Oddballs plague Mahoning County politics

On the side

Boards of elections: Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted reappointed two members each to the boards of elections in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties.

Each term is for four years, and Husted makes his decisions based on recommendations of executive committees of county political parties.

Those reappointed include: Republican Mark Munroe and Democrat Robert Wasko in Mahoning County, Republican Kathi Creed and Democrat Mark Alberini in Trumbull, and Republican James Beardsley and Democrat Larry Bowersock in Columbiana.

Endorsement meeting: The Mahoning Valley Democratic Club meeting to endorse candidates for the primary — the “You pay you play!” column from last week — is 7 p.m. Monday at Bogey’s Riverside Banquet Hall, 3404 New Castle Road in Lowellville.

The meeting was supposed to be last Monday.

It’s been an unusual week for local politics — even by Mahoning County standards.

Two Democratic candidates, who said less than two weeks ago they would withdraw from the May 6 primary ballot, are still on the ballot.

One of them, Atty. David Engler, a candidate for a seat on the 7th District Court of Appeals, may change his mind eventually, saying he’s “pausing” his candidacy.

The other, Robert F. Hagan, said he will remain on the ballot for the 33rd District state central committeeman race because he didn’t get out in time to have his name removed from the ballot.

Hagan still has time to withdraw, but won’t because boards of elections in Mahoning and Columbiana counties would have to pay for notices at each polling location and send letters with each absentee ballot request stating he’s no longer a candidate. Also, those notices and letters could create voter confusion, he said, as his wife is running for an Ohio House seat.

Then there’s Pete Ceci who was tossed from the ballot as a Mahoning County commissioner candidate after the board of elections invalidated one of his nominating petitions.

The person who got the signatures testified she didn’t witness the number of signatures in the “circulator’s affidavit” portion of the document. That’s a fatal error leaving Ceci four signatures short of the 50 required to be a candidate.

Two witnesses subpoenaed to testify at Ceci’s hearing didn’t initially show. Joseph Rafidi, who was helping Ceci get signatures, didn’t attend because of a shoulder or arm injury and told a board official he was heavily medicated.

Two other witnesses, including Danielle M. Hamill, whose testimony killed Ceci’s campaign, showed up nearly two hours late. Hamill and Ernest Beachman were in Ashtabula with a flat tire causing the delay.

If they didn’t show, I doubt the board would have disqualified Ceci as there was not enough evidence besides Hamill’s testimony to kick him off.

In an email after the hearing, Ceci wrote to me: “It is business as usual in Mahoning County. And we can do better and deserve better in Mahoning County. When our political figures do what’s best for a chosen few, it leaves the county as a whole out!!”

About 90 minutes before the email, Ceci was offering to help the campaign of his former opponent, Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti.

As for Engler, like Hagan, he told county Democratic committee members on Feb. 22 that he was withdrawing. But he told me Wednesday that he was “not campaigning, but I’m pausing because I’ve heard some troubling information about the judicial races.”

What troubling information? Engler isn’t sharing, but the not-so-subtle accusations are leveled at county Democratic Chairman David Betras.

Betras, who is completely out of patience for Engler, said: “I can’t trust anything he says, nor can the voters.”

Anthony Donofrio, the other Democrat in that court of appeals primary, said he is “baffled by the whole thing.” He’s not alone.

Finally, Hagan said last week that he supported his opponent, Brandon Kovach, urged others to support Kovach, but he missed a deadline to get his name off the ballot so he is remaining a candidate.

Kovach expects Hagan, a longtime state legislator, to win the race and hopes his opponent would withdraw if that happens, and allow him to fill the seat.

Hagan said, “That’s something we can talk about after. That’s so far down the line, I’m not going to talk about it.”

Kovach tried to restrain himself, but sent me a message on Facebook about Hagan that reads: “He took it for granted [being endorsed]. I don’t know why it would matter to him all of a sudden. But people are tired of these kind of things, I’m tired of these kind of things.”

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