Betras will support archrival Hanni

On the side

Christmas party: The Mahoning County Republican Party’s Christmas party is at 6:15 p.m. Thursday at the Blue Wolf Banquet Center, 7095 Lockwood Blvd. in Boardman. Tickets are $35 a person. Call GOP headquarters at 330-629-7006 to make reservations.

Open house: Also, the Mahoning County GOP’s next open house is 5:30 p.m. Dec. 15 at its headquarters, 621 Boardman Canfield Road in Boardman. The party will show the first part of the documentary, “Setting the Record Straight: American History in Black & White,” at 6 p.m. The second part begins at 7 p.m. The open houses are free. No reservation is required.

Filing deadline: Wednesday is the filing deadline for candidates running in the March 6 primary — probably.

Ohio legislators are discussing a compromise on new U.S. House district boundaries that could move the upcoming filing deadline to next month for an April 24 primary that would be merged with a second primary, set for June 12. A deal is needed by Wednesday for the changes to be made.

Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras finds himself in an uncomfortable situation.

Only one Democrat wants to challenge 7th District Court of Appeals Judge Mary DeGenaro, a Republican, in next year’s election.

And that Democrat — who used to be a Republican and before that a Democrat — is Mark Hanni.

“I’ve had a difficult relationship with Mark Hanni,” Betras said.

It’s been “difficult” to say the least.

“He tried to unseat me [as chairman] and he’s been critical of me,” Betras said.

But because Hanni is expected to be the only Democrat to file for the seat, Betras said Hanni will get his support and if asked, the local party will endorse him in the race.

“I’m willing to put aside our differences and work for a Democrat,” Betras said.

The tentative date for the party to endorse candidates is Jan. 7, Betras said.

When reminded that Hanni was a Republican a few years ago, Betras said, “I know this year he’s a Democrat. I looked at his voting record and he voted Democrat. Now he may vote Republican next year. I don’t know. Regardless of our past differences, he’s the only Democratic candidate for the position.”

Hanni, who gave $250 in 2006 to DeGenaro’s campaign, said he is pleased to have Betras’ support and will seek the party’s endorsement.

It’s going to be a struggle for Hanni to beat DeGenaro, a 12-year incumbent who has a number of Democratic and organized labor supporters. While Hanni will have the party’s endorsement, there are plenty of Democrats on the executive and central committees who don’t like him.

The 7th District covers seven other counties, including Columbiana. Mahoning is the largest county and all four members of the court are from there.

Former Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat who unsuccessfully ran last year for a U.S. Senate seat, is turning the heads of some Democrats with her support of DeGenaro. Brunner was to headline the judge’s fundraiser tonight. (A hat-tip to the Buckeye State Blog for first reporting this.)

“If Jennifer Brunner wants to go to a Republican fundraiser then Jennifer Brunner has to answer to that,” Betras said. “I would encourage other Democrats to not attend Republican fundraisers.”

Because of a meeting with a client in California, Brunner will be a no-show, but sent along a video to be shown at the event, DeGenaro said.

Brunner and DeGenaro have been friends since November 2000, when they were first elected to judicial seats and attended an orientation program for new judges in Columbus. Brunner swore-in DeGenaro after the latter won her 2006 race.

“We clicked; it’s a personal connection,” DeGenaro said. “I appreciate her support as a friend. It’s about friendship and women supporting each other” and not partisan politics.

Supporting DeGenaro led to the Thursday resignation of Ronald Massullo from the party’s executive committee and as district leader in Poland. Massullo, a longtime friend of DeGenaro and her husband, is helping the judge’s re-election effort. He’s serving as a contact person for her fundraiser tonight.

Massullo was Brunner’s regional liaison for this area when she was secretary of state. Massullo said it’s a coincidence they’re both backing DeGenaro.

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