Some election thoughts

Some thoughts on an interesting week:

¯ We learned again that no matter how hard we try, it’s difficult to be able to judge how elections will turn out. Consider the race for mayor in Steubenville.

While longtime business owner and community supporter Jerry Barilla was considered by many to be the favorite going into Tuesday’s vote, the talk among many on the street was that Frankie DiCarlantonio, the young city resident with strong political aspirations, was poised to make the race an interesting one.

City residents said otherwise, electing Barilla, a Republican, to the post by a pretty significant margin — Barilla received 2,591 votes to his Democrat challenger’s 1,092 votes.

He earned 63 percent of the votes cast that night, which was impressive when you remember that many expected a close race.

What made the evening a little more interesting is that the Ohio Democratic Party considered Steubenville’s mayoral race to be a important one and invested a significant amount of time and money in DiCarlantonio’s campaign. That included help from Zack Space’s Team Space.

Space is no stranger to our region. The longtime Democrat was elected as our region’s U.S. representative in 2006. He succeeded Bob Ney in that seat. Space had been set to challenge Ney in that year’s general election, but Ney was forced out of the race amid growing concerns about his involvement in the Jack Abramoff scandal. Space went on to defeat Joy Padgett, who was the winner of a special GOP primary, in the General Election with 62 percent of the vote, the largest margin of victory of any Democrat in a battle for a Republican-held seat that year.

A native of Dover, Space is running for the Democrats’ nomination for state auditor.

The DiCarlantonio campaign even got help from Sen. Sherrod Brown, who offered a recorded get-out-the-vote-message that was delivered to telephones across the city.

Brown mentioned Steubenville in a tweet he sent out Tuesday morning that read, “From Virginia to Steubenville, Ohio — There are critical elections happening around the country.”

The senator, who plans to seek re-election in 2018, is a longtime friend of current Mayor Domenick Mucci, who set the stage for Tuesday’s election when he announced in January that he would not seek re-election to post he has held since Jan. 1, 1993.

¯ There were four candidates looking to replace Mucci, which is a little unusual. Royal Mayo, a community activist and official with the local and state NAACP, ran as an independent, while Michael Walenciej ran a write-in campaign.

Mayo, a longtime Democrat, said his decision to run as an independent was made last winter after it had became obvious to him that the party was going to back DiCarlantonio, a move which he felt effectively blocked any chance he had of securing the nomination by participating in the primary process. He made those comments during a September meeting with the newspaper’s editorial board.

He received 425 votes, or 10 percent, of the total.

¯ What was most disappointing about Tuesday’s election is that only 32.1 percent of the city’s 12,928 eligible residents cast a vote in the race for mayor. That was even lower than the county’s overall turnout of 37 percent, a number that was lower than the 45 percent the Jefferson County Board of Elections had estimated would vote.

¯ If you are among those who didn’t vote because you have convinced yourself that a single vote will not matter, there were a couple of examples that prove your line of thought is wrong.

Look at Mingo Junction, where there were three candidates seeking two available seats on Village Council. Adam Peeler captured one of those seats with 606 votes. But the race for the second seat came down to one vote — James Morrocco finished the evening with 444 votes, while George R. Irvin Jr. had 443 votes. Those numbers could change between now and when the totals are certified by the board of elections on Nov. 22, but a one-vote margin in a race where just 41 percent of those eligible voted leaves many questions for everyone involved in the process.

Though not as close, the race for the Steubenville’s 2nd Ward seat on City Council came down to just eight votes. That was the margin of victory for Democrat Craig A. Petrella in his race against incumbent Republican Michael R. Johnson. Only 31 percent of that ward’s 2,125 eligible voters went to the polls.

¯ Now that this year’s voting is behind us, it’s time to look ahead to 2018. Ohio’s primary is scheduled to be held May 8, and the deadline to register to vote is April 9. The General Election will be held Nov. 6, and the registration deadline is Oct. 9.

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)

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