Mahoning Dems to comply with state, national mandates

By David Skolnick


The Mahoning County Democratic Party will comply with state and national Democratic mandates to have its chairperson and his/her successor be of opposite genders and eliminate secret ballots, its chairman said.

“It will be fixed; I promise you,” Chairman David Betras said Tuesday. “We will be in full compliance. We’ll take care of this in the coming weeks.”

The party will change its constitution to have open votes and will create the position of secretary/executive vice chairperson to be the immediate successor to the chairperson, he said. The person in that position will be the opposite gender of the chairperson.

The Vindicator reported Tuesday that the county party knowingly violated state and national parties’ mandates that its chairperson and vice chairperson be of opposite genders.

In a May 5 letter to county chairmen and chairwomen, Bill DeMora, Ohio Democratic Party secretary, stated that with county reorganizational meetings the opposite-genders rule had to be enacted.

If not, the state party would remove “any vice chair who is of the same gender as the chair,” DeMora wrote. “There will be no exceptions to the rule.”

Mahoning Democrats re-elected Betras as chairman and elected Ron Massullo as executive vice chairman Saturday.

Also, DeMora said Monday that Mahoning Democrats, who have refused for years to eliminate secret balloting, would be required to have open voting.

Because of Saturday’s vote, the county party lost the use of ODP’s discount on campaign mail and access to its computer-software system that gives detailed information on voters and volunteers, local Democrats said. It was restored Tuesday.

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern said he is positive the local party will make the necessary changes, adding that Mahoning Democrats can wait until the summer to do so if they choose.

“I have confidence it will be resolved,” Redfern said. “David Betras is one of the best chairs in the country, and I’m satisfied this will be fixed.”

Joyce Kale-Pesta, county board of elections director, was elected Saturday by precinct committee members as party secretary. She said she’ll seek the new position.

“We have to have another meeting to change the constitution, and then to elect” a secretary/executive vice chairperson, she said.

Redfern said, “You can have 15 vice chairs or 100 vice chairs or appoint 1,000 vice chairs. You can have a vice chair for The Vindicator. But the next person to be chair has to be a woman. You’re required to have that gender balance.”

The length of time for an interim chairperson is up to Mahoning Democrats, Redfern said. It can be for a day up to the remainder of the unexpired term, he said.

On Monday, Betras said eliminating “secret ballots is going to be a huge problem.” A day later, he said the local party will comply with the long-standing rule that’s been ignored by approving a constitutional amendment to get rid of secret voting.

Redfern said voting could be done by “a voice vote like we do [at ODP]. It could be a show of hands. It could be clapping, barking, saying, ‘Hey, you.’ Never has so much been made about so little.”

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