Belinky’s chances are slim

Slim to none.

Those are what I think the chances are for Mark Belinky, Probate Court judge in Mahoning, of winning the endorsement of the Mahoning County Democratic Party.

The prospect of Belinky securing the support of executive and central committee members went down the drain on Feb. 7, the day law enforcement, led by Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, searched his court chambers and Windsor Road home looking for what can only be described as evidence of corrupt activity.

Belinky already found himself in a three-way race with attorneys Susan Maruca, who’s tried once before to be elected probate court judge and Christopher Sammarone, son of Charles Sammarone, president of Youngstown City Council, who also has done a stint as mayor.

Combined, that could spell doom for Belinky getting the committees’ support and maybe even for his chance of winning the nomination on May 6.

Some of what was taken from his office were campaign finance reports from 2008, when he won his first six-year term on the bench. Belinky was appointed to it in 2007.

Also taken were nominating petitions for the primary election this year and campaign checks from 2004, when he ran and lost in the Democratic primary race for county commissioner, notes presumably related to the Oakhill Renaissance Investigation, some financial disclosure statements and bank statements and financial records.

Taken from his home was more campaign-related material, including a compact disc labeled ”Judge Belinky Spots.”

Belinky has not been charged with a crime, but just being connected to potential wrongdoing may be enough to sink the ship.

His personal financial troubles could also play a role when Democrats meet Feb. 22 to endorse candidates.

Attorney David Engler is trying to explain his own financial troubles as he runs for a seat on the 7th District Court of Appeals.

Records in the Mahoning County Recorder’s Office show Engler owes the IRS more than $160,000. He claims the back tax amount is closer to $60,000 and that the number is inflated because of interest and penalties.

Engler admitted publicly that the tax problem is a challenge he’ll have to overcome with voters, but said it’s nothing that affects his character. He’ll be trying to convince voters of that through the cycle, a task that’s easier said than done.

The court, based in Youngstown, hears lower court cases from Belmont, Carroll, Columbiana, Harrison, Jefferson, Mahoning, Monroe and Noble counties.