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TRUMBULL COUNTY Dem leadership to face big changes



Published: Sat, May 11, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The party's precinct committee members will meet June 6 to elect officers including chairman and vice chairman.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER

WARREN -- The decision by Trumbull County Democratic Chairman Nicholas J. Melfi to not seek re-election means significant changes to the party's leadership.

Party Vice Chairman Christ Michelakis, county treasurer since 1995, and Cortland Mayor Melissa M. Long, a 26-year precinct committee member who unsuccessfully challenged Melfi in 1998, are vying for the party's top spot.

With Michel-akis' vacating the vice chairman's post he has held on and off for 10 years including the past five, prominent Democrats in the county are lining up to take his place.

Seeking the post

County Clerk of Courts Margaret O'Brien, Warren Law Director Greg Hicks and Niles Mayor Ralph A. Infante Jr. plan to seek the vice chairman position.

The party's precinct committee members will meet June 4 at Divieste Banquet Hall in Warren to elect party officers. There are 274 precinct committee seats in the county, with about two dozen of them vacant.

Melfi, who is supporting Michelakis' candidacy, said the county treasurer has enough support from the precinct committee members to be elected chairman.

"With a little campaigning and a little hard work, Christ should be able to win the chairmanship," Melfi said.

Long said a count she did of committee members leads her to believe she will capture the chair by a landslide.

Embarrassing day

The party experienced one of its most embarrassing days Tuesday during the Democratic primary. Traditionally, candidates who obtain the party's endorsement get the most votes in Trumbull County, Melfi said.

But not this time.

The party's endorsed candidates for the 17th Congressional District and the 65th Ohio House District lost. Also, Commissioner James Tsagaris, endorsed by the party, narrowly won his primary against a political newcomer who did little campaigning, raised only $300 and does not own a telephone.

"There was a mood out there that people just wanted change," Melfi said. "People wanted a new look and a fresh face. It was not a good night for us."

Every once in a while, the party experiences a bad day, Michelakis said. "We don't get them too often, but we got it this time. The party's still strong. Sometimes it just happens this way."

Not so, Long said.

"The primary results have got to send a really strong message to the party," she said. "Endorsements didn't mean diddly. Entrenched candidates thought they'd win with no trouble at all. The party leaders should realize they've got a big problem. People are starting to think for themselves. Isn't it a wonderful concept?"

If elected, Long said she would ask committee members to consider eliminating endorsements.

"I have a feeling that endorsements are a thing of the past," she said.

Also, Long wants the party's committee members to meet more often.

"We never have meetings," she said. "We don't know each other. They don't want us to congregate and discuss things."

Decision made earlier

Melfi said he made up his mind months ago that he would not seek re-election to the position he has held for the past five years. Tuesday's results had nothing to do with his decision, he said.

"I've enjoyed this job and I tried to keep the party healthy and happy in Trumbull County, and I think we've accomplished that," he said.

"No one is pushing me out. I made the decision that enough is enough. A politician is like an athlete. You've got to know when to fold 'em. At 71, it's time for me. That's all there is to it."

Melfi will continue to remain active in Trumbull County politics. He will not vacate his seat on the county board of elections, and he won his precinct committee seat Tuesday.

skolnick@vindy.com




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