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Write-in deadline goes from ho-hum to hmm

Primary election write-in deadlines during even years are typically ho-hum.

Many of those who file as write-ins challenge incumbents whose names will be on the ballot – and they almost always lose by a lot.

Then there are those who use a little strategy. They run because no one filed by the deadline to get their names on the ballot.

In both Mahoning and Trumbull counties, Republicans failed to field candidates in several races.

It’s particularly noticeable in Trumbull where Republicans failed to get anyone to run for county engineer, sheriff, clerk of courts, recorder, prosecutor, treasurer, common pleas court judge, probate court judge and one of two commissioner positions.

Mahoning Republicans couldn’t get candidates for sheriff, engineer, treasurer, clerk of courts and four judicial seats – though Robert N. Rusu, an independent, was appointed by a Republican governor six years ago to the vacant probate judge seat so the party wasn’t looking for anyone for that spot.

Trumbull Democrats have a full slate while Mahoning Democrats didn’t field candidates for four judicial seats with Chairwoman Joyce Kale-Pesta saying she thought the incumbents were doing a good job and the party didn’t seek challengers.

Mahoning Republicans tried to find candidates for sheriff, engineer, treasurer and clerk of courts, but were unsuccessful in convincing people to run.

Party Chairman Thomas McCabe told me he expected to have write-in candidates for the latter two.

That, too, was a problem.

The party couldn’t get anyone for treasurer and the candidate who was going to run for clerk of courts decided to do it late and then couldn’t get to the board of elections by the 4 p.m. Monday deadline. She may run as an independent, McCabe said.

The only write-in candidate in either Mahoning or Trumbull counties to file was David Engler as a Republican for probate court judge.

Fresh off a defeat in November for Austintown Township trustee, Engler will try to get at least 50 votes – which should be easy – in the March 17 Republican primary to qualify as the party’s probate court judge nominee.

This puts the party in an uncomfortable position as Rusu is going to file as an independent again and was expected to run unopposed with Republican support.

Instead, the party is going to have to spend resources to back Engler as its nominee.

Engler was a longtime Democrat ä elected years ago as a Democratic county commissioner and Youngstown councilman ä before his one and only time voting in a Republican primary four years ago.

The party has backed other longtime Democrats who became Republicans late in the game – or not at all.

In this election, one of the Republican commissioner candidates is Steve Kristan, who voted in Democratic primaries in 1998, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2012 and 2018. He voted Republican in 2002 and 2016.

The GOP prosecutor candidate, Marty Desmond, voted in Democratic primaries in 1995, 1996, 1997, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2012. Heás never voted in a Republican primary, according to data from the board of elections.

Mahoning Republicans backed Renee M. DiSalvo in the Youngstown Municipal Court judge’s race in November even though she voted Republican only once, in May 2018, shortly before applying for the seat appointment by a Republican governor. She was chosen and won a full six-year term in November.

Rusu hasn’t voted in a partisan primary since at least before 1995, which is as far back as local voting records go, so it’s not exactly like he’s a Republican loyalist.

But it’s still an annoyance for Mahoning Republicans that Engler filed as a write-in and will be the party’s nominee for the post.

In Trumbull County, I was expecting someone to file for Newton Falls 1st Ward council. No one turned in nominating petitions by the Dec. 18 deadline to get their name on the ballot so all someone had to do was fill out the write-in form and garner at least 25 votes in the March 17 primary to get the spot.

Incredibly, no one did so village council will appoint someone in January 2021 to serve through that year for the unexpired term.

This comes after village officials went to the mat to get the election for council’s 1st and 3rd Wards moved to this year after the Trumbull County Board of Elections initially ruled it would be held in 2021.

Skolnick covers politics for the Tribune Chronicle and The Vindicator.

dskolnick@tribtoday.com

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