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Democrats in Valley snubbed

Published: Sun, October 6, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

It was a throw-it-against-the-wall-and-see-if-it-sticks question: Why isn’t there anyone from the Mahoning Valley on the Ohio Democratic Party’s statewide ticket for 2014?

The answer was revealing in its simplicity:

“They didn’t ask me.”

And considering that the answer came from Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras (recipient of “county chairman of the year” honors), the insult to this faithful Democratic region is palpable.

It isn’t as though state Chairman Chris Redfern came up with a political all-star roster to challenge Republican Gov. John Kasich and the rest of the GOP team.

In 2010, Republicans captured every statewide administrative office — governor, attorney general, treasurer, auditor and secretary of state — took control of the General Assembly and maintained its predominance in the Ohio Supreme Court.

Political winds

The statewide election next year will feature a Republican Party with a lot of money and with the political winds to its back. The Democrats, on the other hand, will be attempting to unseat Kasich, Attorney General Mike DeWine, Treasurer Josh Mandel, Auditor David Yost and Secretary of State Jon Husted, with virtual unknowns statewide — and comparatively less money.

On Sept. 25, the executive committee of the Ohio Democratic Party issued its endorsements for the 2014 ticket: Ed FitzGerald, governor; David Pepper, attorney general; Nina Turner, secretary of state; Connie Pillich, treasurer; John Patrick Carney, auditor; John O’Donnell, supreme court.

You’re not alone if your reaction is, “Who?”

FitzGerald’s name may be familiar to Ohioans because he started running for governor last year and has attracted press attention by keeping up a drumbeat of criticism of Kasich and the Republicans.

Of the other endorsed Democrats, only Pepper, who ran for state auditor in 2010, has statewide name recognition.

Thus the question: Why didn’t state Chairman Redfern ask county Chairman Betras for the name of even one Valley resident to run next year?

Does anybody doubt that the Valley’s record of political corruption has made the region toxic?

Indeed, it wasn’t so long ago that a Valley favorite son held statewide office. Unfortunately, Marc Dann resigned in shame as attorney general. He admitted to having an extramarital affair with an employee and turning a blind eye to the sexual escapades of other members of his inner circle.

Then there’s the region’s most famous political crook, former Congressman James A. Traficant Jr., who spent almost eight years in federal prison after being convicted of using his public position for personal gain.

And more recently, there was the conviction of former county Treasurer and ex-Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairwoman Lisa Antonini, who took money from a prominent Valley businessman and major campaign contributor, Anthony M. Cafaro Sr., retired president of the Cafaro Co., and failed to report it. Antonini is to be sentenced in federal court in November — after this year’s general election.

Cafaro and several county government officials were indicted on criminal charges by the state for conspiring to derail the relocation of the Job and Family Services agency. The JFS had occupied space in the McGuffey Mall owned by the Cafaro Co. for many years, but two commissioners wanted to relocate the agency to the county-owned Oakhill Renaissance Place, former Southside Medical Center.

Criminal charges

Cafaro, former Commissioner John A. McNally IV, county Auditor Michael Sciortino, former Treasurer John Reardon and former JFS Director John Zachariah were indicted on criminal charges.

Their trials in state court were set to begin when the special prosecutors dropped the charges after the FBI refused to give up 2,000 hours of surveillance that targeted Cafaro, among others.

The charges can be refiled. There is no word from the federal government with regard to sharing the information gleaned from the surveillance.

Given all this public corruption undercurrent, it isn’t surprising that state Democratic Chairman Redfern did not call county Chairman Betras about possible statewide candidates.

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