State edicts irk local Dems

On the side

Who will it be?: A decision from Gov. John Kasich on who will be the next Mahoning County Probate Court judge is expected very soon.

The Mahoning County Republican Party recommended three finalists to Kasich for the seat on April 15.

Mark Belinky, a Democrat, resigned March 14 while under criminal investigation. Belinky was found guilty on May 8 of a felony count of tampering with records. He’ll be sentenced July 9.

The finalists are Mary Ann Fabrizi of Berlin Center and Robert Rusu of Canfield, who are both running as independent candidates for the position, and Christopher Sammarone of Canfield. Sammarone won’t get the appointment after losing the Democratic primary last month by 200 votes to Susan Maruca of Poland. Maruca had sought the appointment, but the county Republican Party chose not to recommend her.

That leaves Fabrizi and Rusu as the choices for the Republican governor. I’ve got a 50-50 shot of being correct. My guess is Rusu will get the nod.

It will be interesting to see how many Mahoning County Democratic Party precinct committee members will attend a 5 p.m. Tuesday meeting to rubber stamp mandates from the Ohio Democratic Party requiring major changes to the local party’s constitution.

Without the promise of free pizza, party loyalists who feel obligated to attend, and the opportunity for those who don’t like Chairman David Betras to voice their opinions, I wonder how many would bother to show.

County Democratic chairpersons in Ohio were told a while ago that all chairpersons and vice chairpersons must be of opposite gender as per the constitutions of the ODP and Democratic National Committee.

Bill DeMora, ODP secretary, sent a follow-up letter May 5 to chairpersons reminding them of this mandate warning them that if it was ignored, the state party would not recognize and remove vice chairpersons who are the same gender as the chairperson.

Also, the Mahoning Democrats’ long-standing policy on secret ballots — that Betras said only a few days ago was a nonstarter for the local party — will also come to an end as the ODP is finally cracking down on that violation of the state and national parties’ constitutions.

If the Mahoning Democratic precinct committee members refuse to vote for the changes Tuesday, the party would face “serious consequences,” Betras said.

The party would lose the use of the ODP’s campaign mail nonprofit discount and access to the computer-software system that provides vital information on voters and volunteers.

Doing so would restrict the local party’s ability to send mailers and target voters.

The state party took away those two benefits Monday and restored them Tuesday when Betras said the local Democrats would comply.

Democratic stronghold

It seems strange that the ODP would take such a strong position when it’s going to need all the help it can get in Mahoning County, a Democratic stronghold, for its statewide candidates. The county will also be important in what are expected to be competitive races for a seat on the 7th District Court of Appeals and for the 6th Congressional District.

Mahoning Democrats will vote Tuesday on the amendments to change the secretary position to secretary/vice chairperson and make that person the immediate successor to the chairman for no more than 30 days. It will also vote to eliminate secret ballots.

A small number of precinct committee members actually support either amendment, but both are expected to pass. There really isn’t a choice even though there are likely to be some protest votes against the changes.

The local party has known for years that secret ballots were a no-no, but there wasn’t a crackdown on them until now.

The same cannot be said of the gender issue. Certain party officials, including Betras, knew it needed to be enforced now and didn’t say anything.

The end result is angry Mahoning County Democratic precinct committee members, who the state is relying on to deliver votes for its slate.

When I spoke to ODP Chairman Chris Redfern about these issues, he said, “Never has so much been made about so little.”

It’s doubtful many Mahoning Democratic precinct committee members agree with him.

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