Apathy in local politics

While there’s an awful lot to be positive about in our region, there are a few things that raise a few concerns.

One of the biggest appears to be a growing sense of apathy in local politics.

If you need some examples, all you have to do is look at Weirton’s most recent election results. The city held its primary election on April 2, and when the votes were cast and canvassed, only 1,580 residents had taken the time to let their preference be known for the mayor’s office.

Harold “Bubba” Miller, the incumbent, gathered 1,239 of those votes, while his challenger, George Village, earned just 341 votes.

Yes, the election was a primary, and, yes, there were only two candidates and, yes, both candidates were assured of advancing to the June 11 general election. But it seems like in a city the size of Weirton that there probably should have been a few more residents who were interested in taking the responsibility to head to the polls.

That small turnout likely could have been driven by a lack of candidates overall. In addition to the mayor’s post, council representatives in each of the city’s seven wards were up for election. There were contested races in four of those wards, with the bright spot being Ward 5, where there were five candidates, and Ward 1, where there were three candidates. There were just two candidates in Wards 2 and 7, which mean both advance to the general election, and just one candidate in Wards 3, 4 and 6, which means, in reality, that those councilman were unopposed in their bids.

But if the turnout in Weirton has left some veteran election watchers wondering just what is going on, the ballots in Jefferson County have raised even more questions.

According to the board of elections, only seven of the county’s 71 precincts will be open when Ohio’s primary election day rolls around on May 7. That breaks down to four precincts in Toronto, where there will only be a Democratic primary, and three precincts in Wells Township, where residents are being asked to vote on two additional tax levies that have been placed on the ballot to help make up for revenue that will be lost because of the proposed devaluation of Buckeye Power’s Cardinal Plant.

There’s only one reason so few precincts will be open — there is a lack of candidates willing to stand up and run for office.

In Steubenville, for instance, Democrat Asantewa Anyabwile is the only candidate for the 1st Ward seat that has been held by Gerald DiLoreto. No Republican filed. In the 3rd Ward, Republican Eric Timmons is the only candidate. No Democrat filed. In the 5th Ward, no candidate — either Republican or Democrat filed. Councilwoman at large Kimberly Hahn, a Republican, is unopposed in the primary and will meet Michael Walenciez, a Democrat who also is unopposed, in the general election.

Toronto voters who are registered as Democrats will have some choices to make, as four candidates are running for three council at large seats — incumbents Glenn Dickinson and Ronald Holmes and Steven Rebich, who was appointed to council, will be challenged by J. David Core.

And in Mingo Junction, where four council seats are up for grabs, only Democratic incumbents Jack Brettell and Michael Herrick filed for re-election. No candidate filed for village clerk.

The lack of interest in serving in government at the local level is certainly troubling. It also goes against the trends we are seeing nationally, where a large contingent already is lining up to challenge President Donald Trump in 2020. That election, we have been told many times, will be the most important election of our time, which the 2016 election was before that, and the 2012 election was before that, the 2008 election before that, and so on.

If you are not registered in Ohio — and you live in one of Jefferson County’s seven precincts that will be open — you won’t be able to vote May 7. If you are planning to vote in the Nov. 5 general election, you will have until Oct. 7 to register. And if you only care about voting in a presidential election, you’ll have to wait until later to find out exactly when Ohio’s 2020 primary will be and when the voter registration deadline will fall.

We hear over and over that somebody needs to step up and solve whatever the problem of the day is.

After looking at the lack of candidates in Weirton and Jefferson County, we’re left to wonder where those somebodies — those men and women who have the expertise, willingness and political savvy needed to bring about solutions and who can really make a difference — are.

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