By David Skolnick
Five labor unions and organizations are backing the re-election of Mary DeGenaro, a Republican, for a third six-year term on the 7th District Court of Appeals.
Though Mahoning Valley labor groups traditionally back Democrats, it’s been a mixed bag over the years when it comes to judicial candidates, particularly incumbents.
“We’re not a wing of the Democratic Party,” said Bill Padisak, president of the Mahoning-Trumbull AFL-CIO Labor Council, one of the labor groups endorsing the judge Friday. “In this area, Democrats support unions and what we believe in. When we find friendly Republicans who shares our views, we support them.”
Judge DeGenaro said she is proud that labor groups “have the confidence in me to endorse me.”
She is being challenged by Mark Hanni, a Democrat. But in Ohio, judges run in partisan-party primaries and then without party affiliation in the general election.
“This business about it being nonpartisan is a bunch of malarkey,” said Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras. “She’s a Republican and Mark is a Democrat. She decided to align herself with the party that doesn’t support the middle class.”
Her other labor endorsements, announced Friday, come from the United Auto Workers Community Action Plan; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Ohio Council 8; the Western Reserve Building and Construction Trades Council, and Teamsters Local 377.
“I think labor is making a mistake on this one, but I’m not going to criticize them,” Betras said.
“I support Mark Hanni 100 percent, and he’ll make a fine judge. The party is at odds in this race with organized labor, but labor is working for every other Democrat.”
Hanni said he was disappointed with the decision by the labor groups saying, “Politics come before principles too many times in these endorsements.”
Hanni has the endorsement of the Ohio Association of Public School Employees Local 4 and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 66.
Hanni called on Betras to demand the resignation of Jaladah Aslam as the local Democratic Party’s vice chairwoman of labor relations. Aslam, an AFSCME staff representative, is supporting Judge DeGenaro.
Betras said he asked her “to rethink her position.” But he added that Aslam was elected by precinct committee members, and he can’t force her to quit.
Aslam said she won’t resign, adding that DeGenaro has been an excellent judge, and Democrats would have needed an extraordinary candidate for her to lose labor support.
“Mark isn’t” extraordinary, she said. Aslam also said Hanni has “switched back and forth between parties,” pointing to his efforts in 2002 to gain control of the county Republican Party and for fielding candidates in 2010 to defeat county Democratic Party officials, including Betras.
Meanwhile, Hanni started airing television commercials Wednesday featuring Youngstown Mayor Charles Sammarone sitting at his desk at City Hall endorsing Hanni as “a good Democrat.”
The commercial also includes DeMaine Kitchen, the mayor’s administrative assistant/chief of staff, posing as a juror and another city employee as a court stenographer.
Hanni said he and the mayor are longtime friends, and Sammarone asked what he could do to support his judicial campaign.
The 7th District Court of Appeals serves the counties of Mahoning, Columbiana, Belmont, Carroll, Harrison, Jefferson, Monroe and Noble.
The court includes three other judges: Gene Donofrio, Joseph J. Vukovich and Cheryl L. Waite.