Two Youngstown mayoral candidates were cleared to run in the November election after a citizen activist challenged their eligibility to run as independents.
Cecil Monroe, who was disqualified by the Mahoning County Board of Elections to run in the race as an independent because he voted in the May Democratic Primary, is challenging the eligibility of former Youngstown Police Chief Jimmy Hughes and DeMaine Kitchen, a former city councilman and chief of staff for current mayor Charles Sammarone.
“Every single time Mr. Hughes voted, he voted as a Democrat,” Monroe said at the hearing.
Monroe argued at a Thursday hearing at the Board of Elections that Hughes and Kitchen are not true independent candidates. Kitchen ran, and won, election as a Democrat, and Hughes was defeated in the Mahoning County Sheriff Democratic primary election, which Jerry Greene won.
Kitchen once held a spot on the Democratic Party Executive Committee.
Neither Kitchen nor Hughes voted in the May primary, which would have automatically disqualified them from running as an independent.
Former Mahoning County Commissioner and former Youngstown Law Director John McNally won the democratic primary in May.
Both Kitchen and Hughes contended Thursday they are no longer part of the Democratic Party.
“Was I a member of the Democratic Party? Yes,” Hughes said. “That’s the whole point of us being here. It’s the whole point of switching from being a Democrat to being an independent.”
Kitchen also said Thursday he’s a true independent candidate.
“My candidacy is truly the most independent candidacy that you will see in the Mahoning Valley,” he said.
Board members said they don’t like it, but have little choice in allowing them to continue their runs as independents. Monroe said he is considering appealing the decision.
“I’m sensitive to Mr. Monroe,” said Board of Elections member and county Democratic Party leader David Betras. “I agree with you. But the status of the law is the status of the law.”