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Write-in effort paves way for Hetrick win

Secures Dem nomination for city council president over incumbent Kitchen, Pupio

YOUNGSTOWN — Nothing is going to change the outcome of the write-in Democratic primary for Youngstown council president: Tom Hetrick is the winner, election officials say.

Hetrick had 1,347 votes to 1,092 for incumbent council President DeMaine Kitchen and 92 for Lee David Pupio. All three ran as write-in candidates.

The 255-vote lead is too great for Kitchen to overcome, said Director Joyce Kale-Pesta and Deputy Director Thomas McCabe of the Mahoning County Board of Elections.

“DeMaine can’t catch him,” McCabe said.

There were 205 votes “not assigned” during Tuesday’s primary and 79 provisional ballots in the city are to be counted.

But McCabe said election officials went through the 205 “not assigned” votes and “there aren’t any that are going to add to the count.”

A number of write-in votes in the council president’s race went to Mayor Jamael Tito Brown and his two challengers, Councilman Julius Oliver and Ryan Kelly, with some voters confused by the empty line for council president below the mayoral candidates on the ballot, McCabe said.

Under state law, boards of elections can only officially count the names of those who filed forms and were certified to be write-in candidates.

Other names written in included Mickey Mouse and David Betras, the election board’s vice chairman and former county Democratic Party chairman, Kale-Pesta and McCabe said.

“A lot of the votes have illegible names or they wrote someone else in,” Kale-Pesta said. “I don’t think there’s any way for DeMaine to” get a recount, which would require him to be no more than 0.5 of a percent from Hetrick.

Hetrick leads Kitchen by 9.32 percent.

The board won’t start counting the 79 provisional votes in the city until at least May 17, but that won’t change the outcome, Kale-Pesta and McCabe said.

“I’m very excited and I’m also very thankful for the support,” Hetrick said. “I feel very honored, but also very humbled. I look forward to the general election.”

Running a write-in campaign “was definitely a challenge,” Hetrick said. “But I tried to anticipate that from the beginning. I made (campaign) materials that looked like the ballot. This race was interesting and unique and a challenge, but we figured it out.”

Kitchen would have run unopposed for a second four-year term in the Democratic primary if he had been able to get 50 valid signatures on his petitions. He was the only candidate who filed nominating petitions to get his name on the ballot for the Democratic primary.

He turned in petitions with 67 signatures, but the board could only find 46 that were valid. Kitchen withdrew before certification of candidates and filed to run as a write-in. Hetrick and Pupio said they wouldn’t have filed as write-in candidates if Kitchen had his name certified to the ballot.

“Of course you look at what should have been done and could have been done, but you can’t change any of it,” Kitchen said. “It’s disappointing, but it’s not crushing. Tom took advantage of the situation. Four signatures cost me four years. I’ve done a good job up to this point. I’ll finish strong this year and pass the baton.”

Kitchen, who has won two elections and lost two, didn’t rule out running for office in the future.

“But there’s nothing I’m interested in right now,” he said. “It doesn’t change my love of the city. It changes my base of operations. We’ll see what the future holds.”

Donald P. Scott and Erwin Adams filed to run as independent candidates. The board has to certify their candidacies before they can appear on the November general election ballot.

Asked if he’d support Hetrick, a fellow Democrat, in the general election, Kitchen said: “I don’t know. I know Erwin and Donald Scott. We’ll see.”

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