Local black leaders blast Dem Chairman Betras
By David Skolnick
Local black leaders are strongly criticizing Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras for what they call “attacks and threats” against certain African-Americans.
“The Community Mobilization Coalition” is organizing a news conference for 5 p.m. today in front of the county board of elections “to express the African- American community’s outrage to the public embarrassment of our leaders and bully tactics used by [Betras] to force support and endorsement of the party candidate” for Youngstown mayor, according to a news release from the organization.
Among those speaking at the event are the heads of the Greater Warren-Youngstown Urban League, the NAACP’s Youngstown branch, the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance and the mobilization coalition along with the vice president of the Youngstown-Warren Black Caucus, Youngstown Clerk of Courts Sarah Brown-Clark and former city Councilman Artis Gillam Sr.
Because Gillam, his wife, Youngstown Councilwoman Annie Gillam, D-1st, and Councilman T.J. Rodgers, D-2nd, are supporting DeMaine Kitchen, an independent candidate for mayor, instead of John McNally IV, the winner of the Democratic primary, Betras removed them from the party’s executive committee.
Betras removed Artis Gillam Sr. as the city’s 1st Ward district leader.
Betras also demanded the resignation of Jaladah Aslam, the party’s vice chairwoman of labor relations, for not endorsing McNally. Betras doesn’t have the authority to remove Aslam from her post, but said he would do so anyway and said she could sue him to be reinstated.
Aslam told The Vindicator last week that Betras’ decisions would result in his “losing a lot of support in the African-American community.”
Betras said the decisions had nothing to do with race — all are black — and entirely because they are Democratic executive committee members who are openly supporting a challenger to the party’s candidate.
“I’m not bullying anybody,” Betras said. “This is not a black-and-white issue with me. It’s a Democratic and non-Democratic issue. This is not about race. I’ve done this in other elections,” removing white members of the party’s executive committee for supporting a candidate running against the Democratic nominee.
“I think David [Betras] is full of it,” Annie Gillam said. “He can have his [position] on the executive committee. It doesn’t bother me.”