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Dem chief Antonini should step down

Published: Sun, November 16, 2008 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

By Bertram de Souza

To quote Chris Matthews, the insightful and aggressive talk show host of “Hardball” on MSNBC, “Ha!” (As an expression of disbelief.)

Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairwoman Lisa Antonini says she has decided not to resign, as she had thought of doing before the Nov. 4 general election, because of the huge victories scored by Democratic candidates.


The chairwoman is being delusional if she believes she had anything to do with Barack Obama’s successful presidential election in Mahoning County. Truth be told, the senator from Illinois carried Mahoning and Trumbull counties despite the party organizations being AWOL. Indeed, Obama’s failure to garner votes in the high 60s in each of the counties, while carrying Ohio, must be borne by Antonini and her colleague in Trumbull, Chairman Christ Michelakis. Indeed, Obama was unable to crack 60 percent in Trumbull County — an almost unheard of occurrence for a Democratic presidential candidate.

But Antonini’s delusions don’t end with the “main event.” Consider her involvement in the hotly contested Mahoning County prosecutor’s contest. The Democratic nominee was incumbent Paul Gains, who was seeking a fourth four-year term. Gains had no Republican challenger, but faced Independent Marty Yavorcik, a criminal defense attorney who has represented the likes of disbarred malpractice lawyer Richard Goldberg and disgraced former sheriff’s chief deputy, Maj. Michael Budd.

Fund-raising letter

Much to the chagrin, and even anger, of long-time Democrats such as David Betras, the party leader not only shied away from Gains, the Democratic nominee, but had her name listed on a fund-raising letter for Yavorcik.

To be sure, Antonini is not the first party chair in the political history of Mahoning County to personally oppose a nominee for office, but even the mercurial, take-no-prisoners late chairman, Don L. Hanni Jr., was never so brazen as to publicly oppose a candidate on the ticket.

Why did she take such a politically stupid step? One explanation may have to do with the controversial relocation of the Job and Family Services offices from the McGuffey Mall on Youngstown’s East Side to Oakhill Renaissance Place (the former South Side Medical Hospital complex) in the vicinity of downtown.

McGuffey is owned by the Cafaro Co. and officials put on a full court legal and political press to block the relocation. During the very public battle between Anthony Cafaro, chief executive officer, and county commissioners Anthony Traficanti and David Ludt, Administrator George Tablack and Prosecutor Gains, Antonini, who also is county treasurer, was in almost daily contact with Cafaro. She has insisted, however, that the exchanges via e-mail and telephone calls had nothing to do with the JFS situation. The discussions centered on party politics, she has said.

But given that the county prosecutor and his staff successfully beat back the Cafaro Co.’s various attempts to derail the JFS relocation, Antonini’s support of Yavorcik does raise eyebrows.

Indeed, the Ohio Ethics Commission is investigating the JFS case and could well recommend indictments if any county officials were found to have violated their official responsibilities.

The JFS controversy highlights the difficulty Antonini has in serving two masters, politicians and those who buy influence through their campaign contributions, and the taxpayers.

No political credibility

Her support of Yavorcik against one of the party’s leading officeholders, Gains, has destroyed any political credibility she might have had.

A week ago Saturday, this writer suggested in his blog, Stirfry, in Vindy.com that Antonini was getting ready to resign and that David Engler, an ally of hers from the Mahoning Democrats for Change days, and Betras were eyeing the position. By mid-week other names had surfaced, but then Antonini told Vindicator Politics Writer David Skolnick that she was not going to step down. The reason: The success of Democrats in the Nov. 4 general election.

She might want to rethink that decision. Indeed, even some of her friends are questioning whether she still has the credibility to be an effective party leader.

Antonini gambled and lost. She should resign.


1borylie(874 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

The Vindicator does very, very little investigating, but a whole lot of opinionizing.

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2projectgeniene(87 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

The Vindicator is just opinionizing? I have been back in Youngstown for almost 2 years. I have seen Ms. Antonini at various events. She is most disappointing in her leadership, her involvement in the party or the community and in her representation of herself. When you are the leader of a group and an elected member of office you should dress the part and be somewhat outgoing. I see no activity on her part to groom future leaders in the party or to prospect individuals with a fresh perspective. How did she even get this position? I have to ask myself how she became treasurer? Does this community no longer look at people

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3projectgeniene(87 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

. . . to have some type of experience in a field when they run for office? What does she know about investments or real estate? And, most of all, what about the rumors of some problems amongst her staff that have been covered up? This area needs a new leader in the Democratic party to shake things up and stop endorsing some of the career politicians that we have in Columbus, too. Do we really wonder why nothing changes here?

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4apollo(1227 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

The more people keep asking for new ideas and new people to run for office, the more things stay the same. People who dare to promote new ideas are attacked by the status quo. Most of the new idea people have left or are contemplating leaving. The area is still a cesspool dominated by the same tired old ideas that brought it down and are still causing it to continue to free fall.

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5Tugboat(759 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

Geniene wrote: "And, most of all, what about the rumors of some problems amongst her staff that have been covered up?"

Maybe the Vindicator could clarify that for us.

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6projectgeniene(87 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

Distinguished, energetic service from Antonini who sat at the Canfield Fair and didn't even say "Hi!" to anyone walking in and didn't have enough Obama information? Elected to office? Didn't her predecessor virtually appoint her? The party might be divided and dysfunctional because there is no effort for unification. Also, who votes her into chairmanship of the party? Washington D.C. will be turning blue on Jan. 20th, let's not squander the opportunity. We need leadership that works with the party in Columbus and D.C.

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7commoncents(53 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

Geniene P,

You go girl!!! On behalf of those who also would like to see progressive change in the valley, I agree with you. However, as bad as Lisa is, she won't lose power by us bringing in fresh, new, and intelligent candidates to run for local and state positions. The sad reality is that the party behind her and many other elected officials is even worse. If you look around at who is involved in the party and listen to their positions, it would frighten the hell out of everyone! We first need to get more people actively involved in the party, then bring forth good new candidates. Good, intelligent, progressive people should have little problem shifting the direction of the local party since most current players are old, mindless fools who use habit to replace thought.

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8MyTwoCents521(3 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

Geniene P. & Commoncents,
Dead on with your observations. This is not a party with a purpose. I have met on many occasions Ms. Antonini and her entourage, basically they all live in the past of Y-town cronyism. No accountability at all. There is nothing progressive with there ideals on how to be a productive community and they could never work with the new administration. God forgive me, at least Betras could make this party with a purpose again. My 2 cents!

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9scrooge(563 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

Um, I have a question......
We all complain about change, yet year after year the same worn out politicians get re-elected, why is that??

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10hubbardguy(32 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

Hey ytownboy22....Capri Cafaro has, in your words "distinguished herself through thoughtful energetic service" Huh??? I guess you'd better explain that to the rest of us who have only seen her show up where there is free food. What has she done that ANYONE else in the same position could or would not have done? How has she "distinguished" herself? The Vindy article to which you refer contained verifable FACTS that even you cannot deny unless you are totally delusional. Name even one fact that the Vindicator got wrong. Your words would have more creedence if they were backed up with facts. That is, other than the fact that you obviously work for Cafaro.

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