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McNally plans run for state House; others to take a pass

YOUNGSTOWN–

Youngstown Councilwoman Lauren McNally plans to run next year for the open Ohio House 58th District seat and isn’t likely to have much competition.

McNally, D-5th Ward, is the only candidate so far to say she wants to run for the position.

“I can hit the ground running,” she said. “I will put in the hard work and build the relationships to get things done. There’s been a disconnect between Columbus and the Mahoning Valley. Columbus needs to be reminded that the Mahoning Valley is a strong, vital piece of the state,”

Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairwoman Joyce Kale-Pesta said McNally “is a good candidate with a good name. She could raise money and hold the seat. She would be my choice.”

Youngstown Councilman Mike Ray, D-4th Ward, hasn’t ruled out a bid, but is currently noncommittal while he gives serious consideration to running next year for county Democratic Party chairman.

“Nothing is off the table, and all is under consideration,” he said Tuesday.

But a number of other potential Democratic candidates for the state House seat said they’re not running for it next year.

Robert Hagan, a longtime state legislator, said he won’t seek the position.

Hagan’s wife, state Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan, D-Youngstown, cannot run for another term in 2022 because of the state’s term limits law. She’s currently serving her fourth two-year term.

After talking to his wife about the frustration of trying to work with the Republican majority in the state Legislature, Hagan said he won’t run to succeed her next year.

“I’m not inclined to go down there and fight with these right wingers,” he said. “They’re so far to the right and she’s telling me they are in her face, so it’s a no for me. I’ve been tilting at windmills, and this is one windmill I won’t go after.”

Hagan served the prior eight years in the House before his wife was elected, leaving because of term limits. Prior to that, he spent eight year in the state Senate and before that, a decade in the House (term limits didn’t start in Ohio until January 1993).

The district was slightly redrawn during the legislative redistricting process. The new district would be 64 percent Democratic and includes Youngstown, Austintown, Struthers, Lowellville, Campbell and Coitsville. That makes it extremely difficult for a Republican to win the seat and that portion of Mahoning County has been represented by Democrats in the state House for decades.

Two other potential Democratic candidates — Lowellville Mayor James Iudiciani Sr. and Austintown Trustee Jim Davis — said they’re not running for the House seat.

“I would love to represent our district somewhere down the road, but I’m not interested at this stage in my life,” Iudiciani said. He’s been Lowellville mayor for 18 years.

Davis is running for re-election to the board of trustees in the Nov. 2 election.

“I’m happy being an Austintown trustee,” Davis said. “It wouldn’t be fair to the voters for me to run for Austintown trustee and then turn around and run for state rep in the spring.”

The state legislative maps, approved by the Ohio Redistricting Commission, currently face three lawsuits in the Ohio Supreme Court from those contending the districts were gerrymandered to continue to disproportionately favor Republicans.

STATE SENATE SEAT

Lepore-Hagan was considering a run for the Ohio Senate 33rd District seat, but said it was drawn to favor Republicans, and she won’t seek it next year.

The district will continue to include all of Mahoning and Columbiana counties, but added Carroll, a small but very Republican county, to the district. The district will be 54 percent Republican.

The district is currently represented by state Sen. Michael Rulli, R-Salem.

Rulli is considering a run for Congress next year if Republicans draw a district that is favorable to him. Otherwise, he’ll run for a second four-year term to the Senate.

“The lines were drawn for Rulli,” Lepore-Hagan said. “It’s too much of an uphill climb.”

Lepore-Hagan said the climate in the Republican-controlled Legislature is “really horrible. I love politics and helping people, but we’re wasting time on radical right wing issues. It’s ridiculous and it’s really frustrating. This is the direction Ohio is going and it’s going to crash.”

Kale-Pesta said of Rulli: “If he runs for re-election, I don’t know if anyone can beat him. If Rulli runs for Congress, it makes it easier” for a Democrat to win the Senate seat.

State Rep. Timothy Ginter, R-Salem, who is term limited from running next year for re-election, is looking at the state Senate seat if Rulli doesn’t seek another term.

The rest of Mahoning County not in the 58th House District is in the new 59th along with three Columbiana County townships. It will be 58 percent Republican.

Kale-Pesta said she has three or four potential candidates interested in challenging state Rep. Al Cutrona, R-Canfield, next year.

But with the district voting more Republican, even without the inclusion of the three townships in Columbiana County, in recent years and Cutrona’s ability to raise campaign money, it will be a challenge for a Democrat to defeat him.

DEMOCRATIC CHAIRMAN

Meanwhile, Hagan said he is thinking about running next year for county Democratic Party chairman.

“I’m a possibility on chairman,” said Hagan, who retired last month after six years as director of political and legislative affairs for the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen/Teamsters.

“I’m very frustrated with the Democrats and the message in the Valley and the nation,” he said. “People are not happy with the Democrats. Republicans are doing a better job with messaging.”

Ray said he’s seriously interested in running for chairman while Christopher Anderson, the head of the Ohio Young Democrats and a former county party political director, said last month he is definitely seeking the seat.

Kale-Pesta, who is retiring next month as director of the county board of elections, said she won’t run for another term as party chairwoman when her current term expires in June 2022.

dskolnick@vindy.com

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