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Grand Wizard of KKK?

Published: Sun, September 29, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

What if Jamael Tito Brown, who is black, had won the Democratic primary for Youngstown mayor and white party officials refused to support him and, instead, publicly backed a white independent candidate?

Would black leaders have shrugged and said, “That’s politics; who are we to tell Democratic Party officials that they must support the nominee?”

Or, would they have demanded the resignation of the party turncoats. Failing that, would they have urged the chairman to strip the disloyal Democrats of their leadership positions?

The answer is as obvious as last week’s ploy by several black leaders to create dissension within the Mahoning County Democratic Party by implying that Chairman David Betras is the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Why the attack on Betras?

Because he had the temerity to remove from the party’s executive committee three blacks who are supporting black independent candidate for mayor, DeMaine Kitchen.

The Democratic nominee, John A. McNally IV, is white. In the May primary, McNally defeated Tito Brown, president of city council.

White-black divide

Although the vote was close and the voting patterns showed a clear white-black divide, Betras contends that party leaders have a responsibility to support the winner in the general election.

Indeed, being a member of one of the two major political parties in the country means belonging to an organization with bylaws, rules and procedures.

Consider this description from Yahoo Voices:

“The major function of a political party is to nominate — name — candidates for public office. That is, the parties select candidates and then present them to the voters. Then the parties work to help their candidates win elections.”

The executive committee members are expected to set an example for the rest of the membership by their loyalty and dedication.

And way the two parties have been able to maintain their major standing in American politics is by embracing the principle of party discipline.

That’s what Betras has been preaching since he took the reins of the county Democratic Party in 2009.

Well aware of the past dysfunction of the organization due to incompetent leadership that led to infighting, he made it clear from the beginning that he expects leaders to be party loyalists.

His decision, therefore, to remove 1st Ward Councilwoman Annie Gillam, 2nd Ward Councilman T.J. Rodgers and former 1st Ward Councilman Artis Gillam from the executive committee because they’re supporting Kitchen was to be expected.

Betras also is attempting to remove Artis Gillam as the 1st Ward district leader by persuading a majority of the party officers to go along with him.

Finally, he has asked Jaladah Aslam, the party’s vice chairman for labor relations, to resign. Aslam has refused.

Leaders in the black community have raised the specter of racism in the chairman’s actions.

Betras can be accused of many things: having an inflated ego; being a publicity hound; self-aggrandizing; and even a blowhard. But, to accuse him of being a racist is to indulge in the kind of gutter politics that is tearing this country apart.

Artis and Annie Gillam, who have benefited greatly from their involvement in the Democratic Party, have been around long enough to remember the dictatorial reign of the late Don L. Hanni Jr.


Hanni engendered party loyalty not through diplomacy but by threats and intimidation.

If an officeholder refused to pay the appropriate homage to the chairman, he soon found himself with an opponent in the primary.

Betras’ move against the Gillams, Rodgers and Aslam is justified and appropriate. Serving in leadership positions in the party is a privilege, not a right.

That’s also true for having a government job or holding public office.

Kitchen, who is Mayor Charles Sammarone’s chief of staff, is a registered Democrat. However, by choosing to run as an independent against the party’s nominee, he has opened himself up to criticism and attack.

And, by black leaders accusing Betras of racism, the election for mayor has taken on a different complexion.

White voters who may have stayed home Nov. 5 undoubtedly will be aroused from their apathy — because of the racial undercurrent in the battle for Youngstown mayor.


1valleypolitics(88 comments)posted 11 months, 3 weeks ago

“Betras can be accused of many things: having an inflated ego; being a publicity hound; self-aggrandizing; and even a blowhard”.

Yes to all Bert, but the one thing he can also be accused of is not having a clue as to how politics really works. If he did, he would have removed the offenders in a way that wouldn’t have badly hurt McNally. A party chairman that understands politics would never have let this situation happen.

A little history, according to Lisa, prior to 2009 Betras would not have known a precinct committee person in a room full of them. He didn’t attend party events and didn’t work any local campaigns. The one exception is his former law partner Marc Dann.

After Dann was forced to resign along with Leo Jennings, Jennings and Betras cooked up the idea of Betras becoming party chairman. At that time Lisa said she was looking to get out and Betras wanted in. Betras accelerated the situation the way most people with money get what they want.

Politics is much like the game of pool, it’s all bank shots, and you always need to know where the ball is going to end up before you shoot. Betras has never understood this simple fact and last week was just another example of why he should never have been allowed to become party chairman.

Without thinking or considering the consequences, he over played his hand with meaningless strong arm tactics, over people, that if left alone, would probably not have made a difference in the outcome of the election anyway, but now have been energized in a way Kitchen could not have done himself.

Why Lisa, John, Mike and many of the precinct committee people are willing to put up with Betras is beyond me and others who are observing this mess.

The icing on the Betras cake is his attempt to become a “wheeler-dealer” and in the process cause himself to be investigated by state and federal officials. Before you start defending him Bert, ask him to get one of those letters that says he’s not being investigated, he won’t be able to but I’m sure he will give you plenty of excuses as to why not. Don’t believe a word he says.

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2Kernaloftruth(86 comments)posted 11 months, 3 weeks ago

The members removed from the committee were supporting a candidate who was not the endorsed Democrat. Mr. Kitchen has said it himself that he is not a Democrat, though that is obviously a lie. When you have the party's candidate running in that race, you cannot have committee members openly undermining the party when it is their job to support the party candidate.

Dave Betras did what he had to do and what he did was justified. His decision to remove those individuals was not racially motivated based on common sense---if you don't support the party candidate, why should you be on the committee? We can argue about the tactics and his approach, but on general principle it was the right move.

The calls of racism are absurd. The case could just as easily be made that those same individuals supporting Kitchen over the Democratic candidate were also racially motivated when they tried to stick it to their own party.

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3author50(1121 comments)posted 11 months, 3 weeks ago

@Valleypolitics. Great post.

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4samIam(213 comments)posted 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Da Main Kitchen? Really? Only in Youngstown

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5Rooster(78 comments)posted 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Well, I probably have to work on my racism as much as most folks, but the problem here is what came out of this cesspool of kowtowing and bowing and scraping between all these greedy self-dealing hyenas was a candidate most folks just couldn't stomach. What else was going to come out of that mess? Can't expect someone inspiring to come out of that bunch. McNally's got a lot more problems with the Youngstown voter than just being white and this paper is overlooking that elephant.

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6DACOUNTRYBOY(225 comments)posted 11 months, 3 weeks ago

This was nothing more than an intown power struggle. Will the man of the hour in DC use his muscle to get this settled?

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7gdog4766(1495 comments)posted 11 months, 3 weeks ago

A lot of this had to do with democrat precinct people and office holders supporting hunter against Belinky. There were precinct people openlype making comments about the how they weren't going to support or vote for the Jew. Gilmartins daughter ran Hunters campaign and was so embolden by support of party members she walked Hunter into a party get together at shady Run. Rosemary Durkin who fed at the trough for many many years openly endorsed and campaigned for Hunter. Don't claim to be one thing and then act like another.

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8Silence_Dogood(1341 comments)posted 11 months, 3 weeks ago

"Betras can be accused of many things: having an inflated ego; being a publicity hound; self-aggrandizing; and even a blowhard. But, to accuse him of being a racist is to indulge in the kind of gutter politics that is tearing this country apart."

Democrats doing what Democrats do , nothing new here, move along.

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