A drag on Democratic Party ticket

What do Ed FitzGerald and Michael Sciortino have in common, apart from being Democrats running in the November general election? They’re political pariahs in the eyes of other Democrats seeking election in Ohio this year.

FitzGerald, as the party nominee for governor, is the head of the statewide Democratic ticket, and thus, as he goes, so goes the slate. And, FitzGerald, Cuyahoga County executive and former mayor of Lakewood, is going down fast. In the last several weeks, there have been media revelations about his past that have some Democrats singing, “Turn out the lights, the party’s over.”

Sciortino, auditor of the county and former director of the county board of elections, has the distinction of seeking re-election this year while facing criminal charges. Among the numerous charges brought by special prosecutors in the state case is this one: participating in a criminal conspiracy to undermine county government’s business.


Sciortino is so damaged that other Democrats seeking election in Mahoning County don’t want to have anything to do with him.

Indeed, party Chairman David Betras tried several times to get him out of the race, but the county auditor remains defiant.

There is a silver lining in Sciortino’s sordid political tale — for the Republicans, that is.

The normally uninspiring, insipid Mahoning County Republican Party has found a real-live certified public accountant to challenge the Democrat.

But what will endear Ralph T. Meacham of Lake Milton to thoughtful, fair-minded voters is the fact that he has 35 years of financial management experience in the private sector. In other words, he hasn’t been slopping at the public trough for most of his working life — as Sciortino has done.

And here’s the icing on the political cake for a sizable number of voters in the county: Meacham was the Pittsburgh Steelers’ chief financial officer from 1988 to 1991.

So, why is it important to have a certified public accountant in the position of county auditor? Because George J. Tablack, whose political roots run deep in the Democratic Party, established that standard for what had historically been a position filled by a Democratic Party hack.

When Tablack ran for the office in 1986, he based his campaign on this simple proposition: The individual whose primary responsibility is preparing county government’s budgets and assigning taxes to properties must know more than just how to add and subtract.

Tablack brought a level of professionalism and knowledge to the job that was unprecedented. His predecessor was the late Stephen R. Olenick, a political insider if ever there was one. Sciortino is following in Olenick’s footsteps.

So, how does the auditor counter his Republican challenger’s credentials and private-sector work experience?

He can boast about the 16 felony charges filed against him for his role in the Oakhill Renaissance Place criminal-conspiracy case brought by Ohio’s attorney general, Mike DeWine, a Republican. Also charged are Youngstown Mayor John A. McNally, for his involvement when he was a county commissioner, and Atty. Martin Yavorcik.

As for the Ohio Democratic Party’s candidate for governor, FitzGerald’s failure to get a permanent Ohio driver’s license while he was mayor of Lakewood, and his being found in a car with a woman — not his wife — in Cleveland early in the morning during his tenure as mayor have literally derailed the campaign.

Media’s focus

Democatic candidates for other statewide offices who believe Republican incumbents are vulnerable because of various questionable actions are having a difficult time being heard over the FitzGerald cacophony.

The bottom line is that the state Democratic Party’s leadership failed to uncover his past problems when they were vetting him.

It’s also inconceivable that a former FBI agent would not have instinctively known that the information would come out during the campaign.

With two months before the general election, the Mahoning County and Ohio Democratic parties must find a way to work around the political pariahs, FitzGerald and Sciortino.

County Chairman Betras and state Chairman Chris Redfern are sporting forced smiles these days.

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