Judicial Candidates Sit on Debate Panel, Compete for Community Votes

By Amanda Joerndt

Local elections are right around the corner, and three judicial candidates running for a six-year term as a Youngstown Municipal Court judge took center stage at Youngstown State University by participating in a public debate on Oct. 15 in Kilcawley Center. 

The three candidates — Judge Renee M. DiSalvo, Republican candidate, attorney Martin Hume, Democratic candidate, and attorney Mark A. Hanni, independent candidate — answered multiple questions about how they will handle problematic situations as a prospective judge. 

While the candidates engaged with audience members and educated them on their past, present and future ambitions, a YSU professor moderated the debate, guiding each candidate through the panel discussion. 

Cryshanna Jackson Leftwich, associate professor in the Department of Politics and International Relations, said the panel helped the candidates “touch on a lot of issues that the city of Youngstown is facing.”

“I think a lot of times students see elections as presidential elections, and they don’t realize how many positions are elected such as judges, prosecutors, sheriffs,” Jackson Leftwich said. “A lot of people are unaware of how many issues or how many elected officials impact their day-to-day life, especially on a local level.”

Jackson Leftwich said although some students may only participate in the presidential election, voting for local elections is still necessary. 

“I hope they were able to see the differences in the three candidates and how important it really is to go out and vote because each person stood for a different thing,” she said. 

One question that was posed to the candidates to educate the public on their expertise for the position was, “What do you bring to the position that no one else can offer?” 

According to DiSalvo, her secret weapon is decades of being a resident in the heart of Youngstown. 

“I represented individuals in the city of Youngstown for over 20 years,” DiSalvo said.” My history as a victim of domestic violence and as a single mom on welfare constitutes the background of the majority of the individuals that come before me.” 

Hume said if he wins the Nov. 5 election, he can continue to provide a “consistent commitment to the betterment of the city of Youngstown.” 

“Throughout the course of my career, I’ve always maintained a law office in downtown Youngstown,” Hume said. “I have always been committed to our community, working in charitable organizations. … I’m going to do everything I can to make Youngstown safer and better.” 

Hanni explained to the audience how he handles daily drug cases that come through the court. 

“When I receive a client that has a drug problem, I ask the judge to put them out on bond with the conditional bond that they either go to a sober living house or they’re in a 30 day rehab,” Hanni said. 

Michele Ristich Gatts, treasurer of the Youngstown Press Club and adjunct journalism faculty at YSU, said the organization hosted the event for the public and students to gain a better understanding of what takes place during a local election.

“I thought each of the candidates brought some really important perspectives to the questions that were posed with great information for voters to make informed decisions about who can best represent the city on the bench,” she said. 

Judge Renee DiSalvo stands in front of the audience debating against her opponents on Oct. 15 in Youngstown State University’s Kilcawley Center. Photo by Amanda Joerndt/The Jambar