Mahoning Dems to meet Tuesday to vote on constitutional changes

By David Skolnick


Mahoning County Democratic Party precinct committee members must vote in favor of significant changes to their constitution or face “serious consequences,” its chairman said.

The party must comply with state and national Democratic mandates to have its chairman and his/her successor be of opposite sexes and eliminate secret ballots or face sanctions from the Ohio Democratic Party, said Chairman David Betras.

The committee will meet at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Boardman’s St. Luke Parish, where they met last Saturday to elect party officers.

The local party lost the use of the ODP’s discount on campaign mail and access to its computer-software system for voters Monday because committee members elected Betras as chairman and Ron Massullo as executive vice chairman.

Access to mail discount and the software was restored Tuesday with the assurance from Betras to ODP officials that the changes would occur.

“Losing access to the voter file and the right to mail at the nonprofit rate made available by the ODP will substantially increase the cost of every piece of mail we send,” Betras wrote in a Wednesday letter to precinct committee members. “As a result, our ability to affect elections via direct mail will be severely restricted. We simply cannot allow this to happen.”

Proposed amendments would change the secretary position to secretary/vice chairman, who would be the immediate successor to the chairman.

If the chairman leaves before his/her term expires, the secretary/vice chairman would automatically become chairman for a period of no more than 30 days, under the constitutional-amendment proposal. After that, the party would elect a new chairman to fill the unexpired term.

Joyce Kale-Pesta, county board of elections director, was elected secretary Saturday. She automatically will be elevated to the new position if the amendments are approved, Betras said.

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

In a letter Monday to Betras, Bill DeMora, ODP secretary, wrote: “Since your county party has failed to comply with the rules, the Ohio Democratic Party does not recognize the current selection of your vice-chair and orders an immediate remedy to the situation.”

ODP Chairman Chris Redfern played down the situation in a Tuesday interview with The Vindicator, saying he was positive the local party would make the necessary changes, and it could be done over the summer.

But Betras wants it resolved quickly so the party can focus on the Nov. 4 election.

Also, secret ballots, a longstanding Mahoning Democratic practice, would be eliminated through the constitution vote, Betras said.

The opposite sexes of party chairmen and their successors, and open votes are required under ODP and Democratic National Committee constitutions, Betras said.

Mahoning Democratic precinct committee members, sworn in Saturday, took an oath in which they promised to uphold the constitutions of the ODP and DNC.

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