A few weeks ago was an “off year” primary election, meaning only local municipal races appeared on the ballot. Historically, off year elections draw little interest and lower than normal voter turn out. But while turnout might be lower than usual, here is why local elections matter most for all of us.
Here in Mahoning County fewer than 20% of the electorate turned out to vote for Youngstown Mayor and Municipal Judge and for Struthers Municipal Judge. The results will cause a domino effect throughout the legal community in the coming months. While all primary winners face opposition in the fall, if they were all victorious many changes will occur in January 2018.
Starting with the Youngstown races. Juvenile Court Magistrate Carla Baldwin defeated Youngstown Municipal Court Magistrate Anthony Sertick. Should Magistrate Baldwin win in November she will become the first African American women to sit on the Youngstown Municipal Court bench. That victory would also open up her magistrate seat in Juvenile Court to be appointed by Mahoning County Juvenile Judge Theresa Dellick.
So how does the Mayor’s race effect the legal community and Youngstown in general? Incumbent Mayor John McNally was unseated and will not return to his post. In the city of Youngstown the Law Director and City Prosecutor are appointed and serve at the discretion of the Mayor. Come January 2018 we very well may see wholesale changes in both the Law Department and Prosecutors office simply because the new Mayor wants to make the change.
In Struthers, the Law Director is an elected position. Should the well qualified winner of the primary, Attorney Dominic Leone, win in the fall not only will Struthers have a new Judge for the first time in over twenty years , there will be a new Law Director who also serves as Prosecutor.
So do local off year elections matter? They certainly do. Not only do these candidates and eventual office holders shape law and policy for their local municipalities these positions also effect all of us lawyers and individuals appearing in those court rooms. The ripple effect could produce waves of change for years to come.