Who will FitzGerald pick?

On the side

Sprechen Sie Deutsch: Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras spent the past week with his wife and their son in Luneberg, Germany, where his son is planning to study.

Even overseas, Betras’ hands are permanently attached to his cell phone as he spent a decent chunk of time there tweeting with me and Mark Sweetwood, The Vindicator’s managing editor. We would make fun of Betras and he would attempt to respond using a language he accidently invented — or maybe it was done on purpose — that I affectionately call “Betrasese.”

He also mixed in some German through the use of a German-to-English online translator. Some of those tweets made as much sense as the ones he sent in “English.”

At times it sounded like Betras was having fun and at other times he attempted to respond to our good-natured jabs with what I think was humor. If nothing else, Betras is bringing me a “cheap” gift from Germany.

When Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald selected state Sen. Eric Kearney as his lieutenant governor running mate, one of his attributes touted by party officials was he bringing geographic balance to the ticket.

FitzGerald, the Cuyahoga County executive, is obviously from Northeast Ohio while Kearney is from Southwest Ohio.

That supposed balance might look good on paper and Ohio political history experts can probably point to gubernatorial races in which they can contend it made a difference.

To me, it is highly overrated.

As FitzGerald’s campaign continues to look for a replacement for Kearney — who withdrew Dec. 10 after pressure mounted over about $825,000 in unpaid taxes owed by him, his wife and businesses — the gubernatorial candidate isn’t ruling out a running mate from the northeast.

Former U.S. Rep. John Boccieri, originally from Mahoning County and currently living in Alliance, confirmed he met right after Christmas with FitzGerald and his campaign to discuss the possibility of running for lieutenant governor.

“They were gauging my interest,” Boccieri said. “They were interested, but I can’t run as lieutenant governor because of my family and military commitments.”

Boccieri has five children, ages 3 to 13, and commands the 773rd Airlift Squadron at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station in Vienna. Boccieri, an Air Force Reserve lieutenant colonel and pilot, was overseas from August to December.

Boccieri, a former congressman, Ohio House member and state senator, said he was impressed with FitzGerald, calling him “a very bright, intelligent candidate. He’s very steady, even-handed with policy decisions.”

Boccieri, who supports FitzGerald’s candidacy for governor, said it isn’t important for a lieutenant governor running mate to be from a particular area.

When Kearney left the ticket, the two most prominent names under consideration to replace him were Ohio House Minority Leader Tracy Maxwell Heard of Columbus, and Columbus City Councilman Zach Klein. While not in the southwest part of the state, a candidate from Columbus in the central part of Ohio again brings that supposed geographic balance.

Also, on Dec. 11, the day after Kearney withdrew, FitzGerald told me that he’d have a new running mate around the beginning of January. The decision should be announced shortly though no one has been offered the spot.

As for Boccieri, he sold his house in Alliance and is renting there until the school year ends. He plans to return to the Mahoning Valley at that time.

“I definitely am going to run again” for elected office, he said. “It’s got to be the right fit.”

Boccieri reiterated his interest in running for Congress, but added, “I’m not opposed to something local.” When asked if that meant something like county commissioner, Boccieri said, “I haven’t thought about it” specifically.

Boccieri, 44, was first elected to the Ohio House in 2000, won a state Senate race in 2006, was elected to Congress in 2008 and was defeated two years later by Republican Jim Renacci.

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