''Slim to none'' was my prediction last week of the chances that Mark Belinky, Mahoning County Probate Court Judge, had to win the Mahoning County Democratic Party's endorsement for the seat.
Not the boldest prediction, but one that came to fulfillment Saturday.
Members of the party's executive and central committees did as expected and moved their support away from Belinky, who is seeking a second six-year term on the bench, almost certainly because of the law enforcement searches of his Boardman home and of his court chambers on Feb. 7. Belinky's personal financial issues may have played a role, too.
His relationship with party members was tenuous, at best, before the searches, which produced what law enforcement indicated in the warrants as evidence of corruption.
The party is backing attorney Susan Maruca, who lost to Belinky in the 2008 primary election. Also on the ballot is Christopher Sammarone, son of Charles Sammarone, president of Youngstown City Council, who also served as mayor for a time.
Belinky has not been charged with a crime, but his connection to the searches was probably enough to sink his chances with the executive and central committee members. It may even be enough to impact his shot at reelection on May 6.
Poland attorney David Engler saying Saturday he would take himself out of the race for a seat on the 7th District Court of Appeals saves himself the discomfort of having to repeatedly explain his income tax troubles, which were sure to receive constant scrutiny from the public and from the media.
He didn't look comfortable recently trying to explain during a television news interview how he got in such a difficult situation. Now he can avoid similar situations, which would only hurt his already slim chances of winning a spot on the four-person court.
Engler owes the IRS more than $160,000. He claims the tax amount is closer to $60,000 and that number is inflated because of interest and penalties.
He admitted publicly that the tax problem was a challenge he would have to overcome with voters, but probably realized it was just too great of a mountain to climb.
The task for Engler would have been insurmountable, so know he's throwing his support for Anthony Donofrio, a deputy law director for Youngstown, who will face Republican candidate Carol Ann Robb in the November general election.
The court, based in Youngstown, hears lower court cases from Belmont, Carroll, Columbiana, Harrison, Jefferson, Mahoning, Monroe and Noble counties.
Some dates to know this week are Monday, when at 4 p.m. is the deadline for write-in candidates to declare their intent to run in the May 6 election and Wednesday, when at 6 p.m., the Trumbull County Democratic Party will endorse candidates.