Mark Hanni says his political movement is bigger than he is.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Mark A. Hanni, whose bid to wrest the Mahoning Republican chairmanship from Clarence Smith has drawn the ire of established party officials, will not seek the position.
But it doesn't mean Hanni is not working to remove Smith as chairman.
Hanni, who is spearheading the Republicans for Real Reform movement, is throwing his support behind Richard A. Duffett of Austintown, a substitute schoolteacher who is running for a precinct committee position in his hometown.
Duffett, a political newcomer and a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, could not be reached to comment.
Spelled the end
Hanni said a change the GOP made last month to its bylaws, which would have prohibited him from running for chairman, spelled the end of his campaign.
The change makes only those who are precinct committee members and have voted in the two proceeding Republican primaries eligible to be party officeholders. Hanni is running for precinct committeeman, but has not voted in the two most recent GOP primaries.
If Hanni's supporters capture a majority of committee seats, they could change the bylaws to permit him to serve as chairman.
But Hanni said that would be too much of a hassle, and the only thing that is important is that someone from his reform group serves as Republican chairman.
"The movement is bigger than me," Hanni said. "I don't have time to fight them over the bylaws. I'm not going to play games."
Both sides have candidates running in most of the 312 Republican precinct committee races. Those elected will vote for party chairman.
Hanni's challenge to Smith has been the subject of much controversy.
The Mahoning County Board of Elections, which counts Smith as a member, called for the sheriff's department to investigate every Hanni-supported candidate. In response, Hanni asked the sheriff's department to investigate accusations that Smith supporters improperly used county time to recruit precinct committee candidates. Also, both groups have sent letters to committee candidates from the other side, urging them to get out of the race.