‘Truth’ ignites a firestorm

On the side

Blue Dog endorsement: Democrat Jennifer Garrison of Marietta, running for the 6th Congressional District seat, received the endorsement of the Blue Dog Coalition, consisting of centrist/conservative U.S. House Democrats.

“I’m honored that this common-sense group of lawmakers, who share the same results-oriented approach, recognize and believe I would be a helpful voice in steering our country in that direction,” Garrison said.

The Blue Dogs reached their peak in 2010 with 54 members, but dropped to 26 after that year’s election.

Among those who lost in 2010 was Democrat Charlie Wilson of St. Clairsville, a two-term incumbent who died last year. He lost in 2010 to Republican Bill Johnson, a two-term incumbent from Marietta, who is seeking re-election in the 6th.

The Blue Dogs are trying to make a comeback and currently have 19 members. The coalition recently endorsed two other House candidates along with Garrison.

Since 2007, the Mahoning Valley Democratic Club — the largest Democratic club in the area — meets to endorse candidates for the primary.

This year is no different with the club meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at Bogey’s Riverside Banquet Hall, 3404 New Castle Road in Lowellville, to endorse candidates in the May 6 primary. The doors open at 5:45 p.m.

But what Jim Iudiciani Sr., the club’s president and Lowellville mayor, wrote in his letter to candidates has set off a firestorm that has even drawn the ire and attention of Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern.

Anyone paying the club’s $10 dues can vote at Monday’s meeting.

Iudiciani wrote: “You pay you play!”

While true, that’s probably not the smartest thing to mention when it comes to endorsements in the Mahoning Valley.

After speaking with Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras, Iudiciani said, “I shouldn’t have put it in there. It’s not a lie, but it was a poor choice of words.”

The club’s executive committee will meet likely on Saturday to discuss either not accepting $10 from those wanting to join to vote for endorsements or keeping things the way they are. Iudiciani said he’s “got a feeling we’ll keep it the same.”

The club usually raises about $500 from those joining to endorse, he said, and the group already has about $500. All of the money is used to advertise the club’s endorsed candidates, Iuidiciani said.

Other political clubs in the Valley have done the same thing for decades, but weren’t as blunt as Iudiciani’s comment.

“I respect the fact it is the largest Democratic club, however paying for an endorsement is patently wrong,” said Betras. “They use [the endorsement meeting] as a fundraiser, but it shouldn’t be that way. All these people pay, attend the one meeting, vote and then never go to another meeting.”

Also, state Rep. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, D-58th, whose wife, Michele, is running in the Democratic primary to succeed him, said the comment was “totally improper. We’d be paying for endorsements. It’s a free-for-all. You can’t buy votes.”

Betras said Redfern sent him a text after learning of the “You pay you play!” line that the state Democratic executive committee, which is meeting March 15, could address this and void the club’s endorsements.

The club isn’t affiliated with the local or state parties, and the state executive committee can’t do anything against it.

But Iudiciani said he and the club’s executive committee respects the party and Redfern.

Hagan, who serves in the House with Redfern, said the chairman was shocked to hear of the club’s policy.

Redfern couldn’t be reached Thursday to comment.

“They can’t say they believe in the principles and philosophy of the Democratic Party and do this,” Betras said.

I pointed out to Betras that the county party has secret votes, which contradicts the state and national Democratic bylaws, and the county party is directly affiliated with those two organizations.

“There’s a difference between paying for a vote and having private voting,” he said.

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