Sparks will fly at meeting of Dems

On the side

Cheers: Though he voted against the state’s new budget bill, state Rep. Robert F. Hagan is touting a provision in it that will have a large impact on the Rust Belt Brewing Co., a downtown Youngstown microbrewery.

The bill includes a slight change in the state’s liquor law allowing Rust Belt and some other license holders to sell beer to customers in growlers — half-gallon glass jugs — for at-home consumption.

The amendment was drafted by Hagan of Youngstown, D-58th, and Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, D-33rd, who also voted against the bill. Even so, both were able to insert the amendment into the bill approved by the House and Senate.

Financial reports: Next Friday is the deadline for those who ran in the May primary to submit their post-primary campaign financial reports. Of particular interest will be how much money was raised and spent in the Democratic primary for Mahoning County Probate Court. Susan Maruca beat Christopher Sammarone in that primary by just 200 votes. It was the most expensive race in the county based on pre-primary reports.

While it’s highly unlikely that Mahoning County Democratic precinct committee members won’t re-elect David Betras as their chairman Saturday, at least the meeting will be a spectacle.

Betras is being challenged by Socrates Kolitsos and Rick Berger.

Berger wrote a letter to committee members calling Betras a “pathological liar,” and accused him of a variety of crimes, cover-ups and personal indiscretions. Betras denies all the allegations.

Berger also wrote that Betras, who he calls a “puppet master,” filed a menacing charge against him May 1. Betras said he did so because Berger threatened bodily injury to him on the web and his wife got nervous.

Berger wrote that he is a convicted felon from 19 years ago and offered to explain what happened to any interested committee members.

“The current chairman HATES MY GUTS AND WANTS ME DEAD!!! He is justified in feeling this way!” Berger wrote.

Berger said he exposed an issue that led to the defeat in 2012 of Jay Macejko, the party’s endorsed candidate, over incumbent county Prosecutor Paul J. Gains, and that is why Betras hates him. This was the only time the party’s endorsed candidate for a countywide seat lost during Betras’ time as chairman, which began April 27, 2009.

Betras said Berger is giving himself way too much credit.

When asked about Berger’s letter, Betras said, “I don’t spent time paying attention to fringe people. I find it to be a waste of time. I find him pathetic. He’s threatened me, libeled me and publicly disparages our elected officials. He shouldn’t be given any consideration.”

Kolitsos’ speech will call for the elimination of non-precinct committee members from the executive committee, a $100 payment annual to precinct committee members, and other issues that would require changes to the party’s charter including having “no endorsement” be an option in primary endorsements, and reducing party officer terms from four to two years.

“The current chair is a self-serving media hound that causes dissension within our party,” he wrote in a letter to committee members. “I will not make myself the focal point of a candidate’s campaign.”

Betras said Kolitsos is running because the latter asked him to find a job for him, and the chairman said no.

Kolitsos has three candidates for other party offices who “share my views,” including David Engler, running for executive vice chairman. Engler and Betras have traded barbs and don’t like each other.

“I think I’ve done a good job as chairman,” Betras said. “The party’s raised more money [about $750,000] with me as chairman than anyone else. I’ve given a substantial sum of my own money [about $50,000] to the party. We are a strong party based on the success of our endorsed candidates being elected.”

Betras’ slate includes Kenneth Carano, the incumbent executive vice chairman; former Youngstown Council President Jamael Tito Brown for vice chairman of minority affairs; Joseph Halas, running unopposed for vice chairman of labor relations; Richard Clautti, the incumbent treasurer; and Joyce Kale-Pesta, the county board of elections director, for secretary.

Kale-Pesta is challenging longtime secretary John Vivo.

“Nothing against John, but we have to have a woman on that board,” Betras said. “We can’t have all males.”

Jaladah Aslam, the lone woman on the party’s executive board, isn’t seeking re-election as vice chairwoman of minority affairs.

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