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GOP is buoyed, even in the Valley



Published: Fri, September 17, 2010 @ 12:00 a.m.

By David Skolnick (Contact)


On the side

Pushing buttons: “Mahoning County Democratic Party: If you’re not indicted, you’re not invited.”

Members of the Mahoning County Young Republicans wear these buttons from time to time, most notably during this past Canfield Fair.

The buttons are in reaction to the Oakhill Renaissance Place corruption investigation that led to the indictments of, among others, Mahoning County Commissioner John McNally IV, county Auditor Michael Sciortino, and ex-county Treasurer John Reardon, all Democrats.

The buttons catch they eye and get laughs from plenty of people. But Mahoning Democratic Chairman David Betras doesn’t who appreciate the humor.

“I’m a little dismayed that they’d take advantage and cast dispersions on Democrats as a group,” Betras said. “I don’t like that. That’s just distasteful. It’s not even funny. I believe in competition, but it tries to ruin the whole [Democratic] brand.”

By most accounts and political polls, this is going to be a big year for Republicans.

Not only is there a national sentiment against Democrats, but the Oakhill Renaissance Place political corruption trial, in theory, should make a number of Mahoning Valley Democrats vulnerable in the November election.

So do Republicans have a legitimate shot of winning seats in an area controlled by Democrats for decades?

Mahoning County Republican Chairman Mark Munroe said he’s very optimistic about his party’s chances this year.

“The environment is ripe for change,” he said.

But “money is always a problem,” Munroe added. “It is not easy. It’s particularly difficult with the statewide races. There is so much competition for money.”

As for overcoming the Democratic dominance, Munroe said, “I don’t have to tell you what a challenge it is to run campaigns in the Valley. There’s so much inertia for Democrats here. But that’s changing.”

Mahoning County Democratic Chairman David Betras said he is urging his candidates to “not take anything for granted,” particularly in this political climate.

He, however, is extremely confident that his party’s candidates will sweep the November general election races.

Despite effort from some Republican candidates for the state Legislature, it’s going to be extremely challenging for any of them to beat the Democratic incumbents.

County Auditor Michael Sciortino is one of the Democrats officeholders indicted in the Oakhill case.

You would think that’s a slam-dunk for the Republicans.

But Sciortino clearly has the edge over Republican Tracey Winbush and Joe Markovitch, an independent candidate.

“I’m always concerned about it,” Betras said of the auditor’s race. “The Democratic Party as a political entity demands honest public service for all elected officials.”

Betras points out that Sciortino has only been charged, insists he’s innocent and shouldn’t be judges before all of the evidence in the case is heard.

Turning to congressional races, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th, is actively campaigning, as is Republican Jim Graham of Cortland.

The only person making rare appearances in that race is the one who needs to be the most visible — ex-U.S. Rep./ex-con James A. Traficant Jr. of Poland.

Barring a miracle, Ryan will be re-elected.

U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson of St. Clairsville, D-6th, faces a bigger challenge.

He’s in a district that voted for Republican John McCain in 2008 over President Barack Obama.

Wilson is facing a legitimate challenge from Republican Bill Johnson of Poland.

Betras said he’d be “shocked” if Wilson lost.

Munroe said the race is “very competitive. It’s a favorable [GOP] district and a Republican year. [Johnson’s] chances are very good.”


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