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March 8, 2012 - Joe Gorman
Well, it was a little closer than I thought -- the heated race between Paul Gains and Jay Macejko for Mahoning County Prosecutor in Tuesday's Democratic primary, although I was right in my prediction.
I said earlier that Gains has had a bullseye just about every time he's run for reelection because people think he's vulnerable because of the high crime rate in Youngstown, which leads to a lot of cases and a large caseload in his court.
Enter Jay Macejko, Youngstown city prosecutor and former Gains assistant and the man who people have been saying for years would knock Gains off. I said that I thought Gains is always underestimated and to do so now would be a mistake; no matter his public fobiles, he is one of the quickest people on his feet I have ever seen and you do not want to get into an argument or debate with him. Nine times out of 10, you will lose.
But Macejko's campaign was doomed when a series of questionable text messages that were part of a religious discrimination suit against him and the city were leaked by an ally of Gains in the middle of February. Although Macejko denied discriminating against anyone -- he said the employee in question was dismissed because of performance and a bad attitude -- and that he had never sent a degrograty text about President Obama, I think that turned off a lot of voters who were attracted to him.
Indeed, Macejko had a large lead in the absentees and then when the first returns came in -- from my old bastion, the West Side of Youngstown -- his lead was cut down substaintally. Indeed, one well known observer of the political scene said that was a bad harbinger for Macejko because he could not pad his lead from voters there, one of the city's staunchest ethnic enclaves. When I ran into Gains later in the evening, he said he knew he had won because he and his staff had crunched the numbers earlier in the day and concluded that the absentee surge was not enough.
Still, I wonder. I thought Gains would win by a wider margin than the 500 or so votes he did because he was more well known in the county and of his past reputation for honesty. But the race was close, too close, against a candidate who, despite being endorsed by the Democratic Party, had the kiss of death on him when the texts were leaked out. That should have mortally wounded him. But somehow, it didn't.
I wonder if the texts caused a lot of people unhappy with Gains but uncomfortable with Macejko to stay home. Altough most of the local races were positive, the overall tenor of this year's campaign, with the constant flood of PAC ads in the Republican primary, was one of the most dismal and negative I have ever seen. Who would want to out and vote after being besiged with all these ads?
The same observer I was speaking with also said Gains did a masterful of taking the focus off his record -- by putting it squarely on his opponent. That is one of the core lessons in Politics 101 these days. Maybe Gains was more vulnerable than I thought. Still, one of the most memorable primary nights I can remember. But judging from all the negativity in the presidental, I plan to avoid as much media as possible between Labor Day and the Second Tuesday in November.
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