Sammarone backer rails against Democrats

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Hall of Fame Dinner: The Mahoning County Democratic Party’s 8th annual Hall of Fame Dinner on Thursday will honor state Rep. Robert F. Hagan, who can’t run for re-election because of term limits; retiring Judge Joseph J. Vukovich of the 7th District Court of Appeals; Mahoning County Common Pleas Judge James Evans; Claire Maluso, who worked for former U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. and the city of Youngstown; and Marva Dobbs, a longtime Democratic activist.

Doors open at 5:30 p.m. with the event starting at 6:30 p.m. The event is at the Mount Carmel Social Hall in Youngstown. Tickets are $50 each and can be obtained by calling Rick Clautti at 330-502-2997.

Should strongly anti-Democratic posts on the Facebook page of a Democratic candidate’s co-legal counsel and former business partner be considered a poor reflection on the character of that candidate?

That’s a question being raised in the Democratic primary race for Mahoning County Probate Court judge between Christopher Sammarone and Susan Maruca.

The Democratic probate race has quickly become the most contentious among those on the May 6 primary ballot.

Bryan Ridder had numerous posts on his private Facebook page that Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern described as “inflammatory” and “things that shouldn’t be associated with any candidate, much less a Democrat.”

Ridder, an attorney who shares office space with Sammarone, is co-counsel to Sammarone and his campaign and a former business partner with the candidate on a failed downtown Youngstown restaurant.

One post on Ridder’s Facebook page was a take off on the “Back to the Future” film that has Doc urging Marty McFly to go back in time to give President Barack Obama’s father a condom.

Another post had Ridder “resolve to continue fighting the facism, corruption, dishonesty and incompetence of the Obama administration and the Democratic Party.”

A post called Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz “dumb, ugly, dishonest.” Another had a photo of former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, a homosexual, with an “I Like Weiner” button Photoshopped on his suit jacket.

There’s one that stated a man would vote Democratic for life if you give him “a welfare check, a free cellphone, food stamps, Section 8 housing [and] a six-pack of beer.”

Sammarone said he didn’t see the posts, but “it’s certainly nothing I condone or support. [Ridder’s] views are his views, and I don’t support his views on a lot of things.”

Sammarone said he was considering removing Ridder as his co-counsel, but hasn’t made a decision.

Maruca said she hasn’t seen the posts, but they sound “pretty awful.”

Ridder said the issue is being overblown by county Democratic Chairman David Betras, who was Ridder’s Facebook friend until he was blocked.

“This is another example of Betras McCarthyism,” Ridder said. “I’m a private citizen. I have a private Facebook page. I vent on politics and I have a right to do so. It’s another example of a Betras attack. He’s negative, polarizing and divisive. It has nothing to do with [Sammarone’s] qualifications for candidacy and that he’s the best candidate.”

But Ridder removed the posts.

Why? “I don’t want to hurt Chris even though it’s completely irrelevant to his campaign,” Ridder said.

Betras said: “These posts that I have seen” are “misogynistic, homophobic and do not represent the values Mahoning County Democrats hold. I think Chris Sammarone should divorce himself from being represented in his campaign by someone with these views.”

Betras pointed out that Ridder was at the county Democratic Party’s Feb. 22 endorsement meeting seeking support for Sammarone. The party endorsed Maruca.

“In this country, you’re free to believe anything you want,” Betras said. “But just don’t be a phony about it. He came to a Democratic function, and he hates Democrats.”

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