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Two's company, but nine's a crowd
December 8, 2011 - Joe Gorman
You think there's any interest to replace outgoing Mahoning County Commissioner John McNally?
Here's a hint: nine people filed to run for his seat in the March Demorcatic primary. The deadline for filing petitions in the race was Wednesday.
McNally announced last month he would not run for reelection to a third term. The scuttlebutt is he is mulling a run for mayor.
I've never seen anything like it.
Why all the buzz for that seat?
I'm not sure. On one level you could look at it and ask who in their right mind would want to be in politics now, with the economy the way it is?
The cynic in me says a lot of people are interested because of the nice salary and benefits. But no one would run for public office just for personal gain. Right?
One reason for the interest is an open seat. Unseating incumbents in the Mahoning Valley is harder than a Browns win over the Steelers. If you want to move up the ladder and see an open seat, the best bet is to go for it immediately; otherwise, you may have to wait years to get another shot.
On a serious note, I think Austintown Township Trustee and former Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Ditzler is the early favorite to win the nomination. He's been around a long time and knows issues township voters are familiar with and his past as chair of the party gives him contacts throughout the county. He ran for the seat in 2004 but lost to current Commissioner Anthony Traficanti, who filed petitions of his own Wednesday for a third term.
A model in Mahoning County politics is one way to win a county-wide election is to win the city of Youngstown handily, which can insulate you from results in other parts of the county. But of the four candidates from the city running, none of them have any buzz. Jerry McNally, John McNally's cousin, is a former Fifth Ward councilman, but I doubt he can rally voters outside his West/South Side enclave to massively support him. Pat Chrystal is an unknown and Joe Louis Teague and Frank Bellamy have run in city wide elections before and usually fail to garner more than single digits in voting percentage. Still, any election with Joe Louis Teague is always entertaining.
This should be one of the most interesting primary seasons in years. Besides the commissioners seat, three people are running to replace outgoing Sheriff Randall Wellington and the Prosecutor's race between City Prosecutor Jay Macejko and incumbent Prosecutor Paul Gains promises to be a dogfight.
A word of warning, however; Gains is running for his fifth term. Some observers I've run into think he is ripe for the taking and point to what they call his many foibles, but never count Gains out. He's been targeted before and he always ends up on the winning end. Macejko is a formidable opponent, but Gains can think on his feet like almost no one else. I expect that race to go down to the wire.
For once, there might actually be a primary that is fun to watch.
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