EXCLUSIVE | Mahoning County auditor to run unopposed
By David Skolnick
The Mahoning County Democratic Party can’t find anyone to run for county auditor so incumbent Republican Ralph T. Meacham will be unopposed in the Nov. 6 general election.
“I don’t have a candidate,” said county Democratic Chairman David Betras. “I tried to recruit a number of people, and no one wanted to run. They said, ‘I can’t beat him. He’s done a good job.’”
Roger Chamberlain of Youngstown ran as a write-in candidate in the May primary with the intention of securing a spot for a Democrat on the general election ballot as a placeholder, and then having the party select someone else. He officially withdrew June 13 as the Democratic nominee.
The person who was expected to be chosen was Brandon J. Kovach of Austintown. Kovach was disqualified as a Democratic candidate by the county board of elections in February because he didn’t have enough valid signatures on his nominating petitions. He tried to run as a write-in in the primary, but the board in March disqualified him again.
But when given the opportunity to be appointed by the party to be its nominee in the general election, Kovach declined.
“He didn’t want to run,” Betras said of Kovach. “Brandon backed out. Now I have a Republican incumbent running unopposed. But I can’t lament about it. I’m not going to run some schlub. I’ve had no less than 10 people turn me down. I asked CPAs, Ph.Ds, lawyers, business people, people I felt would be qualified for the position, and they all turned me down.”
Kovach said: “To be honest with you, I wasn’t fully interested in it [from the beginning], but I didn’t want the party to not have a candidate in the race. Since then, my business grew, and I felt it was best to concentrate on that.”
Kovach, a tech entrepreneur, said he’s also getting a master’s degree in finance and plans to focus on growing his list of clients instead of seeking public office.
“I don’t think I have thick enough skin for” elected office, he said.
Meacham of Lake Milton said: “It’s never easy to run for elected office so this lets me focus on working for the county. I look forward to continuing to do what I’m doing and work with the other elected officials to get work done. I run the office as a business and not as a political enterprise. I’m here for the taxpayers and not the party or anybody else.”
In the November 2014 election, Meacham became the first Republican elected to a nonjudicial countywide office in 30 years when he defeated Democratic incumbent Michael Sciortino, who was under indictment at the time in the Oakhill Renaissance Place corruption investigation.
In 2016, Sciortino was convicted in two separate plea bargains – one in Mahoning County and the other in Cuyahoga County – to having an unlawful interest in a public contract and unauthorized use of computer or telecommunications property, both felonies, and three misdemeanors: falsification, receiving or soliciting improper compensation, and unauthorized use of computer or telecommunications property.