Limited choices detrimental to democracy

Choice is what makes America great.

That’s why we continually stress the importance of choice in local elections, despite the ongoing strength of a one-party political system in Trumbull and Mahoning counties.

We believe the one-party political system that has existed here for decades breeds backroom politics via a lack of checks and balances. It often allows for a lack of challenges on important issues that include, but are not limited to, government spending and transparency.

We are happy to see voters will have some choices in several of the partisan races in this year’s general election. Voters casting ballots in nine municipal races around Trumbull County this fall, for example, will have the option of voting for a Republican or Democratic candidate in several city-wide and ward races in Warren, the council-at-large race in Girard and a council race in McDonald.

Indeed, challenges also have been laid out in many non-partisan races around the area, including dozens in boards of education and trustee races.

Still, no partisan challenges exist in Niles, and there is one uncontested race that is particularly troublesome — the Niles 1st Ward race.

Political newcomer Patrick “PJ” Kearney II, a Democrat, will be uncontested in the Nov. 7 election, despite questions that have been raised about his strong, sometimes violent and what we consider inappropriate social media posts.

Some posts criticize police officers for watching for traffic law violators, others threaten violence against people Kearney said scammed his parents, and one post appears to condone violence against women. It showed a photograph of a woman with a black eye with the words, “Know your role.”

When asked, Kearney has defended the posts, saying they’ve been taken out of context. He also said he is a strong advocate against violence against women.

The final decision about whether Niles residents want to be represented by someone with such controversial social media posts should be made by voters.

Unfortunately, Niles 1st Ward residents won’t have a choice Nov. 7 because Kearney is unopposed.

In recent weeks, Trumbull County Republican Party Chairman Kevin Wyndham said he was aware of the posts and was seeking a candidate to run against Kearney. Wyndham also noted that Niles needed some Republicans on city council because a fiscally conservative approach might be just what the city needs to lift it out of fiscal emergency — a designation the city earned from Ohio Auditor Dave Yost in 2014 after several of its funds were in the red.

The local Republican party even held a recruitment committee meeting to seek and encourage potential candidates. However, the filing deadline for write-in candidates came and went, with no one stepping up.

That’s disappointing.

We urge a continued push to strengthen the local Republican party and potential candidates to consider the value of running for elected posts and representing local residents as a public servant.

A two-party political system is crucial to checks and balances in government, and without choice, the value of our elections is greatly diminished.