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Hagan’s turnabout miffs Kovach, Betras

Published: Thu, May 8, 2014 @ 12:10 a.m.

Veteran politician makes no apologies for going against Dem Party’s wishesSFlb

By David Skolnick



When state Rep. Robert F. Hagan failed to get the Mahoning County Democratic Party’s endorsement for 33rd District state central committeeman, he said he’d “bow to the wishes” of the party and withdraw.

He didn’t do that.

Then he said he’d vote for his opponent, Brandon Kovach of Lisbon, and urge others to support Kovach.

He didn’t do those either.

And after defeating Kovach 62.5 percent to 37.5 percent Tuesday for the seat that represents Mahoning and Columbiana counties, Hagan, who’s serving his second two-year term as a state central committeeman, said he has no plans of stepping aside and letting Kovach replace him.

The campaign has left Kovach and Mahoning Democratic Chairman David Betras upset with Hagan.

“I have the right to change my mind and I did,” Hagan said. “I’m not going to give it up and that’s that. I’m not making any apologies to the Democratic voters who overwhelmingly supported me. I’m a proud member of the Democratic Party.”

Kovach won the Mahoning County Democratic Party endorsement 105-94 on Feb. 22. Hagan complained at the time that Kovach was “disingenuous” in his endorsement speech, which he said again Wednesday, but after losing the endorsement, Hagan said he’d withdraw.

“He has absolutely no integrity,” Kovach said of Hagan. “I hoped he would respect the wishes of the party. He disrespected the party and the endorsement process. I hope [Democrats] remember it in the future. It shows he’s in it more for himself than the party. It’s an example of divisiveness in politics.”

Betras added: “I’m not happy with [Hagan] not keeping his word to me and the party.”

Betras said he’ll ask state Chairman Chris Redfern to put Kovach on the party’s executive committee.

Hagan, who’s finishing out his term this year in the Ohio House, said that with all statewide executive election positions on the ballot, it’s important to have someone with political experience and connections — and the ability to raise money — serve on the state central committee. Hagan said he raised about $20,000 in the past year for state and local Democratic candidates.

The primary roles of the state central committee members are to elect a party chairman and raise money for Democrats.

Hagan plans to run for the U.S. Senate in 2016.

“Bob Hagan was going to do what he could to win this seat to test his Senate run,” Kovach said. “But there’s a slim chance of that [Senate bid] ever, ever being successful.”

Hagan also questioned Wednesday if the party is unified, pointing to a recent closed-door meeting Betras had with local black leaders, who wanted Hagan’s wife, Michele Lepore-Hagan, not to run in the 58th Ohio House District race.

The black leaders wanted an African-American candidate to be elected to that seat with the support of the county Democratic Party. In the early 1990s, a Youngstown-based House seat was created as the result of a federal court decision that the House district lines violated the federal Voting Rights Act. After lines for a House seat based in Youngstown were drawn to help get a minority elected, Sylvester Patton Jr., who is black, held the seat for 10 years before having to leave because of term limits. He was replaced by Hagan, who is white.

With the city’s declining population, that House district’s border grew into surrounding suburbs; hence, the 58th district has fewer blacks than it did 20 years ago.

Lepore-Hagan won Tuesday’s Democratic primary with 47.5 percent of the vote. Youngstown Councilwoman Janet Tarpley, D-6th, who is black, finished in a distant second with 26 percent of the vote in a four-person race.

Betras said he asked the Hagans to withdraw from the race at the request of the Rev. Kenneth Simon, pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church in Youngstown. The Hagans refused.

When told that Hagan disclosed the conversation to a Vindicator reporter, Betras confirmed it and said, “Quite frankly, I’m upset with him. That was a private conversation.”

The Rev. Mr. Simon recalled a recent meeting in which he expressed dissatisfaction with the local Democratic Party for failing to support qualified African-American candidates for county offices, and specifically pointed to the 58th House District.

“I told [Betras] that if he was serious, he could have tried to convince [Lepore-Hagan] not to run early in the process,” he said, adding, “The Hagans are friends of my family, and the African-American community has a lot of respect for them. This isn’t about friendship. It’s about fairness.”

Betras said months ago he also asked the Hagans not to have Michele run because of his concerns about the reaction from local black leaders.


1Silence_Dogood(1675 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Comrade Bob Hagan lies, what is new there, he does it every time his lips move.

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2HenryTheBear(23 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Wow this is disappointing. Reevaluating my thoughts on Hagan. Not exactly the smartest thing to do if you're bidding for a senate race.

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3ytownsteelman(680 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

How come the democrats get to evaluate candidates based on race?

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4mouse(112 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Is this what our veteran's are dying for?
So Rev. Simon says let's run this one because they are black & he's upset because it didn't go his way?
Now let me get this straight....Rev. Simon is discriminating against some one because their skin is not black?
I don't know what God he serves because The God of all creation looks upon a man or woman's heart. not their skin color!

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5YtownParent(1069 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Is anyone really surprised? I posted this is exactly what would happen back in February and I'm no political genius. Both Bobby & Michelle manipulated the system and party for their own ends, to advance Bob's political career. The Hagan's did everything in their power to circumvent the term limits law. Sure, they got the positions they wanted, but those positions are seated at the table with the Sciortino's of the Valley who feel they are above the laws and rules everyone else plays by. We'll see how much that helps Bob in a Senate election.

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6dawn421(265 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

It is time for Betras to shut up and stop the whining. Just because you did not endorse Bob does not mean he should not run. I think the voters clearly made their choice by giving him 62% of the vote. YOU do not get to dictate who runs for anything just because you like another guy more, or the black community wants someone besides Michele. It is uor right to elect who WE want, not who YOU want to run!!!!!! You and Mr Kovach need to pack your toys and go the heck home....

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7redvert(2240 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

How dare anyone defy the almighty god Betras, that being said, look how great a job the Libitard party has done for the valley the last 50-60 years. Really thriving, aren't you. All you dumb lemmings get what you deserve.

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8ipaidattention(68 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

so let me get this straight: Austintown Trustee candidate doesnt pay Kovach, he acts like an adult and sues for what he is owed. Same candidate who had more yard signs out than he got votes because no one in town liked his wife including all his neighbors counter sues for tens of thousands in hopes he can bully Kovach out of the meager money he worked to earn, Ohio Ethics Committee investigating that candidate for multiple campaign crimes, sounds like they're jealous he was a whistleblower on them, maybe pay your taxes and don't cross a union picket line when you run for office. I say we let the courts and ethics committee sort that one out before we judge. Kovach got over ten times as many votes than you did by the way Raymond.

I don't think Kovach or Betras are mad at Hagan for staying in the race, he had the right to do so. But they're mad at his lying about his intentions. He didn't change his mind, Brandon told this newspaper months ago he would lose if Hagan stayed on. We were all aware, but Hagan lied that he supported Brandon and was going around making backroom deals for it. Also if you believe Betras did not want Hagan to get the endorsement over Kovach, ask people who were there before the endorsement, Betras publicly humiliated Mr. Kovach in front of other candidates.

Kovach is correct, he has no integrity by what he did, his logic is false. Their was no miscommunication, he serves on the executive committee as a candidate, in a room full of central and executive committee members, they knew exactly what that means, you tailor what you say to who you're talking to. Hagan thinks the general public is too stupid to understand that, just like he said they were too stupid to vote for his wife if they posted signs that votes for Robert Hagan wouldn't be counted. He thinks the general populace is absolutely stupid, and considering the comments on this page, maybe he is right.

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9ipaidattention(68 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

moral of the story is, if you say you are going to do something, in politics you do it or you have no integrity. Their is no "I voted for it before I voted against it" I've known all these people for years. Kovach is a hard worker, intelligent, and he can do more good for the state party than Hagan ever has. What's he ever done but collect a paycheck and now get one for his wife? Kovach ran for a seat that pays nothing because he has an expertise to bring it together. Hell, the guy is the only person to elect a statewide dem in 4 years, rather Hagan raised 20k or 20 million, the guy has no chance of beating Portman.

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10redeye1(5663 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Boo-Hoo The demoncrats are moaning and whining about one of their own who didn't do as told. This is just another showing of how each demoncrat is only thinking of themselves first. Let's face it , Hagan has always been it for himself and only himself. To all the voters who voted for him and his wife, thanks for showing the rest of the state just how DUMB the people of this valley really are. The real shame is that you voted for a guy and his wife who really doesn't give a damn about anyone but themselves. They have showed that they feel they are the ENTITLED ones around. So you all will continue to live in the armpit of the state of OHIO. You got what you deserved.

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11billdog1(5926 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Like reading the diary of child on the playground. Who really cares who likes who. That is what this entire drama is, nothing more.

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12nonono(1 comment)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

I'm disappointed in Bob not keeping his word. I'm disappointed that Michele, with no political experience, was elected. The whole thing feels slippery and contrived. Bob should have stuck to his promise and had the dignity to hand the torch to a new candidate as he said he would.

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13Silence_Dogood(1675 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

nonono it is not a torch that was passed, it was a sickle and hammer.

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14harleydog(243 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

They can't be too mad at each other. Betras and Hagan are always hanging out together in the downtown bars. Especially V2

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15billdog1(5926 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

So Bobby should shutdown his aspirations because Betras wants him to. If you think that is appropriate, when you go to work tomorrow, quit your job so somebody else can have it. That is the logic being expressed here.

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16ipaidattention(68 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

It looks like Betras and Hagan connived this one together. If not Betras would be calling for him to follow his word and resign it. Sorry Brandon got played like that, but we all know Hagan was actively campaigning, he didn't just change his mind on election day. The party endorsement screwed Brandon. Why weren't mailers mailed out earlier, or his name on the commercial? Why did every time he posted it got taken off Mahoning County Dems website? The answer, Betras and Hagan were working together all along. Though I think Brandon went too far to say the man has no integrity, I'm assuming he meant no integrity on this issue. I warned him this is what will happen when you stand against the good ole' boys club. As for Bob not disrespecting the voters:

You told the voters they were TOO STUPID to differentiate between your name and your wifes name on a sign saying votes for you would not count.

You also disrespect them when they elect central committee people to decide who is the best person for the job, and you think those people are TOO STUPID to know what the difference is between an executive and central committee at the state level when you're in a room full of them at the local level.

I'm glad someone finally knocked him off his high horse. This kid got nearly ten thousand votes in 2 counties without really trying. Nancy Milliken should be scared, he's more qualified than she is. And name recognition wont do it if he tries harder.

Next time Brandon, don't rely on the party leadership, Hagan has always been and will always be a Betras lap dog, and you know Betras despises you.

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17billdog1(5926 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

So voters don't know the difference between Michelle and Bob? Pleaseeeeeeeee.

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18ipaidattention(68 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

That's why Bob said he wouldn't take name off the ballot. The voters were too stupid to know the difference between michelle and robert. They may have confused them. Shows what he thinks of everyone

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19sue(179 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Did you expect him to keep his word?
Of course not he's a Hagan.

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20JustThink123(27 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

If Rev Simon was white and he asked a party chairman to ensure a position was filled with a white person, the whole world be up in arms. But since its the reverse, nobody will say anything. Rev Simon is a racist and what he did was racism. Who cares what color a person is who fills the position, we should talk about their qualification. If you lived in the city, you know Janet Tarpley is useless and is only self serving. I'd rather have an unknown, then have Tarpley.

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