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Election storylines emerge

While the May 4 primary in Mahoning and Trumbull counties doesn’t have many contested races, there are a number of interesting items to consider.

• The marquee race in the area is the Democratic race for Youngstown mayor.

That primary pits incumbent Mayor Jamael Tito Brown, who is seeking his second four-year term, against Councilman Julius Oliver, D-1st Ward, and businessman Ryan Kelly.

Turnout should be very low, which makes it difficult to predict who will win the primary.

In the 2017 Democratic primary, 8,298 people voted in the mayoral election. But that also included contested races for council president and a municipal court judge. Not that people come out in droves to vote for council president or a local judicial candidate, but there were three items on the ballot four years ago.

In this one, it’s just mayor. Council President DeMaine Kitchen is unopposed for re-election and there’s nothing else on the city’s ballot.

I’m somewhat surprised that more candidates didn’t file in the primary against Brown, who has faced criticism in his first term.

Oliver has been one of his most vocal critics.

Councilwoman Lauren McNally, D-5th Ward, has also pointed out problems in the Brown administration. She told me that she had considered a run.

“We need better leadership,” McNally said. “We haven’t done well in the last three years. But my kids are too young and mayor needs a full-time commitment. Maybe at another time, but not now.”

Republican Tracey Winbush has filed and there will likely be independents who turn in petitions to get on the general election ballot.

• While Republicans are fielding three candidates for council seats in Warren, the party couldn’t get anyone to file in Niles, Girard or Hubbard.

Those have long been Democratic strongholds, but Republican Donald Trump beat President Joe Biden, a Democrat, in Girard and Hubbard in the last election and nearly won Niles.

Voters in those three communities showed a few months ago that they are willing to vote Republican, but the party was unable to capitalize on that with the municipal elections there.

Meanwhile, Biden crushed Trump in Warren, and that’s where Republicans were able to find candidates.

Trump also beat Biden in Struthers a few months ago. The city has been Democratic for decades.

After Trump’s win in Struthers, Mahoning County Republican Chairman Thomas McCabe told me the party would look to find candidates for this year’s city council races.

Yet only David Shaffer was the only Republican to submit petitions. He’s running for the 3rd Ward seat. Shaffer, who is the county party’s secretary, ran in 2016 for county clerk of courts against longtime incumbent Democrat Anthony Vivo. Shaffer got 34.55 percent of the vote.

• Finally, a word about school districts that put tax issues on the primary election ballot in places that don’t have anything else in front of voters: It’s poor form.

The school districts in Sebring, Liberty and Champion are seeking approval of tax issues May 4 with Liberty asking for additional money and Sebring and Champion requesting renewals.

There’s nothing else on the ballot in those school districts and turnout is likely to be extremely low.

Rather than attempt to sneak something by voters, these districts should re-evaluate and put their tax issues on the November ballot when there are candidates in their communities seeking office.

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