Tempers flare over vote

On the side

Medical marijuana: The Mahoning Valley Democratic Club will meet at 7 p.m. Thursday at Lowellville city hall, 140 E. Liberty St.

The Mahoning County Alcohol & Drug Addiction Services Board will present information on the proposed Ohio Cannabis Rights Amendment to legalize medical marijuana. This is not a debate, stressed James Iudiciani Sr., the club’s president and Lowellville mayor.

The group will also have an open discussion on the proposed county sales taxes.

Endorsements by the club for the May Democrat primary will be at the March meeting.

Young conservatives: The Trumbull Mahoning Columbiana [TMC] Young Conservatives Club will meet at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Mahoning County Republican Party’s headquarters, 621 Boardman-Canfield Road in Boardman.

The guest speaker will be Jim Shaw, a field coordinator for Americans for Prosperity Ohio, a conservative advocacy group.

Club President Tex Fischer asks those planning to attend the meeting to call or text him at 330-501-0829.

Two candidates for the 58th Ohio House District seat are dismayed and plenty angry that the Ohio Democratic Party’s executive committee, at the request of House Democratic leaders, endorsed in this race without interviewing anyone seeking the position.

As I wrote in my Jan. 3 column, the state party endorsed Michele Lepore-Hagan of Youngstown in the race last month during an executive committee meeting in Columbus.

The seat is open in this election because state Rep. Robert F. Hagan, Lepore-Hagan’s husband, can’t run because of Ohio’s term-limits law.

With the endorsement, Lepore-Hagan can use the state party’s label on mailers, which are deeply discounted. She can also say she’s the state party’s endorsed candidate. Both are very helpful.

This also changes the dynamics of the Mahoning County Democratic Party’s endorsement process, which should occur sometime in mid to late February.

If Lepore-Hagan doesn’t get the county party’s endorsement, its members will be working against the state endorsed candidate, and can’t provide the mail discount.

Cynthia McWilson of Youngstown, who plans to file for the seat, and Youngstown Councilwoman Janet Tarpley, D-6th, who’s already filed, are speaking out against the state party’s decision.

“How is it that the Ohio Democratic Party executive committee [has] an endorsement meeting and endorse[s] a candidate before the filing deadline of Feb. 5, 2014, the certification of the petitions and not knowing who the other candidates are in the race?” she asked. “What criteria was used and why rush on the endorsement?

McWilson added: “Is this endorsement another way to pollute the Mahoning County political process? Does this sound a little backwards to anyone? Wouldn’t it make more sense for the Mahoning County Democratic Party to endorse a candidate first before the Ohio Democratic Party does? I think local constituents and the Mahoning County Democratic Party members know more about the potential candidates versus the state of Ohio Democratic executive board members.”

In a letter to House Minority Leader Tracy Maxwell Heard, Tarpley wrote that she was greatly disappointed and dismayed at the committee’s decision.

“This process is completely outrageous, and in my opinion unethical,” Tarpley wrote. “This endorsement is disrespectful to the Democratic leaders in the 58th District. I see no moral code with this process. Does this leadership reflect the Democratic leadership in Columbus? One that is not fair to all of its members?”

Tarpley and McWilson called the endorsement a “back-room deal.”

Lepore-Hagan said neither she nor her husband asked anyone to endorse her candidacy, and she didn’t know about the vote until after the meeting.

“I was humbled, surprised and honored to get the support,” she said. “They know me and what I stand for, and what I’ve done for Democrats. They’ve known me for 27 years.”

When asked if she understood why other candidates are upset, Lepore-Hagan said, “I’m not thinking of other people. I’m trying to do the best I can” to win this race.

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