Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras has become the Rodney Dangerfield of politics: He gets no respect. Who’s Rodney Dangerfield? One of the best stand-up comics of his day whose routines in clubs and on television — he was a regular on the Johnny Carson “Tonight Show” — had the nation in stitches. Dangerfield, who also starred in several hilarious movies, was most famous for his “I don’t get no respect” jokes.
Here is a sampling of the milder ones:
“I don’t get no respect. Last week I told my psychiatrist, ‘I keep thinking about suicide.’ He told me from now on I have to pay in advance.
“I tell ya when I was a kid, all I knew was rejection. My yo-yo, it never came back!
“When I was a kid, I got no respect. The time I was kidnapped, and the kidnappers sent my parents a note they said, ‘We want five thousand dollars or you’ll see your kid again.’
“With my dog I don’t get no respect. He keeps barking at the front door. He don’t want to go out. He wants me to leave.
“When I was born, the doctor came out to the waiting room and said to my father. ‘I’m very sorry. We did everything we could ... but he pulled through.
“One night I came home. I figured, let my wife come on. I’ll play it cool. Let her make the first move. She went to Florida.
“I asked my old man if I could go ice-skating on the lake. He told me, ‘Wait till it gets warmer.’”
But while Dangerfield, who died in 2004, got tons of laughs with his one-liners, the lack of respect toward Democratic Chairman Betras is no laughing matter. It reflects a certain level of dysfunction within the party that isn’t good news for this predominantly Democratic region.
The most egregious sign of disrespect toward the party’s chief has come from Mahoning County Common Pleas Judge James Evans, who changed his mind about retiring by a certain date that would have opened the door to a November election for a successor to serve out his term.
While Republican Gov. John Kasich will fill the vacancy created by Evans’ departure, the timing was important.
The Democratic precinct committeemen and -women were in all likelihood going to nominate Anthony D’Apolito, county juvenile court magistrate, when Judge Evans pulled the rug out from under them.
He announced that he had changed his retirement date to Oct. 1, which means whoever the governor appoints (any bets on a Republican?) will be on the bench for two years.
In the words of Rodney Dangerfield, Chairman Betras “don’t get no respect.”
Then there’s the embarrassment of having an officeholder who has been indicted on criminal charges relating to the Oakhill Renaissance Place scandal. Auditor Michael Sciortino’s term is up this year, and Betras has been trying to persuade him to step down so the party can find someone who doesn’t have the law nipping at his or her heels.
But even though Sciortino could be suspended from his official duties by the Ohio Supreme Court — he would still get paid — the law permits him to seek re-election in November, which he intends to do.
Sciortino has in effect told Betras to pound salt — and will then rub that salt in the chairman’s wounds.
There are many other examples of the party boss getting no respect, but the one that’s bound to leave a mark is his inability to persuade any lower level judge or any qualified lawyer to run against Common Pleas Judge Maureen Sweeney, a Republican.
The gap in the Democratic Party slate was created by Atty. Mark Hanni, the party’s nominee, dropping out of the race.
Here’s the irony: Betras has publicly berated his Republican counterpart, county Chairman Mark Munroe, for not fielding strong candidates to challenge Democratic officeholders.
He is particularly critical of Munroe for not having someone of substance take on county Auditor Sciortino.
And yet, Betras is forced to live with the bitter truth that being the head of the dominant political party doesn’t make him a powerbroker.
So, as the Rodney Dangerfield of politics, here’s a joke Betras can use when he next addresses the party faithful:
“I don’t get no respect. I said to my psychiatrist, ‘I’m the Democratic leader but no one listens to me.’ The psychiatrist told me to become a Republican.”