The race for Mahoning County prosecutor, which pegged 15-year incumbent candidate Paul Gains against Youngstown City Prosecutor Jay Macejko, was nothing short of vicious.
I first met Macejko when he brought his eldest son, Joe, into my family’s karate studio. I was Joe’s instructor for nearly two years before Mr. Macejko asked if I would be willing to help him with his campaign in any way I could.
I was able to contribute a level of manpower through my fraternity connections and also helped with things like campaign phoning and Facebook.
In the end, Gains reigned victorious over Macejko, winning by 561 votes.
Whether it be speculation on Macejko’s relationship with the Cafaro family, or the alleged Obama text-bashing sent to his assistant Brett Hartup while working as city prosecutor, that discrepancy of 561 votes could definitely have been a product of the mud slung by Gains’ campaign team.
In case you were unaware, the alleged texts from Macejko described Barack Obama’s stimulus package as “three pieces of chicken, a pack of Kool-Aid and a dime bag.”
Macejko denied ever seeing these texts prior to the accusation; with no federal judge releasing the phone records, the issue was still unresolved on Super Tuesday.
Voters who wanted proof that the texts were a fraudulent attempt to tarnish the Macejko campaign never got that vindication, and I believe Gains reaped the benefits.
For Gains, the victory is an eye-opener; for someone who has ridden the coattails of a survived attempt on his life by the mob years ago, this was far and away the closest, and most cutthroat, election he has ever seen.
For the sake of our county, I hope he continues to work as hard as he always has without resting upon the glory of his recent spoils. It certainly goes without saying that 15 years holding the same position is quite admirable.
For Macejko, the defeat is nothing but a lost battle in a war he is poised to win.
As a man of reputation, he will overcome the accusations that plagued his campaign, and as an attorney, the competence and wisdom he challenged Gains with in debate will serve his career strongly.
Unless, of course, the accusations against him end up being true, which I believe from a personal standpoint they are not.
But with the final tally leaving Macejko slightly more than 500 votes short, one most ponder on the impact of the unproven attacks Gains procured throughout the election.
As a volunteer for the Macejko campaign, I believe from speaking with people that the impact of the text accusations was vast.
If the race had stayed pure — free from the harmful nuances of dirty politics — I believe the scales would have tipped in favor of Macejko.
Cryshanna Jackson, an assistant professor in the political science and pre-law center at Youngstown State University, agreed. She said that because Mahoning County is so strongly Democratic, people wouldn’t take too kindly to hearing anything bad about the Obama administration.
“Any time the margin is that small, you have to think [the texts] may have been a determining factor for unsure voters to swing one way,” she said. “It was convenient, though, that those texts came out so close to the election.”
Convenient may be an understatement; prior to Election Day, the Vindicator reported Macejko was in the lead by a 58.8 percent to 41.2 percent margin, according to absentee ballots.
That is suspicious, Mr. Gains.
American politics has seen the effects of mudslinging for hundreds of years. But it speaks volumes to its power that even unproven claims could alter the fate of such a close election.
Junior Cory Okular recognizes the impact the text scandal had on the results of the Mahoning County prosecutor race, but said he voted for Macejko based upon his record as prosecutor in Youngstown and his involvement in the community.
“Many voters easily believe what they hear on the radio and what they see in print,” Okular said. “I personally voted for Macejko, but after hearing about the various scandals, the certainty of my vote was shaken.”
Okular said Gains’ supporters even handed him a sheet bashing Macejko on his way into the polls.
“The negative tone of Gains’ campaign turned me off and made me reconsider my view and made me reconsider my view of Prosecutor Gains as well,” he said.
If we could count on every voter to vote as Okular did, with a clear vision of each candidate’s reputation that transcends the provocative, campaigns would be cleaner because the impact of scandalous material would be minimal.
Richard DeGenova has been a Mahoning County resident for 62 years. He is the type of voter I am referring to.
“I was on the line,” he said, “but for Gains, there really was no scandal about him.”
DeGenova praised Gains’ honesty, saying anyone subject to an assassination attempt by the mafia must be stalwartly honest. He also called to question two alleged discrimination cases against Macejko by former employees he had as the city prosecutor.
Though I do not support his selection for the office of county prosecutor, I respect anyone with enough knowledge about a candidate to vote based on their precision and reputation, rather than their character as viewed through the eyes of their competition.
It is the only way the democratic process works to its fullest potential.
Now Gains will resume his tenure as Mahoning County prosecutor with the memory fresh in his mind that he was very nearly thwarted by a candidate who used to work for him.
As for Macejko, he will most likely take a brief vacation to recover from what I’m sure was a trying and exhausting experience for him and his family.
But as he said at the B&O Station Banquet Hall, where area Democrats gathered to mourn his defeat, it won’t be the last time you see “Jay Macejko” on a ballot.