Mahoning County Democratic Party executive and central committee members on Saturday shied from endorsing Probate Court Judge Mark Belinky, who finished last in the field of candidates asking for the party's support for the bench in the May primary election.
A criminal investigation involving Belinky ''hurt to some degree,'' he said after the meeting, and played a role in him receiving just 20 percent of the support, but ''I'm not sure that was the sole reason that I lost.''
The timing of the investigation - coming to light just a few days after he filed nominating petitions to seek reelection - was ''not good for me, personally or politically.''
Led by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the investigation became publicly known on Feb.7, when law enforcement searched Belinky's home in Boardman and probate court chambers inside the Mahoning County Courthouse. Among the items taken were campaign finance reports, personal financial documents and computers.
Securing the endorsement in the three-way race was attorney Susan Maruca, who lost to Belinky in the 2008 primary election. She received 55 percent of the vote from executive and central committee members, and Christopher Sammarone, son of Youngstown City Council President Charles Sammarone, received 25 percent.
''I think I have been a very good judge and think the court is running fantastic,'' Belinky said. ''I think I have one of the best-run probate courts in the State of Ohio. I was very disappointed.''
A message seeking comment was left with Maruca.
Belinky, appointed to the seat in 2007, won his first six-year term in 2008. He is seeking a second.
In other contested races:
l Carol Rimedio-Righetti, Mahoning County commissioner, received 72 percent of the vote to win the endorsement over Pete Ceci of Youngstown in the commissioners race.
l Michele Lepore-Hagan, wife of 58th Ohio House District state Rep. Bob Hagan, won the endorsement with 51 percent in a four-way race to replace Bob Hagan, who cannot run again because of term limits.
Cynthia McWilson of Youngstown received 28 percent; Janet Tarpley, a member of Youngstown City Council, 12 percent; and Michael O'Hara of Youngstown, 8 percent.
l Cheryl Waite, 7th District Court of Appeals judge, won the endorsement with 89 percent of the vote. She is being challenged by Maureen A. Walsh of Boardman.