Local Dems avoid conflict

On the side

Lincoln Day dinner: The Mahoning County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day dinner is at 6 p.m. April 8 at the Georgetown in Boardman. U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson of Marietta, R-6th, is the guest speaker. Johnson represents the southern portion of Mahoning County in the U.S. House.

Tickets are $40 a person and $75 a couple. Tickets can be obtained by contacting the party’s headquarters by phone at 330-629-7006.

Also at the dinner, the Mahoning County Teenage Republicans will pay tribute to Abraham Lincoln.

Voter registration: March 8 is the deadline to register to vote in the May primary election.

What did we learn from the recent Mahoning County Democratic Party meeting besides its members providing overwhelming support for John A. McNally IV for Youngstown mayor and a proposed gay-marriage issue seeking to get on the November ballot?

The most interesting takeaway is party members are happy to avoid conflict even at the price of relevancy.

Chairman David Betras proposed significant changes to the party’s bylaws in reaction to a number of issues from last year’s election.

In 2012, a few Democratic precinct committee members openly supported and campaigned for Mitt Romney, the failed Republican presidential nominee.

Quite a few more did the same for Judge Mary DeGenaro, a Republican on the 7th District Court of Appeals, instead of Mark Hanni, the endorsed Democratic candidate.

Judges don’t have party affiliations in the general election, but DeGenaro ran unopposed in the GOP primary and Hanni ran unopposed in the Democratic primary.

While Hanni isn’t popular with a number of Democratic precinct committee members, Betras insists on party loyalty. The proposed changes would have gone a long way toward instilling that loyalty.

Among the seven proposed bylaws were: prohibiting precinct and executive committees members, executive committee members, members of groups chartered by the party and endorsed candidates from supporting opponents of those endorsed by the party; requiring those getting the party’s endorsement to sign a pledge to endorse the party’s other endorsed candidates; allowing the withdrawal of an endorsement for cause; removing precinct committee members who commit malfeasance, misfeasance or nonfeasance; and not permitting convicted felons to serve as precinct committee members.

Before the vote, Betras said he understood the proposals were “a source of consternation and a source of concern.”

First up was the convicted felon ban.

Former county Commissioner David Engler, who serves on the county educational service center board, made a motion to table all the proposals saying the main reason for the meeting was to endorse a Youngstown mayoral candidate and the proposals “feel divisive” and would “pit one person against another.”

Engler wanted the proposals to be vetted by a larger committee and for there to be more time for discussion.

The vote was 108-36 against voting for any of the bylaw changes. Don’t expect these proposals to see the light of day anytime soon.

When it came time to endorse in the Youngstown mayor’s race, some precinct and executive members also got cold feet. The vote was 33-33 to not endorse. The proposal needed two-thirds majority to pass.

McNally then easily won the endorsement 50-16, which can’t be a good sign for council President Jamael Tito Brown, who mustered only 16 votes.

Endorsements have met with resistance from party loyalists since they were brought back a few years ago. What those opposed to endorsements fail to understand is without them, the party will largely be irrelevant as it was when David Ditzler and Lisa Antonini chaired the organization. Perhaps they like that.

Endorsements have been divisive in some cases, but at least there’s a reason for people to care about what the party does.

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