It didn’t take long for Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras to nudge John A. McNally IV out of the political spotlight Tuesday night. As McNally was reveling in his victory — an unimpressive one, at that — in the contentious race for mayor of Youngstown, it was Betras who was in contact with this writer — via texts — to make sure his role in the win wasn’t overlooked.
“U and binning [Dr. William Binning, long-time politico and former chairman of the Mahoning County Republican Party] can go [expletive] urselfs the party is stronger than ever. Ha.”
“U better eat some crow on Sunday”
“Don’t tell me that I’ve not brought this party back to its glory. I may just give it to them [his political enemies who, he says, are planning his ouster] so they can [expletive] it up.”
“U and binning said party didn’t matter. Watch my lips. U were WRONG AGAIN.”
“Outside of jay (Jay Williams, former mayor of Youngstown who ran in 2005 as an independent and won) we have won every race.”
“Of course it pains u to give any credit.”
So, Betras wants to be crowned political king of the Mahoning Valley. But before we shower him with confetti and call him “Your Highness,” let’s examine what occurred in the mayor’s race in Youngstown.
In the May primary, with McNally, former county commissioner and city law director, bearing the endorsement of the Democratic Party, the race should have been a blowout. Instead, challenger Jamael Tito Brown, president of council, came within 142 votes of scoring a major political upset.
In addition, the turnout at the polls was so low, voters could have gathered in a telephone booth (readers of a certain age will remember what that is).
McNally was left alone to mumble his way out of his poor showing; Betras certainly wasn’t taking any credit for the outcome of the primary.
One of the main responsibilities of a political party is to turn out the vote.
McNally, the Democratic nominee. conceded that he dropped the ball as far as getting party faithful to the polls. He made it clear that the general election campaign would be different. Nothing would be left to chance.
Betras now says the Democratic Party provided McNally with an array of political tools to not only identify likely voters, but to ensure that they showed up Nov. 5.
In addition, McNally’s fund-raising effort went into high gear, and before the election, it was reported that he had more than $100,000 to spend. By contrast, the five other candidates in the general election race had chump change.
Even the top challenger, DeMaine Kitchen, who was running as an independent and had taken a leave of absence from his job as chief of staff to Mayor Charles Sammarone, was not able to break the $100,000 mark.
McNally, with strong political winds to his back, was speeding toward the finish line when the chairman of the Democratic Party sucked the air out of the race by removing two black central committee members because they were supporting Kitchen, who is black, and not McNally, who is white.
The racial tension that emanated from the justifiable action by Betras was thick enough to cut with a knife.
Then came an allegation of sexual harassment made by a white female employee of the city against Kitchen, and the racial divide in the race for mayor grew so large that both candidates gave up any pretense of trying to win support in all of the seven wards.
Against that backdrop, voters went to the polls — and once again the turnout was so low it overshadowed McNally’s victory as the focus of the story.
When only 10,651 of the 42,864 registered voters in the city show up for the most important election in Youngstown, there’s only one conclusion that can be drawn: The Mahoning County Democratic Party once again failed in its primary responsibility.
But that wasn’t the worst of it: While McNally received 5,803 votes and Kitchen, 4,583 , Sammarone, in his bid for council president, received 7,062.
To add insult to this political injury, Sammarone didn’t even campaign. He did run some ads in The Vindicator. He also received the paper’s endorsement.
The Vindicator did not endorse in the mayor’s race.
So, if Betras insists on having a political coronation, he can dine on the crow that he thinks this writer should eat.