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Mahoning GOP lacks credibility

Published: Sun, May 4, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

How’s this for political spin:

Mark Munroe, chairman of the Mahoning County Republican Party, says the inclusion of a Democrat on a list sent to Republican Gov. John Kasich, who will be filling the judgeship vacancy in the county probate court, reflects the GOP’s commitment to non-partisanship on such issues.

But it isn’t just any Democrat who was selected by the party’s screening committee, led by Munroe.

Does the name Christopher Sammarone ring a bell? It should. Sammarone is a candidate for the Democratic Party nomination for probate judge in Tuesday’s primary. But more significantly, he’s the son of former Youngstown Mayor Charles Sammarone, a veteran of city politics.

The elder Sammarone is currently president of city council, a position he held prior to becoming mayor in August 2011. He also has served as water commissioner and ward councilman.

So, Munroe can spin the younger Sammarone’s inclusion on the list of potential appointees to the judgeship all he wants, but the real reason is that Republicans are hoping to win the support of a prominent Democrat in the November general election for governor.

Kasich is seeking a second four-year term and is expected to be challenged by Democrat Ed FitzGerald, Cuyahoga County executive who has inconsequential opposition Tuesday.

No GOP candidate

There’s another reason not to buy Munroe’s political spin: As the chairman of the Republican Party, he was responsible to field a candidate for the probate court race. He failed to do so.

As was recently pointed out in this space, the Mahoning County Republican Party squandered a perfect opportunity to win the judgeship.

The February filing deadline for candidates was four months after probate Judge Mark Belinky’s financial problems, including nonpayment of taxes, became public.

Belinky’s troubles didn’t end there. In late February, it was revealed that he was the target of a state criminal investigation. He resigned from the bench in March, creating the vacancy to be filled by the governor. That term expires in February 2015.

With another Democratic officeholder in trouble with the law and giving the county one more political black eye, a legitimate Republican candidate would have had a definite advantage going into the general election for the next full term.

Instead, Munroe is hoping to score an upset in November by including in the list sent to the governor two individuals who are planning to run as independents for the probate judge position.

The filing deadline for independents is Monday.

In other words, if Christopher Sammarone defeats Susan Maruca, the Democratic Party’s endorsed candidate, in Tuesday’s election, he could face Mary Ann Fabrizi and Robert N. Rusu Jr. in the fall.

Fabrizi and Rusu are political unknowns.

According to their voting records from the county Board of Elections, Fabrizi has voted in Republican primaries five times going back to 2004. She has voted in every general election during that time.

Rusu’s voting record shows he has not voted in either Republican or Democratic primaries. Instead, he has taken out issues-only primary ballots in the last 16 years.

It’s inconceivable that a Republican governor would appoint a Democratic nominee (if Sammarone wins Tuesday) to serve out former Judge Belinky’s unexpired term.

The new six-year term begins in February.

Political hooey

That’s why all that talk about nonpartisanship in the appointment process is a bunch of political hooey.

The bottom line is that the GOP chairman, Munroe, dropped the ball and is now attempting to make amends.

He would have been better off had the governor appointed Sammarone to the judgeship shortly after the list was submitted in mid-April, thus enabling him to run with the title “judge.”

Then, a win Tuesday would have had Democrats and Republicans laying claim to Sammarone. And that would have made Charles Sammarone, the former mayor of Youngstown, Gov. Kasich’s No. 1 fan.

So, why didn’t the governor appoint Chris Sammarone to the judgeship? Was it another miscalculation by Chairman Munroe?

Time will tell.


1Roger_Thornhill(554 comments)posted 5 months ago

Not all Monroe's fault. Campbell, Struthers, Youngstown, Coitsville, West Austintown, North Boardman are also contributing reasons GOP would have failed anyway even if they had fielded a candidate.

Who did Vindy endorse when Judge Hunter ran against Belinky?

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2Joe6pack(52 comments)posted 5 months ago


Munroe is just another cog in the Democratic machine in Mahoning County. Fielding candidates would require work and money both of which Munroe is not interested in. He wheels and deals with Betras like everyone else. He is also being investigated like most of the democrats. Munroe is the last Republican Kasich should listen to.


Chuck and Chris Sammarone are being investigated right now for something going on with the probate race. Whatever it is, they must have given the Governors office a warning about appointing Chris before the investigation is over.


The smartest move for the Governor is to wait until Wednesday, see who the winner is, and gain some big political points with local democrats by appointing the winner. How can he go wrong? What's Betras going to say if the Republican Governor appoints his "endorsed" candidate? Win win for Governor Kasich.

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3Hmmmmm(48 comments)posted 5 months ago

I am wondering if the Honorable Sammarone will seek the Dem Party endosrsement if he should win Tuesday.Kind of awkward for the Party since he is running against them now .Actually his ads sound as if he is running against Betras !!!

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4Kernaloftruth(86 comments)posted 5 months ago

Judging by the non-endorsement this paper has made in the Probate race, the Vindicator is probably afraid to make an endorsement after their glowing endorsement of Belinky worked out so well six years ago.

"Recently, we were made aware of unconfirmed developments in the probate judge race that gave us pause."

Speaking of a bunch of political hooey-----someone told them something (which they fail to disclose what it is) about a candidate in the probate race (which they fail to mention who it is about). And it gave them "pause". If the Vindicator had any cajones, they would tell us what the rumor is. It is not like they haven't printed stuff out of the rumor mill before, what is making them stop this time?

The Vindicator was supposed to be "a beacon" (Franko's words), so don't hold back. Be a beacon and come out with it. If you know something about a candidate that is bad and you fail to inform the voters about it (and they end up voting for that person), this paper has done a great disservice to the electors in this town.

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5Kernaloftruth(86 comments)posted 5 months ago

I mean really, who goes to a paper and says "hey, this is what is going on, just don't tell anyone"? Kind of defeats the purpose of going to the paper in the first place, doesn't it?

As for you de Souza (I didn't forget you, rest assured). You are a third rate columnist in a second rate paper. Only in Mahoning County where the Democrats run everything can someone still do an entire hit piece on the Republican Party and make it into some kind of conspiracy to help John Kasich.

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6kurtw(864 comments)posted 4 months, 4 weeks ago

Kernal, why do you always pick on Bertram? The Vindy may be a "second rate" paper, but Bert is much better than a "third rate" columnist. I've been reading him for many years and I would rate him much higher than "third rate". Maybe not quite "first rate", but, at any rate, higher than "third rate".

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7Kernaloftruth(86 comments)posted 4 months, 4 weeks ago

That is a fair question and I will tell you. Bertram has no political savvy, and what he has masqueraded in this particular article as being truth pretty much confirms how far off the mark he really is. The Republican Party locally is an easy target for him, and he portrays the lack of candidates and inability to get more than 35% of the vote countywide as a lack of effort on the GOP's leadership rather than a result of circumstances. As an example, when you are losing 100:1 in the inner city (and you would find that if you pull the numbers), where in Mahoning County do you make that up?

He doesn't consider those circumstances, and when candidates and donors see that, it is a big turn off to anyone considering running or giving. But Bertram either doesn't see that, or he knowingly ignores it, and both options are pretty pathetic. What you instead get are multiple articles insulting Mark Munroe, a guy who is doing the best he can with the cards he has been dealt in this town.

More than that, it is his recycled articles (on Traficant, the Mafia, Cafaro, Oak Hill) which really show a lack of effort on his part since he has been writing the same article for the last fifteen years.

And it is also his selective targeting of specific offices and ignoring other offices. Some offices get entire articles dishing out criticism while other offices in town get a pass for doing the same exact thing. And there is a good reason for that, and rumor has it that the ones who are getting a pass are drinking buddies of his.

Case in point, there are several reasons why, and I would point out that my calling the Vindicator a "second rate" paper is partially attributable to who they employ on their editorial staff.

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8kurtw(864 comments)posted 4 months, 4 weeks ago

Kernal, You make a good point- specifically in what you say about the sorry state of the Republican Party in this County- the 100 to one ratio in Youngstown per se is particularly telling- how do you make that up? I agree- Munroe and the Republicans are doing the best they can given the sorry hand they've been dealt (largely through the myopia of the local voters coupled with the corruptness and power of the Democrat Machine- the Mahoning Valley, to my mind, is the equivalent of Fidel's Cuba in terms of Single Party Control- expect in Cuba the people have no choice- we, on the other hand, do it to ourselves. More's the Pity.)

In reading your posts, you seem extremely knowledgeable about local politics, you could be an insider. That, coupled with the way you consistently go after DeSouza, remind me of someone who used to post under a different name and who it was said was somebody highly prominent in local political circles. Just speculation on my part- I'll leave it at that.

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