Dem Chairman Betras not in favor of challenge
David Betras, Mahoning County Democratic Party chairman.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted
Former Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann
By David Skolnick
Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras said he doesn’t favor a legal challenge to the secretary of state’s decision to not seat him on the county board of elections.
Betras is calling a 4:30 p.m. Friday meeting of the county party’s executive committee to recommend not filing a lawsuit against Secretary of State Jon Husted, and have the committee’s members select someone else for the elections job.
“We’ll have a frank discussion on what to do,” Betras said Tuesday. “My recommendation is to appoint someone else. It’s not about me. It’s about the party.”
The term of Michael Morley, who resigned Sept. 19 to allow Betras to replace him, expires Feb. 29, 2012.
Betras planned to seek the full four-year term that would start the next day.
Austintown Trustee David Ditzler, a former county Democratic chairman, wants Husted to reconsider and appoint Betras. With that highly unlikely, Ditzler said he would seek the appointment for the rest of Morley’s unexpired term.
Ditzler said hopefully Husted would allow Betras to serve the four-year term that would start March 1, 2012.
A legal challenge could cost the party up to $50,000, Betras said.
“I won’t deplete the party’s resources,” he said.
In a letter, Husted, a Republican, rejected the party’s nomination of Betras as an elections board member calling the party chairman “not competent.”
Husted cited Betras’ “wrongful conduct” as treasurer of ex-Attorney General Marc Dann’s transition account.
“I’m a tad conflicted,” Betras said.
“I want to fight this, but that’s not what’s best for the party. I don’t think the letter is fair. I should have been asked for input and wasn’t.”
Betras never was charged with any crime, and said Husted’s decision is based on “fiction,” is “partisan,” and “it impugns my character.”
Except for a portion of one ethics conviction against Dann, no one else was charged with criminal activity related to the fund.
Husted gave Mahoning County Democrats until Monday to submit a recommendation to him for the vacant Democratic seat on the board of elections.
If one isn’t chosen by then, Husted would select a board member, said Matt McClellan, the secretary of state’s spokesman.
“We will be meeting with Mr. Betras later this week. While we do not expect to change our decision, we do believe there are important points of difference that need to be discussed face to face,” McClellan added.
Betras disagrees with the Monday deadline, but said party officials would rather have “some say than no say” in selecting a replacement for Morley.
Kenneth Carano, the party’s executive vice chairman and a former state representative, wants the party to seek a restraining order against Husted on the deadline.
“We can’t simply roll over on this,” he said. “I don’t think we should be looking for a replacement. We should be fighting the secretary of state on this.”