The former Austintown trustee isn't the only political defector.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
AUSTINTOWN -- Jeff Groat hasn't changed his mind about running for Mahoning County commissioner; he's only changing political parties.
The former Austintown Township trustee met Wednesday with Mahoning Republican Party Chairman Clarence Smith to discuss his candidacy for commissioner. Groat said the two had a "nice discussion" and he will run as a Republican.
"There's a lot of advantages," Groat said. "I want to be part of something special and the Republican Party leadership has impressed me with their vision of what they see as the future of the Valley."
Groat was to make an official announcement today.
He announced his intention to run for commissioner before his four-year term as a trustee, a nonpartisan position, expired in December.
Groat said his decision to leave the Democratic Party is difficult, particularly because he considers party Chairman David Ditzler his best friend.
Here's why: "The party has become fractional," Groat said. "David Ditzler has done a great job, but there have been problems with the cohesiveness of the rest of the party."
As for switching his political affiliation, Groat said, "It makes a lot of sense for the party and for myself."
In Groat, the Republicans will have a commissioner candidate who has held office in one of the largest communities in the county.
Groat will not have to deal with a Democratic field of candidates, which includes Commissioner David Ludt and Joseph Naples, a former Youngstown councilman.
As a Republican, Groat would face the Democratic primary winner and any potential independent candidates.
The filing deadline is Feb. 21.
Groat is not the only Democrat to defect.
Court candidate: Atty. Maureen Sweeney of Poland has crossed party lines and will be a Republican candidate for Mahoning County Probate Court. The seat is held by Judge Timothy P. Maloney, a Democrat, who has already filed for re-election.
"I've been somewhat discouraged with what the Democrats have been associated with in the past," Sweeney said. "Republicans have a better track record as far as credibility in this county."
Sweeney, an attorney since 1993, said Judge Maloney is a "good judge, but I can be a better judge. The court needs to be more approachable."
Among her suggestions is the creation of a Web site that would allow people to easily obtain information about probate court.