YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Leaders with a pair of women’s voting groups in Ohio are now weighing in on statements made this week by local judicial candidate Chris Sammarone.
The two women are both Valley residents and they represent different organizations, but they are both now taking issue with some of the things Sammarone told a local newspaper reporter after another candidate withdrew from the race for Mahoning County Probate Court.
Earlier this week, Sammarone stirred up controversy when it was learned he was using part of a 20-year-old quote in his campaign material.
But after learning incumbent Judge Mark Belinky was getting out of the race, Sammarone was quoted as saying he was “pleased” by the withdrawal, adding Belinky’s presence would have split what he called “male voters.”
“He made it sound like people only base their vote on such narrow-minded issues. I personally, and I know my membership that I speak for, they truly try to know the candidate, the issue, where a candidate stands before they vote,” said Tina Morrell, president of the Federated Democratic Women of Ohio.”The fact that he said it indicates that’s how his mindset is and that really is concerning to me.”
Morell, who is the former Struthers Auditor, joined Kathy DiChristofaro of Niles, who chairs the Ohio Democratic Women’s Caucus, in putting out a joint statement this week criticizing Sammarone’s comments.
“When he referred the other male was out of the race, that one-on-one he would have no problem beating the female candidate, and I just feel that women need to be judged by their qualifications, not by their gender,” DiChristofaro said.
She said getting women into politics is difficult enough without comments like Sammarone’s.
“When we continue to see comments like this, that sometimes would discourage qualified women from running because they would maybe be judged differently,” DiChristofaro said. “Women as a whole are under represented in government and so when someone, a candidate, infers that men will line up to vote for the other men, I took offense to that.”
Sammarone refused to be interviewed on camera, but said in a telephone interview that he hopes people do not vote based on gender alone, but added there are some who will, prompting his opponent to question his fitness for office.
“When you’re a judge, you have to be very careful in how you say things because people rely and respect your words,” said Attorney Susan Maruca, who is the Democratic Party’s endorsed candidate for Mahoning County Probate Judge.