By Bertram de Souza
About a month ago, Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairwoman Lisa Antonini, reacting to an entry in this writer’s blog “Stirfry” on Vindy.com, said she had decided not to resign — as she had thought of doing before the Nov. 4 general election.
In light of her recent performance as Grand Pooh-bah of the party, Antonini’s decision to stay must be met with enthusiastic applause. Who else could provide such comic relief as the treasurer of Mahoning County has done over the past several weeks?
Consider this rib tickler: Antonini submitted the names of three individuals to be considered for appointment to the 33rd Ohio Senate District seat by members of the Democratic caucus — and no one was impressed. Ha, ha, ha, ha. That’s funny.
To be fair, Atty. David Engler, Daniel Yemma and Robert Lidle were selected by the county Democratic Party’s executive committee. But most of the members of the committee are Antonini loyalists. Therefore, she gets credit for the laugh she gave the Senate Democrats.
Why laughter? Because she had to have been joking if she thought the caucus would have no problems with three politically damaged candidates for the Senate seat being vacated by John Boccieri. Boccieri is on his way to Congress as the 16th District representative. His successor would serve for two years before having to run for election.
The 33rd District encompasses all of Mahoning and Carroll counties and small parts of Stark and Tuscarawas counties. However, because 80 percent of the population is in Mahoning, the county’s Democratic chair has a lot of power — or should have such power.
But in Antonini’s case, Senate Democrats would rather laugh than take her seriously.
That’s why Engler, a former Mahoning County commissioner and current member of the county board of education, Yemma, councilman-at-large in Struthers and chief deputy treasurer, and Lidle, a Poland Township trustee, have all but been eliminated from consideration.
There were recommendations from the other county parties, but geography (read that Mahoning County residency) lessens their chances of being selected.
Thus, because of Antonini’s joke, the Democratic leadership in the Senate, at the urging of soon-to-be minority leader Capri Cafaro of Liberty Township, D-32nd, decided to open up the selection process last week.
A new deadline for applications was set, and by Friday, the names of 29 individuals, including the Antonini Three, were presented to the caucus.
There will be a screening and finalists will be invited to appear before the leadership team. Then, a recommendation will be made to the Senate Democrats.
Here’s another ha-ha moment, compliments of Mahoning County Democratic Chairwoman Antonini: A major political ally, Anthony Cafaro, his brother, J.J., and sister, Flora, gave a total of $120,000 in campaign contributions to an independent candidate for county prosecutor, Marty Yavorcik.
Ready for the joke? Antonini, head of the party, supported Yavorcik in the election — against the Democratic nominee for prosecutor, incumbent Paul Gains.
Antonini’s connection to Anthony Cafaro, chief executive officer of the Cafaro Co., one of the leading shopping center development companies in the nation, has been well established. During the controversial relocation of the Job and Family Services agency from the Cafaro-owned Garland Plaza to the county-owned Oakhill Renaissance Place, the party chief was in almost daily contact with Cafaro, who was fighting to prevent the JFS move. Antonini insisted that the calls had nothing to do with the controversy and that they only discussed politics.
If that’s true, it’s not hard to imagine this exchange:
Cafaro: Lisa, my brother, sister and I are going to be giving $40,000 each to Marty. What do you think?”
Antonini: Oh, wow, $120,000. We’re going to win. Gains is toast.
Cafaro: Buttered on both sides. Ha, ha, ha.
Antonini: You’re the man, Tony.
Cafaro: You’re the boss, Lisa.
(Hee, hee, hee ... that’s Gains, reading Yavorcik’s campaign finance report.)
The prosecutor won’t speculate on the reason the Cafaros pumped so much money into his opponent’s campaign, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure things out.