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6:47 PM Tue, Nov. 20th

Write-in candidate has overcome the odds before

Jason Marino

Jason Marino

KINGMAN - It's been several years since Kingman has had a write-in candidate for City Council. In fact, until recently, the current write-in candidate, Jason Marino, wasn't sure himself how his supporters should go about voting for him in Tuesday's primary election.

But according to County Elections Director Allen Tempert, the process is actually very simple. Each of Kingman's six polling places will have a notice of Marino's write-in candidacy posted in a prominent location, and those interested in voting for him need only fill in the "write-in" bubble at the bottom of the list of candidates on the ballot, then write Marino's name in the available space.

And while paper ballots remain the preferred voting implement in Kingman, those who opt to use touch-screen machines instead do not need to request a separate ballot.

"On the touch screen, you'll go to that office, and it looks just like a paper ballot," Tempert said. "One will say 'write-in.' You touch that and a new screen appears, and it's actually a keyboard with letters and spaces. You type the name in, click 'Record Write-in' and then it goes back to the original screen with all the candidates, the write-in's name appears, then you go on to the next race."

Primary voters will be selecting their top three candidates from a field of six to fill the seats currently held by Vice Mayor Janet Watson, Councilman Ray Lyons and departing Councilman Kerry Deering. Each candidate's hope on Tuesday will be to earn enough votes to win one of the seats outright and avoid a runoff set for May 18.

But to do that, a candidate would have to receive votes from 50 percent of the total ballots cast, plus one. It's not an impossible feat by any means - just ask Mayor John Salem, who pulled 60 percent of the vote in 2008 - but it can be a daunting task in such a crowded field.

"It does happen from time to time," Tempert said. "If three candidates receive that, then there won't be a runoff. But if they don't, then for every one seat available, the next two people will be on the runoff ballot."

In other words, if one candidate wins a seat outright, then the next four highest vote-getters will go on to compete for the remaining two seats in May. If two seats are won outright, then only the next two highest vote-getters will continue to May.

But as a write-in candidate, Marino's situation has yet another requirement. To continue to the next round of voting, he must receive at least 216 votes, regardless of how many votes his opponents get. That's because, as a write-in, Marino did not receive the number of valid signatures necessary to qualify for a spot on the ballot.

So in the situation of an extremely low or lopsided turnout, Marino could potentially beat several other candidates in the vote total, yet still fail to proceed to the next phase of the election because he failed to garner at least 216 votes. Such a turnout is hardly a likely scenario, but then, it wouldn't be the first time Marino has had to overcome difficult odds.

The child of a single mother and an abusive stepfather, Marino has come a long way from his low-income roots. The defining moment in his life may well be his lowest, when he was arrested at age 18 in 1995 for agreeing to transport two vehicles from an acquaintance's Phoenix-area dealership to be sold illegally to a pair of anonymous buyers.

The "buyers" he met turned out to be detectives working a sting on an unrelated car theft ring that had been plaguing Phoenix at the time. Marino got off with probation, but the series of events caused him to re-evaluate his life's direction and the grief he had caused his beleaguered mother.

"The hardest thing I ever had to do was call my mom and tell her, 'I'm in jail,'" he said. "Knowing the disappointment and hurt I'd subjected my mother to, I never wanted to put her through that again. I was immediately like, 'I've got to get serious about being an adult.'"

The following year, Marino attended graphic design school, going on to work for a Phoenix-area software firm in 1999.

It was there that he actually assisted in the capture of a former employee who had been abusing company passwords in order to steal credit card information.

"He went on this crime spree around the country, dialing into our systems and stealing credit card numbers," Marino said.

"I discovered the theft after looking at our databases and noticing a pattern of these illegal transactions. They actually found him at 4 in the morning, sleeping on the steps of a bank in Killeen, Texas."

Marino was promoted to supervisor in 2001 before the dot-com collapse led to his layoff two years later. Returning to freelance graphic design work, he assisted a friend in branding and design for a new Scottsdale-area salon.

It was while managing the salon that Marino met his wife, Joanne, and in 2006 the two relocated to Kingman, where Marino found a graphic design job for Shop USA Publications before taking on an experimental yearlong stint as the marketing director for Mohave County's park system.

Today, in addition to fronting the popular regional band The Asphalt, Marino owns his own custom instrument case company, Saint's Row Case Co., which has weathered the recession surprisingly well almost exclusively through word-of-mouth purchases from bands all over the nation and even overseas.

"We actually have a band in Spain who are interested in a case from us right now," he said. "I'm just so excited the company's doing so well, and we don't even have an advertising budget."

But perhaps Marino's biggest accomplishment is giving his two children the loving father he never had.

And while he makes no excuses for his past mistakes, he also can't help but wonder if he would've become the man he is today had it not been for that cold, lonely night in a Maricopa County jail cell.

"It was a difficult place to start adulthood, but it taught me some powerful lessons," he said.

"Being a good father and a good husband is No. 1 - and being a good son, making my mother proud of me."