Primary deadline approaching, consider running for an office

Now that Tuesday’s general election is finished, congratulations are in order.

Not just to the winners. Congratulations, and thank you, should be extended to everybody who ran.

I congratulate everybody who ran because they conquered the apathy that seems to prevail throughout the community. The apathy that leads to so many good people deciding against running for political office leaves us with a vacuum where ideas should flourish and stagnation in areas where our community needs to advance.

A lack of competition in political races reached an astounding level in March 2012. In that primary, Trumbull County had 20 county, state and federal seats with terms expiring. On the Democrat side, only two of those seats had competition. On the Republican side, only one of those seats had competition while 10 others lacked even a single candidate.

Mahoning County wasn’t much better. Out of 15 expiring seats, only five had competition on the Democrats side and only one on the Republican side. The Republicans failed to enter candidates in 10 of the 15 potential races.

I use the 2012 primary as an example because many of our political offices are on two- and four-year cycles. The March 2016 primary will see most of the same seats expiring.

It’s important to address this issue now because, even though the primary is in 2016, the filing deadline is in 2015. At 4 p.m., Dec. 16, to be exact. This tends to catch some potential candidates off guard because Ohio usually has a May primary with a filing deadline the same calendar year. It’s only on presidential election years, like 2016, that Ohio moves that deadline up by two months.

Trumbull and Mahoning counties are blessed with professionals, distinguished in their respective fields, who would make excellent leaders. Win or lose, their participation as candidates for office would elevate the public discourse and stimulate productive ideas. That is why the Regional Chamber has recently embarked on an effort to increase the number of qualified individuals running for political positions.

So far, the effort has been a soft public information campaign. It has produced some positive results as the percent of contested races in both counties increased in last week’s election.

The effort will be more earnest next year when the Regional Chamber continues its Local Government Leadership Academy and takes the public information campaign to the Valley’s many public service organizations.

Eventually, the effort will enter work places to show employers how economic growth, job creation and quality of life can all improve if they identified and encouraged their exemplary employees who can make important contributions in leadership positions.

But for now, let’s focus on Dec. 16, the filing deadline for many important races in the March primary. The county boards of election are sources of help as they can provide informative handbooks, the necessary forms with instructions, and petitions. Feel free to reach out to one of the political parties. Feel free to call my office.

The 2016 primary includes races for U.S. Congress, state representative, state senate and nearly all countywide offices including commissioner (two seats), sheriff, prosecutor, treasurer, recorder, clerk of courts, coroner and engineer.

Increasing the number of qualified people running for local offices should improve our community’s chances of having some of those elected officials ascend to powerful positions.

Only once has Mahoning County ever elected somebody who became president of the Ohio Senate. That was Democrat Harry Meshel, who held the position 1983 to 1985. The closest Trumbull came was Republican Robert Walker Tayler, who became Senate President Pro Tempore in 1856.

Likewise, Mahoning’s only Speaker of the Ohio House was Democrat John F. Cantwell in the 1949-50 General Assembly. Trumbull never had a speaker. Ashtabula County has had four.

Ohio has had 131 general assemblies. There are 88 counties of which Trumbull and Mahoning are among the largest. It’s time to end the drought of legislative leadership and political power.

Coviello is vice president of government affairs for the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber.