By David Skolnick
Those who’ve applied for the vacant Mahoning County treasurer’s position include the office’s chief deputy treasurer, the former Mahoning Valley regional director for ex-Gov. Ted Strickland, and an Austintown trustee.
Two of the three come with some political baggage, which likely wouldn’t be issues in most elections.
But because the appointment is to be made by the county Democratic Party’s precinct committee members, those issues could become obstacles.
Those wanting to replace Lisa Antonini, who resigned Monday after being charged federally with honest-services mail fraud, have until May 31 to apply for the position. The Democratic precinct committee members will vote June 6 on Antonini’s replacement.
Three candidates already have applied. They are:
Dan Yemma, chief deputy treasurer and a Struthers councilman since 2000.
Kenneth A. Carano, Strickland’s former regional director, elected to four terms in the Ohio House and a former Austintown Township trustee. Carano also is the county Democratic Party’s executive vice chairman.
Lisa Oles, an Austintown trustee since 2004.
Yemma recently was removed from the party’s executive committee by Chairman David Betras for supporting Anthony Protopapa in the latter’s failed bid for the Struthers council 1st Ward seat in the May 3 primary. The party had endorsed incumbent Tony Fire in that race and Yemma in his at-large primary.
“We expect as an endorsed candidate to not work against the very party whose support you have received,” Betras wrote in an email to executive committee members. “Recently, an endorsed candidate took our endorsement and then [worked] openly for an unendorsed candidate. As an organization, this cannot be permitted.”
Yemma said, “I was in no way, shape or form trying to be disloyal to the party. I was merely trying to support who I consider to be a competent [former] officeholder. I’ve been loyal to the party for many years. I don’t think this one recent misunderstanding will cause me a problem.”
Yemma, who has 28 years of experience in the banking and mortgage businesses, said he’s the most qualified candidate. Also, Youngstown Councilman Jamael Tito Brown, director of operations for the treasurer’s office, is supporting Yemma.
Oles’ issue is she endorsed John McCain, the Republican candidate for president, over Democrat Barack Obama in 2008. Oles spoke at a McCain and Sarah Palin rally on Sept. 16, 2008, in Vienna Township.
Oles said she supported McCain because of his position on national security while her son was planning to join the Marines. Her son never officially joined the Marines.
“I’m not going to make any apologies,” she said. “I felt as a mother that national security trumped social issues. I trusted [McCain] more as commander-in-chief.”
Oles and Yemma question why Carano is running.
“We need to look to the future,” Oles said.
“I’m surprised Ken would seek this appointment,” Yemma added.
Carano said the treasurer’s office needs “someone with political and professional experience. We don’t need amateurs” in charge.
“It should be an easy transition for me,” he said. “I have a reputation for honesty.”
Betras said he won’t lobby for any candidate.
As for Oles and Yemma, Betras said that if precinct committee members “feel those actions should be involved in the decision-making process, then so be it.”
All three “bring a unique set of qualifications to the table,” Betras said.