77 Struthers Liberty Road, Thomas Hetrick of 435 Catalina Ave. and Lee David Pupio of 3432 N. Wendover Ave. No Republican filed for council president.

dskolnick@vindy.com

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